Sean Ray | Student Columnist
For what started as an online video rental store, Netflix certainly has been growing bigger and bigger as of late. As of July 2014, Netflix boasts 50 million subscribers, according to CNN, and those numbers look only to increase.
And really, why shouldn’t Netflix get more customers? The site’s instantly streamable videos are convenient, do not contain ads, and let anyone watch whatever they wish to when they want to thereby avoiding the two biggest issues with cable television. Companies have even picked up on this mentality of streaming videos. Fox and CBS’s websites both have a free section where you can watch the latest episodes of their shows anytime you want, just like Netflix
With all these advantages and with companies picking up on the business model, is it possible Netflix will kill traditional television much like television killed the radio?
No… and that’s a good thing.
Ever since the broadcast entertainment industry began, there has been one thing keeping it afloat. One thing paying for all the costs of production and broadcasting, one thing that has been pushing the industry into new media such as radio and television. Ads and the companies that pay for them.
Now many people probably see traditional television as a constant cycle of content and ad breaks. They watch their shows, and then wait through the ad breaks for their favorite episode to come back on. Companies do not see television like this. Companies see television as ads, with content breaks. To them, the actual shows you watch are just tools to get people to sit down in front of a television so the viewing public can see the latest advertisements. And like it or not, this is how the entertainment industry makes money and stays alive.
Take sports for example. Networks airing professional sports make most of their money off of ad revenue, not from tickets or sales of novelties. A commercial spot on a local sports broadcast costs anywhere from $200 to $1,500 for 30 seconds of ads, according to Chron.com. Think about how much advertising you see during an average sports broadcast and all the money that comes from it.
However, all of this money being spent on television ads mean one thing. That if Netflix kills traditional television, all those ads are going to come to Netflix. No longer will you be able to sit down and watch any movie or television show you want uninterrupted. No longer will the home screen be just the movies you want to see. Instead, they will be covered in banner ads, ads that pop up when you open the window, those annoying game ads that flash and distract you from what you really want to see.
This has been seen happening before. YouTube, when it started in 2005, had little to no ads on any of their videos. Now, it seems like it’s impossible to watch anything without a 30 second ad beforehand. People have gotten so fed up with this, that programs like AdBlock are created to block ads before they show up on online videos.
Netflix fills a niche, and it should comfortably stay in that niche. I hate to sound like this, but Netflix going mainstream could quite possibly kill the feature completely. Furthermore, it could invite in competition. Imagine if someone creates something just like Netflix, and now the two companies have to fight over which movies or shows appear on their site. Suddenly, all your favorite movies or TV shows could be scattered across two entirely different things you have to pay for, or you have to settle for getting just one and missing out on content on another.
Frankly, I do not believe people should be so excited to see traditional cable television disappearing. While Netflix is clearly a superior product, much like television was to radio, it has its own disadvantages which might not work for everyone.
Netflix can stay exactly where it is, with an audience big enough to keep it profitable, but not so big as to attract the attention of advertising companies wishing to interrupt its content to entice us to buy something from them once more.