Colatriano: Netflix’s foray into original programming changes TV landscape

Columnist Chelsea Colatriano discusses Netflix’s influence in the changing media landscape.

Move over Fox, step aside ABC and the CW (well, you were never a real player to begin with, sorry “Vampire Diaries” fans). There’s a newer, faster and younger player in town – and its name is Netflix.

Well, it’s not actually new. Netflix has been in the DVD rental game since the early 2000s and began offering streaming services in 2007. Only recently has it ventured into the territory that content providers like the ones mentioned above used to dominate – original programming.

By original programming I mean ABC has “Grey’s Anatomy”, AMC has “Breaking Bad” and now Netflix has “House of Cards” and the newly resurrected “Arrested Development”. Netflix does not release their ratings data like the networks do, but if my Twitter and Tumblr feeds are any indication, I think that both of these attempts have been very well-received. It didn’t take long after the release of “Arrested Development” for my respective feeds to become bombarded with gifs and photo-sets of the Bluth family’s shenanigans. I had to go on radio silence until I finished binge watching so I didn’t accidentally stumble upon spoilers.

Binge watching has become a way of life. I am the first to admit that I have watched a full season of “Breaking Bad” in one day. And no, I don’t remember what the weather was like that day. Netflix has responded to this cultural shift by releasing all of their shows’ episodes at once. I was able to log onto Netflix the day the long overdue fourth season of “Arrested Development” was released and watched half of them in one sitting thanks to Netflix’s release model and my own dedication.

People just aren’t gathering around the television at 9 o’clock on a Thursday night to enjoy the latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” like they used to in the old days (and by olden days I mean 2006). Now, there are digital alternatives which usually limit or nix those pesky 30 second mini-movies called “commercials.” If ad-dollars didn’t make the world go ‘round, I’d predict that commercials will become a thing of the past. A four-minute break in the action is practically painful for viewers when the main character runs into a burning building to save their one true love and then the powers that be cut to Flo from Progressive Auto Insurance.

America is the ultimate consumerist nation. Americans are all about convenience and consumption. I mean, 7-11’s largest “Big Gulp” size holds 50 ounces of sugar water. It only makes sense that our media consumption habits reflect that “gotta have it all and gotta have it now” lifestyle.

“ABC? You expect me to wait a week – wait, no – you’re going a three week hiatus right after you may or may not have killed off my favorite character!?” some irate TV viewers may say.

Outrage. Cue the devoted fans’ lamentations. Riots. Torches. Every serial TV viewer can relate to this heart-wrenching feeling. However, with Netflix’s programming model, this problem is practically non-existent with the only exception being with shows currently airing and are between seasons. I mean, they have to create some sense of suspense and longing in their viewers to keep them around, right? It’s bittersweet as an audience member. You don’t want to wait months at a time for your favorite characters to enter your household again, but that wait is exactly what makes the return so satisfying.

Netflix has spoiled the modern-day television viewer. Or maybe it’s just me. I feel spoiled by my Netflix subscription. I can join in on a TV show late in the game, like “Mad Men”, which began airing in 2007 – I started watching three days ago. I almost feel like I’m cheating the system. There is nothing gluing me to having a cable subscription – so I no longer have one. Oh, how the tables have turned because of online streaming.

Cue the gasps. Mouths wide open. Fainting. The aspiring television writer doesn’t even have cable. It’s an abomination.

Relax, my friends. I’ve got it covered with my Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions. Netflix doesn’t have current seasons of shows that are still airing. That’s what Hulu Plus is for. Trust me, I wouldn’t steer you wrong. I know my way around the small screen. I have been a fan of “Friends” since I was old enough to have any.

After all of this talk about binge watching I do feel like I need to establish that I do not suffer from vitamin D deficiency. I find time to go outside and enjoy the real world. Don’t worry, my Wi-Fi connection reaches my back porch.

I am a believer in the new direction digital media has taken. I have faith in dot com start-ups like Netflix and Hulu. No, I can’t predict when I’ll have access to the current season of “Mad Men”, but I know when I do I’ll have the option of being able to watch all 13 episodes in one sitting (I won’t – they’re long, but I like having the option). I’ll at least be able to stop and start whenever I want. As much as I’d like to deny it, I am a product of American consumerist culture. I don’t like my TV in small doses. I like it in the form of “Big Gulps.”

Netflix was able to help wipe movie rental stores like Blockbuster off the map with their innovative business model. If history is the key to understanding the future, then networks and cable providers should gear-up for the wrath that is Netflix and the changing media climate, or they will become a distant memory.

Chelsea Colatriano can be reached at

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