Empires of Entertainment (continued)

ImageI found Jennifer Holt’s Empires of Entertainment to be filled with relevant, and overall fascinating information about the conglomerates that provide us with film and television, and the ever-changing landscape they inhabit. While the legal disputes between studios and things of that nature discussed in this book have never been a topic I have been necessarily interested in studying, I found certain aspects entirely engrossing, especially in how much it relates to what I observe in today’s mediascape.

When reading about the deals/lawsuits between film studios, cable systems, and broadcast networks, I could not recall hearing about any of it when I was younger. I am sure we all remember when Disney bought Lucasfilm way back in 2012, because that news came with the additional promise of forthcoming Star Wars sequels, which was all very exciting and slightly worrisome. I recall when NBC and Universal merged in 2004, but for a strange reason; I would watch repeats of the previous night’s episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien at 6:00 on Comedy Central quite regularly in 2004. When they merged, Conan began airing clips of Walker, Texas Ranger, because he was suddenly legally permitted to do so, which made for great television. But I digress.

Netflix is a recent change in the way we engage in media, and it reflects some of the changes we read about in the book. After reading about Ted Turner, I’m surprised he wasn’t behind Netflix, seeing as “‘he sees the obvious before most people do . . . [a]nd after he sees it, it becomes obvious to everyone.’” (Holt, 74.) Netflix is one of the best examples of this in the last decade when it comes to the film and television industry. I recall when I first heard about Netflix, which was about 10 years ago now. I remember thinking “That’s hot,” (I had the 00’s lingo down pat). Back then, it was simply a DVD mail delivery program that one subscribed to. The online streaming option wasn’t introduced until a few years later, which is what really changed the game. I doubt it is news to any of you how prominent Netflix instant streaming is in (most likely) all of our lives; it single-handedly became the preferred method for watching television and movies (especially for college students, since we all have personal laptops and a decent wifi connection).

Netflix has not just changed where we watch television (the internet), but it has changed the very practice of it. When an episode of a program ends, Netflix puts the following episode on automatically, unless we do anything to stop it (and who in their right mind is going to do that?). The term ‘binge-watching’ has been coined because of Netflix, and it is now the preferred method of watching streamed television. The deals that film and television networks are making with Netflix to distribute their films and programs mirror what we saw happening in the 1980’s, as these ‘empires of entertainment’ were being formed (Tri-Star is one example that comes to mind, but in this case Netflix is acting like HBO [a paid subscription service]). Television is experiencing a Golden Age, and has very recently attracted A-list actors for the leads of programs due to Netflix (examples being Kevin Spacey in House of Cards (a Netflix original), Kevin Bacon in The Following (Fox). Breaking Bad would have likely been canceled if not for the numbers it received once it became available for streaming. Its spin-off, Better Call Saul, will be a Netflix original series beginning in November. Other examples of its original films and programming have been oscar-nominated and emmy-winning. Clearly, this has all been a huge and exciting change in the industry that Jennifer Holt would likely name among the most significant of the past decade.

Holt, Jennifer. Empires of Entertainment : Media Industries and the Politics of Deregulation, 1980-1996.
Piscataway, NJ, USA: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

Photo found through Creative Commons via



  1. We’ll talk a lot more about Netflix over the semester, but thought I’d share this New York Times article on House of Cards in case you’re interested.


  1. […] found their footing, and now with original programming on Netflix, which I discuss at length here, television has truly made its mark on the […]

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