Streaming: Eliminating and Revitalizing

CC image courtesy of uniondocs on Flickr

CC image courtesy of uniondocs on Flickr

Wheeler Dixon’s Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access addresses many of the issues we face in moving from traditional film to digital video and streaming. The future of all entertainment (i.e. TV, movies, music, books, etc.) is in streaming. They will cease to exist in physical form (Dixon 2). These are not the only things in our world that will become obsolete thanks to the Internet and other computing technologies. Dixon states that:

“we live in a streaming world where everything, inevitably, will be available like running water–all you have to do it pay the utility bill” (Dixon 24).

Along with DVDs, CDs, Blu-rays, video game discs, and thumb drives, older technologies such as regular mail, business cards, paper maps, phone books, cash, analog clocks, bank deposit slips, and incandescent light bulbs will all disappear (Dixon 13).

I have noticed all these things slowly becoming less and less common over my lifetime. Anything on paper will be transformed into an electronic version or process (i.e taxes, monetary transactions, bill paying, banking, etc.). Any technology that can be completely replaced by a new one (i.e. DVDs, CDs, maps, analog clocks, etc.) will be. Everything is going digital, not just film. Some people like this change while others try to hold onto their old physical objects. I, personally, like the convenience of streaming TV shows and movies and downloading my music as MP3s, but I am still not a huge fan of reading books on a screen; I, like many others, prefer to read a physical copy of a book.

CC image courtesy of Wikipedia

CC image courtesy of Wikipedia

In the world of TV and movies, there are many changes happening beyond just a transition from film to digital. Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are starting to try to compete with the big studios through the creation of their own original content. Netflix in particular has had a lot of success with this. Their shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black have major buzz surrounding them and seem popular (although Netflix does not disclose their usage data). Since Netflix releases an entire season on the same day, everyone is jumping to binge-watch these shows as fast as they can. (During House of Cards’ season 2 first weekend after release, 2% of Netflix users binge-watched the entire season.) I think a lot more companies, probably even the big ones, will began to produce and release movies and TV shows solely through streaming services, leading to what Dixon predicts as “a complete changeover to digital formatting” (2).

Streaming affords this new binge-watching approach to viewing television shows. Shows can even:

“find a new and vibrant home on the web… once, older television programs went straight to syndication and aired on independent television stations around the world; now, they’re streamed” (Dixon 25-26).

This applies to older show which were once hits but are no longer on the air. I think it can also apply to shows that weren’t necessarily hits, but that had maybe more of a cult following and were able to gain a new, maybe even wider, audience thanks to its streaming availability. I think shows like Joss Whedon‘s Firefly and Dollhouse, which were both cancelled prematurely, have benefited from being available to stream on Netflix. From word of mouth in person and online, I have noticed discussions where new fans of these two shows wish they had watched the shows when they were on TV in hopes of there being more seasons because it would have had better ratings and maybe wouldn’t have been cancelled.

I think streaming TV shows can also help shows that are still on the air. By streaming previous seasons of a show that’s still running, it allows an audience who did not start watching the earlier seasons, when they first aired, to catch up quickly and start watching the new episodes as they air. I think that Breaking Bad is one show in particular that benefited from having the earlier episodes available for streaming before the series was over. Although we can’t know for sure, because Netflix doesn’t release its viewing statistics, I think that some shows gain a revitalization of their fan bases thanks to their availability on streaming services.

CC image courtesy of popturfdotcom on Flickr

CC image courtesy of popturfdotcom on Flickr

Dixon also makes the astute assertion that streaming will:

“offer a new haven… for those films that operate on the margins of economic profitability… [providing] a perfectly acceptable showcase for movies that do not exist in the flawless prints now considered essential for DVD release” (Dixon 26).

Streaming could revitalize some films which don’t have large enough prestige to justify a “full-scale digital restoration” (Dixon 26) which could open up a niche market for these films. This could give life to films that don’t necessarily belong to the popular business model. Films from acclaimed filmmakers like Robert Bresson and Marcel Carne could greatly benefit from this opportunity. There are a lot of films like this that don’t exist in DVD form, but could easily exist in streaming form (Dixon 26-27). All in all, streaming opens up considerable doors for some films and TV shows, even while it closes them for others.

Dixon, Wheeler W. Streaming: Movies, Media, and Instant Access. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky, 2013.

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  1. […] (More specifically, it dissolved upon thinking of House of Cards). It dissolved while reading Jess’ post and recognizing how in overwriting itself and forcing cinematic progress, digitization has forced […]

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