Netflix, Hulu, and You.

Over the course of 22 years living, I have noticed how gradually (and arguably rapidly) the state of “watching television” has changed. I use quotations purposely because we live in an age where we can “watch” television, without watching it. New media has granted new mediums in which we can enjoy our favorite programs, all with the most convenience afforded to willingly paying consumers. Subscription streaming services like Netflix.com and Hulu.com take television and movies to the Internet, and disperse them to our laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, game consoles, and other devices that are compatible with these platforms. James Bennett and Niki Strange’s Television as Digital Media raises discourse on televised content and the remediation of television.

From computer screens to wide screens to the most basic digital converter, television interfaces have accompanied the remediation of television. While a similar remediation has pushed interfaces to become paramount in our everyday engagement with audio, newspapers, and books, television interfaces stand out because we are accustomed to looking at screens for content and now also find ourselves looking at code-generated graphical images layered on top or in place of moving images.

–Bennett and Strange (232).

While Hulu subscribers generally lean toward watching television shows and Netflix users are watching more movies with the service rather than television shows, it is still statistically proven that this content is hardly ever watched through a television screen. A survey conducted in 2011 by Nielsen shows how users are more likely to use these services through a personal computer and least likely to use these services through an Internet-ready television.

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Also, according to Nielsen, 40% of US households with TV and broadband internet access are using streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime. Being that this survey above was conducted 4 years ago, it is interesting to see how much the statistics could have changed since then. Devices manufactured since March of 2011 have been built better and sleeker and more compatible with the tons of additives to accommodate new media. Apple has surely taken notice and is becoming a competitor in this new realm of entertainment with Apple TV.

Because of services like these, we’ve created for ourselves a culture of binge watching, which is defined as absorbing as much televised and movie content at any given time. Clear out an afternoon, and you can catch up on an entire season of your favorite shows or films if they are offered on these streaming services. How do major networks feel about live television viewers switching to online competitors? Well CBS and ABC offer streaming services on their websites as well, to ensure that their viewers remain faithful by eradicating the “one time only” phenomenon that once inhabited the magic around watching television. There are no longer hopes for a rerun, the average person has no time in their schedule to wait for that.

“Watching television” is also becoming more of an individualized practice, rather than communal. Realistically speaking, not many people can surround the screen of an iPhone and enjoy television the way they used to not so long ago. What is convenient for the individual is more preferred these days. It is both interesting and slightly unnerving to see what the state of television is going to be in a few years…

James Bennett and Niki Strange. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011. 311 – 331. Print.

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