I’ve been thinking recently about just how far, in a relatively short space of time, society has come in terms of how we view film and TV. Gone are the days of the VHS, and due to the video streaming revolution, it’s looking like it won’t be that long until the DVD is a thing of the past too.
To my mind, the big question here is what has changed? Is it simply that the modern day consumer is just more demanding; wanting things right here, right now? Or could it be that the rise in illegal internet piracy has called for a new age of TV and film consumption?
Piracy has had a huge effect on the TV and film industry, as well as the way in which we consume content. While everyone knows illegal downloads are as the name suggests, nobody really seems to take that into consideration when there is something they are just desperate to watch. When series 3 of Game of Thrones was launched first in America earlier this year, the first episode broke all piracy records with data from Torrent Freak showing that it received a staggering one million downloads on BitTorrent in less than a day. While this could be considered as a massive compliment to the show’s creators, it could affect their profits in the long term ultimately resulting in the cancellation of your favourite show.
As a result of the increased consumer need for on-demand TV and film a number of legal streaming services have emerged in recent years. One such service is Netflix, which was launched in the UK in 2012. Neflix is easily accessible and affordable, costing just £6 a month for an unlimited amount of use.
As well as holding the UK broadcasting rights to Breaking Bad, which can only be described as one of the most popular TV dramas of the moment, they have also produced a variety of original TV shows. These have proven to be hugely successful and have received widespread industry praise resulting in them receiving 14 nominations at this year’s Emmy awards – three of which they went on to win.
Kevin Spacey, star of Netflix original series ‘House of Cards’, hit the nail on the head when describing how today’s viewers like to “binge” on TV – preferring to watch entire series in one chunk rather than an episode a week like they had in the past. Netflix has proven to be so popular because it provides just that.
For all of its good points, as one of Netflix’s near 38 million subscribers, I have to admit there are quite a few films on there that I have never heard of or seem a little bit dated. For example, currently in the ‘new releases’ section the majority of films came out in 2011 or 2012. That being said, it came out last week that Netflix has been using illegal pirate websites as a way of identifying what content is in demand and using this to help them select new shows. While piracy is bad it is also an incredibly accurate way of tracking what are the most popular shows of the moment. This new approach could be a big step closer to services like Netflix meeting more of the short term needs of the consumer by having a more targeted range of content.
Personally, I think legal on-demand streaming services have both revolutionised and heavily influenced the way in which we now consume content and they are more than capable of keeping up with the needs of the consumer in regards of accessibility and cost.
Will on-demand streaming ever be enough to make piracy obsolete? If Game of Thrones has taught us anything it’s that when people want to watch something that desperately and there is a way of watching it as soon as possible, they will – whether it’s legal or not.
What do you think?