Do you know why people love streaming movies and TV shows on Netflix? Because it’s convenient, and it doesn’t need advertising support to survive. But have you ever wondered why it doesn’t need ad dollars to survive? In honor of the scant number of moldy horror movies left in the withering Netflix library, let me explain by using a classic movie trope: the vampire.
You see, Count Netflix lives off of two sources of blood: the entertainment industry and us. He feeds off of the entertainment industry by picking up shows and movies for cheap after most of the costs have already been absorbed by everyone from the production company to theater audiences to the network that airs the program originally. Many times he even shares those costs with other vampires (like Amazon Prime) that are also paying for streaming rights. The end result is that Count Netflix can feed his mighty search algorithm with what looks like an infinite supply of shows to watch (including some that he makes himself).
That’s good news for us, the viewers, because Count Netflix can attract so many of us that he only needs a little bit of each of our blood. In fact, he doesn’t even care that much that you’re letting seventeen other people use your log in information (but don’t kid yourself, his tech team knows who you are…). It’s a perfect system right?
Unless you’re the entertainment industry. TV networks are struggling mightily under the strain of this new reality. As more and more people “cut the cord” to their cable subscription, fewer and fewer eyes are on the ads that make TV networks money. Those ad dollars are their lifeblood, and they can’t live without it, plain and simple. So in order to survive, the entertainment industry is going to need to start passing more and more of its production costs to streaming services like the good Count Netflix. And when the Count’s primary source of sustenance runs out, guess where he’s going to look for blood next.
The first thing he’ll do is shut down everybody who is using his service but not paying (companies like Hulu have proven that you can do this and still thrive). Then he’ll raise prices. That’s when we’ll get to see how much five really good shows and a video landfill of programming nobody wants to watch are worth each month. That’s when the villagers will start lighting torches and sharpening pitchforks.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love Netflix. I love House Of Cards and Daredevil and a stray BBC program as much as the next guy. I just feel like its current business model has sort of created a false reality in American media that can’t last. To see a more realistic future, just look at HBO GO or CBS ALL ACCESS. Each of them maintain control or their content and charge their own subscription fees rather than helping out their competition. Just how many $10-a-month subscriptions are we willing to pay for? In some ways, it’s a step forward (I only pay for what I want to watch!), and in some ways it’s a step backwards (I have to pay for every show I want to watch!).
For now, let’s all enjoy Count Netflix as he works the system like a pro. And let’s hope he finds some other victims before he gets to us.