James Cox considers the rise of streaming and questions whether Netflix's competition to television is of benefit or a hindrance.
We’ve all been in this situation more often than we’d like; sitting down in the evening after a long day of work or study, or perhaps home for the weekend. You have the remote to yourself and you’re looking for an hour or two of entertainment. So what’s on? You’ve got the Skybox to yourself, there’ll surely be a good movie or a new series to get hooked on - right?
Nope. Re-runs of CSI, perhaps some old episodes of Two and a Half Men on comedy central. Or if you’re really lucky a Friends marathon (nothing against Friends but any fan has seen every episode at least three times, and if you don’t admit it you’re lying.)
Netflix arrived in Ireland three years ago and while some were sceptical about what impact it may have at the start, any doubters have been proved emphatically wrong. Its success is no surprise, with the basic Sky package coming in at around €20 a month, Netflix can be purchased for €9 a month (and that’s for use on up to 4 devices) so you can see why for many, it’s a no-brainer.
Along with endless movie and series options, one of the biggest successes of Netflix has been in their original series. The first one, House of Cards, has been undoubtedly the biggest success and the third series of the American political drama was made available to Irish users last Friday.
What is so ground-breaking about the original series’ is the fact that every episode of the season is made available at once so viewers can binge on their favourite shows as they please. In an era where boxset viewing has become common, this was an innovative move by Netflix and has seen their popularity soar.
Much work and study will be ignored this weekend as people dedicate their lives for a day or two to the adventures of the ruthless Frank Underwood in his rise to the top of the political pyramid. And for those who aren’t fans of the show (although I refuse to believe they exist) there are plenty of other original Netflix dramas, Orange is the New Black, Lilyhammer, Marco Polo and Hemlock Grove to name but a few.
Having said all that, it’s not all doom and gloom for television. The increased competition from Netflix can only be good for both mediums and we’ve seen this in the quality of some of Sky Atlantics original programmes, such as True Detective and more recently Fortitude.
While Kevin Spacey may be the main attraction in House of Cards for Irish viewers over the next few weeks, all eyes will return to television in April for the launch of the fifth season of HBO’s record breaking series Game of Thrones.
Wouldn’t it be a lovely thing if Sky and HBO could take a leaf out of Netflix's book and release all the episodes of a series at once? (I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one saved the agonising weekly wait for the next episode.)
So whether you’re a fan of Netflix or not, it can only be seen as a positive in raising the bar for both television and cinema. Happy viewing!