The Opposite Of Binging Your TV

A cold, drizzly Thursday morning has dawned in the rural King Country. It’s 2003, school is a drag, I just can’t math to save my life, but if I can just get through it this the reward waits for me later that evening. Thursday means two things in the Pulman household, takeaways from the Golden Lantern (hands down, the best takeaway joint in Te Kuiti owned by a lovely family) and the latest events taking place on Coro’s cobbles.

Yes, as a young boy, I was into Coronation Street, far from the sports and politically obsessed product you see today. Coro was a thing for me, mostly because that’s what Mum had gotten me into over the years. She was so dedicated to that show, you can’t help but decide one day to flick over and see what all these relatively normal people are doing on the streets. So, I started to watch with her more regularly and it became a ritual. Mum and I would pile into my parents’ bedroom, while Dad switched on American Chopper out in the lounge. As the first ad break came, “how’s the Choppers going?” Mum would yell out to Dad, “yeah” he would respond in his typical dry tone.

As dull as it was, that’s what we did every Thursday night, without fail. I’d come home from school, scramble to get homework done and then take a quick shower before picking up the landline and ordering the takeaways after the first segment of TV3 news was done. There was no better way to wash down the fat-soaked fish batter other than a glorious Dilmah Tea, just in time for the beginning of Coro.

Fast forward 17-years and I’m in my two-bedroom flat watching the first episode of Netflix’s hot new drama, The Witcher. It’s a cool show, based off a book and videogame I never cared to discover, but this is kind of what platforms like Netflix are good at delivering on, as well as original IP’s that take off in popularity from seemingly nowhere.

It takes me little time to get through the eight hour-long episodes of Witcher S1, including binging the last three all in one night. I certainly didn’t have to wait another week to find out what happened to the bore main character that is Geralt, or find out if the seemingly crazy Yennefer was actually going to turn out to be the unsung hero.

But then something happened. When I was most enjoying this new show, I couldn’t help but quietly wish that I could, somehow, find a way to delay the enjoyment and go back to the feelings of this being something to look forward to each week. You know, like those good days in 2003.

But Netflix, coupled with all the trends on my social media feeds, is doing all it can to push me toward binging through and joining the discussion about this show I’ve really enjoyed.

The problem is that the enjoyment of modern-day television has such a short lifespan. Quickly thereafter, I’m onto the next big show, and then the next one.

Today’s state of binge-watching has all come about from one show, when upon its release, the company creating it had a vision of what many others previously scoffed at.

Wondery’s fantastic podcast series Business Wars takes a deep dive into the history of Netflix. Based on Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs by Gina Keating, the podcast explores how, on January 31st, 2013, a meeting was held between Netflix’s head of content Ted Sarandos and respected filmmaker David Fincher. It was just hours before the first season of House of Cards dropped online with every episode immediately available. It was a bold, first-time move that Netflix hoped would catapult their internet streaming video service to the top.

Releasing all 13 episodes at once not only worked for Netflix, but it changed the very nature of how consumers would watch their favourite TV shows, forever. Furthermore, Netflix’s political thriller was also available on DVD, but with other seasons like Orange is the New Black also offering the same “all in one” online drop, the service could push ahead because its content was going to keep on coming and subscriptions were rising.

Little is it known that HBO, arguably Netflix’s biggest competitor at the time, predicted that the idea of letting audiences watch the entire season of a top-tier show was a sure-fire way to kill growth and lose subscribers.

Less than a decade later, a growing majority of people are watching the latest seasons of their favorite shows, in their entirety, in one or two sittings. Binge watching isn’t just unique, it’s become the norm.

Then came Disney Plus. When it was announced that Disney’s marquee offering at launch, a Star Wars spinoff series called The Mandalorian, was to be a weekly episodic release, the reaction drew a nervous gasp.

And yet, The Mandalorian was still successful despite drawing the season out over eight weeks. Disney’s hot new show was 31.1% more in demand than the average title worldwide, catapulting it to the top and surpassing even the likes of Stranger Things, widely viewed as one of the top shows today.

The Mandalorian proves that if you’ve got a show that will likely draw in a large audience (like Star Wars did, and like House of Cards would’ve) then it can work. The risk of losing subscribers to a service is always there, no matter how you deliver the content.

I’d also state that the shows we are watching today feature some of the greatest production and writing value we’ve ever seen, but I just wonder if that is short-changed short on the time and attention front that these shows deserve by getting through them all so quickly.

Think about how easy it’s been to start, enjoy and finish these shows since that famous gamble taken by Netflix with House of Cards seven years ago, the very nature of how we consume media, including our TV, has changed remarkably thanks to the growth of technology that is constantly adapting. But has it necessarily changed the cost and time required to develop TV?

No, because the binge isn’t just proficient in terms of consumer watching patterns. There is also binge-spending and it’s already increased from $12b to $15b, by Netflix alone since 2018.

That’s some serious investment and subsequent production time, somehow it feels wrong to me that I can, so easily, be all done with that and onto the next thing so quickly.

Google Stadia Signals Potential Shift In Gaming Industry

Google Stadia is set to release in 2019 and could, potentially, be the cloud-based streaming platform for gamers that will change an industry at the peak of its powers.

With eyes transfixed, Google announced ‘Stadia’, a new streaming platform that will provide a revolutionary change to the gaming industry. Stadia isn’t a new piece of hardware to unbox (although Google did show off a controller), but it is a cloud-streaming platform that will allow gamers to play on any device that supports web browsing.

Stadia will feature the ability to play on phones, tablets, computers, and on TV’s, with Chromecast functionality also available.

Stadia is described as a ‘Netflix for gaming’ and requires a fast and reliable internet connection. Users simply open a new tab in Chrome, wait five seconds, and the process is complete. Gamers can use mouse and keyboard or connect the Stadia controller using Wi-Fi.

All the back-end work is done through Google servers, not like traditional gaming platforms where graphics and gameplay works through the internals of the hardware.

This is a big deal for gamers because it doesn’t force them into buying hardware, though Google gave no indication on the cost of games for Stadia nor the official controller.

Expect games to retail for a similar price as digital releases currently, but also, monthly subscriptions to the service are also likely (like Netflix) with varying packages on offer. Upcoming shooter Doom: Eternal is confirmed to be releasing on Stadia, but no other announcements about launch titles were given. 

Google promises 4K resolutions, but interestingly, Stadia features a built-in Google Assistant feature that will allow gamers to seek help in game (for passing a certain level or finding a treasure etc.) without having to switch screens.

Stadia will release in the US, Canada, Europe, and in parts of the UK later this year.

The Changing Nature Of How We Consume Media

The date is June 1st, 1960, and it is the first broadcast of television in New Zealand. 

From then until the 1989, broadcasts were mostly controlled by the Government. New Zealand’s first pay-to-view television came in 1990 – and Sky Television still holds a large part of the market share today.

Who could’ve thought that in little over 50-years time, the landscape of what seemed to be the one constant in home entertainment would change forever.

By todays standards; 50-years seems almost like an eternity for one solitary entity to remain the primary way people consume their entertainment. But that’s exactly what happened with TV.

In the late 2000s, Apple released a phone that caught the attention of the world, and it would change the way people consume media forever.

The iPhone was a game changer, and nothing like it has been achieved since.

We’ve seen Samsung battle Apple at the top of the smartphone market, but companies like Huawai and Sony have also made significant progress in the past few years.

And then came instant streaming, on demand, and relatively cheap ways of viewing the content that people want, not what they are given. Yes, I am talking about Netflix.

Netflix has fundamentally ‘changed the game’, especially in recent times. It’s cheaper to create content and doesn’t rely on the backing of major television companies. Netflix allows people to stream content on their phones and tablets, but a large percentage of the service’s user base still uses it on their televisions at home.

So therefore, it keeps a tradition that seemed doomed not too long ago very much still alive. That tradition? Consuming content on a fixed television screen in peoples homes, or at least those who choose to view it that way.

Sky Television’s Future Will Be Determined By Their Own Values 

With all this change toward a more digital and noncommittal nature of media consumption – it leaves companies like Sky Television facing an uncertain future.

Sky’s biggest, and perhaps only real drawcard right now, is their exclusive rights to the rugby.

Overpriced, yes, but still not real value for money when you compare to the likes of Netflix and others. Currently, Sky’s only alternative to having a monthly subscription with a set top box is what they call FANPASS – and that actually costs more to buy than the prior.

How is it that Sky can justify a few hundred dollars for six months of online sports content in 2017?

Sky have signalled their intention to remain on top of the rugby coverage market and they did this when they took most of New Zealand’s media companies to court over what they call “theft of content”.

Sky’s rationale behind this is due to news sites using video clips of games in their editorial coverage, but they simply don’t realise that video has become a key component of how news is delivered in 2017.

The Changing Nature Of How We Consume Media 

Is TV a dying form of media? No way.

If radio can survive the TV broadcast revolution; then TV can definitely survive the instant streaming revolution. Prices for Netflix and other only-online services will likely increase over time, and it could become a point of contention in the future.

But TV, and to a lesser extent media, still involves consumers looking at screens and working with devices that continue to adapt themselves to fit into our lifestyle. How we consume these mediums is changing, and that is the only certainty right now.

Netflix and Lightbox only making it harder for Sky TV

Netflix and the popular Lightbox are now both available in New Zealand, and the battle has only gotten harder for pay TV provider Sky Television.

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With Netflix recently becoming available in New Zealand and the advent of TV streaming service Lightbox, it is becoming harder and harder for Sky Television to defend the pricing for their once dominant pay-tv packages.

On top of the basic package, Sky’s movie package adds an extra $20 to the monthly fee.

This in itself isn’t that pricey because the Netflix packages start at $10 and go up to $16 for the premium option.

Lightbox offers its service for $13 per month.

With these numbers, what Sky is charging for their six-channel movie package couldn’t exactly be called a rip off.

The problem that Sky face is with the content.

Lightbox offers popular TV shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, CSI, and many more current and classic series.

Nearly any popular movie or television show can also be found on Netflix and both services offer premium content for a cheaper price that Sky’s variety but flat lineup of movies and programming.

The popular Game of Thrones series airs on Sky’s SoHo channel, but that costs an extra $10 per month for access to that channel.

Another huge issue for all pay-TV providers, and the likes of Netflix and Lightbox for that matter, is the various free/illegal options available on the internet where the same content can be found and downloaded.

The way people are watching content is changing vastly.

Now the idea of streaming content on a pay subscription basis is becoming more accepted, and more the norm.

Sky has answered with a TV and movie-streaming service of their own, called Neon.

It seems to be becoming more and more apparent that Sky Television is losing their once dominant stranglehold on the NZ television viewing market, and increasingly is becoming reliant on some big sports licenses to remain in position at the top.