With the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, consumers have been exposed to new, innovative programming from these providers. These original programs are created exclusively to air on that platform and be viewed by its subscribers. This breaks from the traditional model of shows airing on broadcast or cable television, and later being put on the streaming service after each season has aired. Programs like Orange is the New Black and Transparent have not only captured large audiences, but have also been nominated and award several awards traditionally reserved for traditional television programs. Just this past year, Orange is the New Black was nominated for three Golden Globes awards and for three Primetime Emmys. Uzo Aduba, a supporting actress in the series, won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Transparent, an Amazon Original, won two Golden Globes, five Primetime Emmys, and was nominated for an additional six Primetime Emmys. Between Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, the two took home a total of 46 nominations for Primetime Emmys. This demonstrates how original programming on streaming services are starting to contend with traditional television shows airing on broadcast and cable networks. Within just a few years of introducing original programming, streaming services have gained major traction with their shows.
Traditionally television networks and their programs have been guided by ratings of its shows. Nielsen data is used track the number of households watching a particular program, and this information is used in accessing not only how successful a show is, but how to price the advertising space in that program. Since there are only a limited number of primetime spots in each network’s lineup, there is high pressure to have high-rating shows in an effort to maximize advertising revenue. This has led to an extremely fragmented industry with new networks popping up in an effort to achieve a piece of the success. TV critics have begun to call this era the “Golden Age of Television” due to the amount of new, original programming that came out this year. Broadcast and Cable networks aired just over 300 original programs this year, compared to 24 from the streaming services. With the influx of new programs and competing channels, the ratings for individual shows continue to drop each year. This has also made it extremely common for new programming to fail within the first season due to lack of sufficient ratings. Viewers are overwhelmed with choices, and the decreased ratings show that. Along with decreased ratings comes less advertising revenue for the networks as well.
The advantage streaming services such as Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix have is that they are able to create content that appeals to viewers, rather than advertisers. There is no longer the constant worry of having to achieve sufficient ratings for a show since the providers aren’t reliant on advertising revenue to sustain themselves. Instead, the streaming services are able to produce shows that consumers are interested in. Netflix uses user data to not only help to serve customers, but to also find out what customers are interested in and produce original content that appeals to them. This has led to Netflix having an extremely high success rate in their original programming. Having consumer centered content has also turned into an integral way for Netflix to retain current customers. Ultimately, Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are focused on gaining and maintain subscriptions. The popularity of their shows does not matter as much to them as does the engagement of the viewers. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, has declared that “Netflix company isn’t interested in the ratings of its original – or licensed – content.” This model allows streaming services to provide content that caters exclusively to the viewers desires. Traditional networks do not have the flexibility to change their model and keep up. Networks are still reliant on ratings and held responsible by advertisers.
Of course, where there is success, other players tend to come into effect as well. The latest rumored company to enter the field is Apple. While there is not much information out yet, there have been reports of Apple meeting with Hollywood executives to discuss creating original content.
Original programming from streaming services could be the incentive that consumers are looking for to finally cut the cord of their cable subscription. With consumer tailored content, and not being reliant on advertising revenue, Netflix, Amazon, and soon Apple are poised to exploit the cord-cutting market.