Monday, December 12, 2016

Brave New Binge World

I know I’m a few weeks early in making Predictions for the coming new year. 
However, I couldn't wait to share my thoughts on a trend that I believe will end up changing the way TV shows are produced and distributed not only next year, but for the forseeable future. 
This last week Netflix announced that the streaming service was in the process of doubling the amount of original series available to subscribers in 2017. Netflix aims to have a minimum of 1,000
hours of original content by the end of next year. The company is set to spend quite a bit of its $6 billion budget for TV series and films on creating and acquiring TV series/Movies with the goal to make at least half of the shows and films available to subscribers be Netflix originals. No doubt Amazon will attempt to keep up with their rival's plan for the domination of worldwide entertainment viewing.
Why this is significant is because each time Netflix and Amazon premiere a new TV series, that show’s season run is available to their viewers. This has led to a trend in streaming audiences binging on TV shows when they have the choice to see an entire series all at once rather than waiting week after week to watch single episodes. 
I highlight this because I honestly believe it will continue to have a huge impact on all levels of the entertainment business. On the production side, it's already begun. In the last two years, there have been more production companies/producers of TV series than ever before who are contractually obligated to shoot, post, and deliver the entire season's worth of episodes to a Network. For the longest time, the standard operating procedure was for production company/producers to shoot, post and deliver chunks of a season's episodes to the Network, then working to stay ahead by at least three or four episodes of what is broadcast on TV to audiences. 
This process led to the eventual success of many TV shows in the past. When the producers saw how early episodes were playing to audiences, they would then augment the future shows to highlight what was working, whether it was a storyline, or an actor in the cast who was resonating with audiences. 
All of that will become ancient history as Netflix and Amazon continue to finance a large bulk of TV series in the future. Audiences who subscribe to Netflix and Amazon (and for years, binging on DVD sets with a season or complete series run of a TV show) are becoming spoiled with the option to binge on a show at their own pace. Delaying the gratification of the modern TV viewer will become more and more of a challenge to those who continue to broadcast TV shows in the old-fashioned way. 

I believe the first to suffer will be the major broadcast networks who continue to air episodes of TV shows on a nine-month schedule. Even shows that have 10-13 episodes might eventually suffer if the series run is spread out over four or five months. It’s not that viewers won’t watch if they are already fans of a particular show. The challenge will be getting a new series launched when audiences don’t have the patience to commit to watching four episodes spread over a month or more.  

I don’t believe the pay channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epic), will sit still as this trend continues to change the viewing landscape. I see them spreading out the runs of their marquee shows in less, not more months. And it will be one of the pay networks above that make the initial move of having all the episodes of a TV series available on the same night the series is premiered. 

The longer-term ramifications will be that Sports programming will start to become more valuable as well as other “live” televised events. But with football and other network sporting events showing a recent drop in the ratings, that will not be the entire answer to what will continue to be a steady drop-off in ratings for prime time broadcast shows. 
Having the complete arc of a quality TV Series at the audience’s beck and call will end up rewarding those who deliver. Right now, Netflix and Amazon are positioning themselves to be the ones who reap those rewards. 
All of this change I hope will end up being great for professional creators. 
But who really knows? We're talking about the entertainment industry. Only a fool believes he can predict where a single brick will land after a building is brought down by a series of explosions.   

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