A Second Golden Age of Television…Delivered Digitally

Fast on the tail of the WSJ article about Binge TV viewing comes another TV-viewing-related news item in which Neilsen reports that Netflix customers are increasingly likely to be using the service to watch television series rather than movies.

Nineteen percent of survey respondents said they prefer to use Netflix for TV programming, an 8% increase since 2011. Those who mainly stream movies came in at 47%, down 6% since 2011. Users that prefer to watch both was 35%.”

With the sizeable customer base that Netflix enjoys, it’s not a far stretch to consider these this Neilsen report and binge viewing to be two different perspectives on the same trend. Yet the cause may not be a change in consumer behavior, per se, but a change in the selectionoffered in the digital universe.

The familiar red logo of Netflix, a tastemaker and market leader despite missteps.

Soon after the Quikster debacle, and as the noise of resistance by studio execs to its “all you can eat” streaming subscriptions grew, Netflix executives went on what seemed to be a TV content licensing spree, adding many more high-profile titles to its line-up including shows from hot cable outfits like AMC. At the same time, the licensing deal it enjoyed with Starz, which provided a number of high-profile feature titles, went by the wayside. (Starz, BTW, recently signed with rising digital-delivery star FlixFling.) With a wider and deeper selection of TV and with fewer feature films available on the dominant streaming service, the trend toward more TV streaming is, perhaps, no surprise. Yet the appetite for current and classic TV in the digital world does seem to have momentum beyond just NetFlix. Consumer interest n current and classic TV continues to be strong. For the nostalgia crowd, Image Entertainment will soon be releasing a newly restored Dick Van Dyke box set with new exposure on iTunes. The Carol Burnett Show is also getting massive new release from Time-Life. In the latest development, Dreamworks Animation recently put in a bid on Classic Media, owner of a number of classic shows. It’s hard to say whether this move was to lock up rights for future feature development or to capitalize on this trend, but the Dreamworks bid, according to the NY ‘Times “far exceeds bids made by other companies.” They’re serious. Maybe the best entertainment value these days is on the small screen? The idea isn’t a new one. Tribeca Film’s site had something to say about this back in November of 2011, putting a name on a then-emerging trend. “Is Indie TV the New Indie Film?” wrote Josh Bernhard:

“In contrast to the film industry at large, the TV industry seems to be taking more risks, delivering more quality content, doing more exciting things. It’s also attracting top level talent, from actors to directors.”

These may be all mutually supporting movements, but it does seem like TV is where the excitement is these days. Whether it’s audiences looking to reach back to the days of nostalgia TV or current fans seeking a convenient way to catch up on the latest hot show (hello, Breaking Bad), the second Golden Age of TV may be upon us, assisted by the growing accessibility of digital media.