It’s no surprise that the way we consume media is changing. Gone are the days of gathering around the TV on a Saturday morning for cartoons, fighting over the remote with your older sibling or rushing home so that you don’t miss that episode you’ve been waiting weeks for. Taking those places are Wednesday night binge sessions, sharing logins and watching the latest episode in the hallway before class. Our TV screens have been replaced with laptop and phone screens, our living rooms with our daily commute.
The industry has taken notice. Nielsen, a global information company that tracks and analyzes what and how people watch TV, has published some telling numbers about the changing nature of television. For the key 18-24 demographic, the hours spent watching traditional TV have dropped to less than two, the lowest yet. Since 2012, time spent watching traditional TV for this demographic has dropped 43.6%. And it’s pretty obvious where those hours have gone, as Netflix now has more paid subscribers than any of the top cable TV companies.
Netflix, the first and most prominent of big streaming services, started out as a way to rent DVDs online. By 2007, the company moved into the streaming business and in 2013, Netflix released its first original-content show, “House of Cards.” Since then, Netflix has become a meme, an empire and a household necessity for people of all ages. It’s gotten to the point where more adults have access to Netflix than a DVR.
But beyond the convenience and variety that services like Netflix offer, a new era of shows made-for-streaming are dominating pop culture. Some of the greatest series in the past couple of years have come from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Studios. Whether it’s the lovable ladies of “Orange is the New Black,” the cutting commentary of “The Handmaid’s Tale” or the boisterous humor of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” streaming services continue to deliver great television that goes far beyond the limited time and content of traditional TV. With less regulation, a more flexible time constraint and a binge-watching culture that leaves no need to keep viewers engaged for the week in between episodes, streaming services are able to produce high-quality programming that beats out traditional TV in both viewership and, lately, awards.
At this year’s Golden Globe Awards, there was a noticeable difference in who was walking away with the coveted statue. For the first time, streaming services won the most combined Golden Globes. While HBO alone walked away with four awards, streaming services ended the night with a total of five Globes; two to Amazon for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” two to Hulu for “The Handmaid’s Tale” and one to Netflix for “Master of None.”
It’s easy to look at streaming services’s domineering presence and assume the role of a middle-aged man scoffing at millennials: To think that somehow the fact that we don’t really watch TV on TVs anymore is ruining an important aspect of our culture. But in a world run by technology and shaped by convenience, is it even a surprise that streaming has quickly become a dominating aspect of our everyday lives? Perhaps a sense of community has been lost without those daily remote fights or gatherings around the screen for a big premiere, but maybe a new community has begun to take hold. One where people excitedly update each other on what episode they’ve gotten up to, where friends host all-night sleepovers to binge-watch the latest season and where children and grandchildren can talk to their parents about shows and movies from their time as if they had come out yesterday. Just because something is new and different, doesn’t mean that it has to be demonized. Art is art no matter the medium, and as our viewing habits shift online, this is a sentiment that we must continue to hold true.