Netflix Has a Plan to Rewire our Entire Culture
Binge viewing was just the beginning. What you need to know to understand life after the end of mass culture.
If Dickens didn’t have to make his living writing serialized stories, would we know his writing at all? Yet we read his material in book form, rather than the pieces he churned out, as did many “novelists” in the late 19th century.
Netflix has already taken the serialized model and broken it, with “House of Cards”, the new season of “Arrested Development”, and “Orange is the new Black”, delivering the entire season of episodes at once, for binge viewers to swallow all in one feast or, pick as they choose.
With the precident of popular literature being shifted from serialization in newspapers (even Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”, rambling when read as a book, probably held tighter attention when parsed out in smaller pieces) to books, it’s probably a foregone conclusion that Netflix can drive this model for a while, acquiring new shows, that, as the author of this article, Tim Wu, hints, smells faintly of the quirkyness of HBO or Showtime programming. In the case of Arrested Development, it’s a flat out lift of a property that ran on a major network, and the show didn’t cross over into the land of explicit sexuality and language—Arrested Development fans didn’t have to brave an assault on their beloved story world of cut aways before sex happens.
So it’s evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, and there hasn’t been a transmedia property announced yet from Netflix, with alternate endings, multiple versions and audience-generated content. That seems to be still closer to the gaming community than fans of Hulu and the network shows, wanting to consume their series on their time, not the networks’ schedule.
But… one step at a time.
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