The way we watch TV shows has changed drastically over the years, resulting in more complex narrative structures and an increase in the overall quality of television.
In the past, viewers kept up with shows by tuning every week. Now, online streaming sources like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu dominate TV and remove that agonizing weekly wait for new episodes.
Netflix began as a source for streaming old TV shows and movies released five or ten years prior. In the past few years, Netflix’s angle has completely changed and shifted into releasing original shows, recent seasons of TV and films.
With a positive response from viewers who prefer more options when they watch a show, Hulu and Amazon have followed in Netflix’s footsteps.
“Five years ago I watched TV on the actual TV,” said junior Margaret Reed, “and now I watch it on my computer via Netflix.”
Reed represents the majority who have switched from TV to streaming. According to a 2014 Adobe study, the number of viewers watching online TV has grown drastically, with rates more than doubling from 2013 to 2014. For many, the convenience of watching on a portable device outweighs the draw of traditional TVs.
“I can take my laptop anywhere and watch it anytime,” said Reed.
Alongside an increased number of online streaming creators comes the ability to have diverse content that pushes the limits of TV we see today. With a new variety of shows, producers no longer have to restrict their scripts to meet specific guidelines within TV networks. Instead, they are free to let their creators run shows without much interference.
Controversial shows like Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s Transparent are just a few examples showing greater diversity in streaming than broadcast.
Since the age of binging entire series has arrived, the benchmark for what viewers expect has changed. Shows that are exclusively online are taking on more complex plots because viewers are able to watch episodes one after another. Now, TV show creators feel pressured to add layers of complexity and depth to their shows.
In contrast, the plots of traditional TV shows have to be structured around ad breaks. For example, producers of shows like Quantico or Law and Order craft cliffhangers before and after ad breaks to keep viewers intrigued.
The rise of streaming media challenges this longheld practice. Streaming exclusives, uninterrupted by ads or breaks between episodes, continue to increase in popularity because they provide instant gratification.
For the Eleven fans and Frank Underwood fanatics, traditional television is becoming a remote thing of the past.