Will Call: Netflix killed the TV star
If the trend over the last decade holds, I think television as we know it is on its way out.
As a kid, my TV time was rationed to avoid completely melting my brain, but I learned to double up on my own programming by joining my mother to watch true crime, figure skating and “ER.”
I remember the confusion in my peers when my family canceled our cable subscription, but by that time I was busier and had less patience for ever expanding commercial breaks and time slots that didn’t fit my schedule.
We kept the television for a while to watch movie rentals, but as our computers gained larger screens and DVD drives, it ended up in the attic, and I eventually gave it away.
At some point, I discovered television and movie downloads on iTunes and made up for the money we were saving without cable by buying several seasons of “Lost,” “Bones” and “24.”
The advent of Hulu let me keep up with my shows — albeit a bit behind the air date — without actually buying them, which kept the cost down through the rest of my high school years.
I bought a laptop my freshman year of college and sprang for a Netflix account back when you pretty much had to order discs to get anything good. I discovered that older shows often had more to offer than their modern counterparts, and devoured “The X Files,” “Northern Exposure” and pretty much everything by Joss Whedon.
It was about that time that Sounds Easy shut down. I tried to treat my nostalgia with a trip to The Video Station in Boulder, where I ran into former Sounds Easy owner Staci Dickerson and a Roaring Fork grad at checkout. I felt better.
Anyway, for the remainder of college I got my content through my computer except on the rare occasions when a live broadcast — the 2008 election, the Olympics, etc. — drew me to someone else’s TV set.
Lately, even that barrier has broken down as many live events are streamed or at least on Youtube almost immediately.
Nowadays, if someone recommends a television series, my first question is usually, “Is it on Netflix?” If not, I often don’t even bother. My only interaction with cable or satellite TV is in restaurants — where I usually find it annoying — and motels — where I usually find it amusing to channel surf for a few minutes to remind me what I’m not missing.
I share my experience not because it is unique, but because it is common.
Many people my age get their TV through the computer — or at least through a web-enabled set top box.
I’m a little pickier with movies and thus willing to pay a few bucks for a rental, in which case the convenience of variety on Amazon Instant Video still trumps Redbox. For something to watch on the plane or otherwise away from the web, there are plenty of services that let you download the content — including, just recently, Netflix.
One metric of how far we’ve come is the rising popularity of Netflix originals. Even in the midst of the writer’s strike, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog,” didn’t come close to the cultural penetration of “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” or “Stranger Things.” In fact, the only networks that seem to be keeping up are the nontraditional ones like HBO and Showtime.
Perhaps the most brilliant move, though is Netflix’s resurrection of old shows. Any fans of “Gilmore Girls” or “Arrested Development” who didn’t already have an account surely do now, and I’m willing to bet they’re pretty loyal to the new brand. All that’s left is for Netflix to bring back “Firefly,” and it’s all over.
When trying to predict the course of technology, there’s a good chance you’ll end up looking either foolish or obvious in hindsight.
Still, should I live long enough, I expect to tell my grandkids about network television in the same tone now used for radio serials.
Will Grandbois actually has a soft spot for “The Cinnamon Bear” and might have to find a way to tune into KAFM’s “War of the Worlds” broadcast this weekend. He can be reached at 384-9105 or email@example.com.