by Hailey Hart-Thompson
photography courtesy of Pexels
The 2018-2019 award season has come to a close. The lull has come to an end as work begins once again; a race to create the next Emmy or Oscar winner. However, these races are being conducted beyond the confines of the silver screen. Instead, they are on the screen of your computer.
At the 70th Emmy’s, Netflix collected 7 wins, shared across a number of their shows. Amazon collected 5 wins, all of which were from their show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Hulu fell short of that, but their award-winning show The Handmaid’s Tale had won Outstanding Drama Series the past year and received 8 nominations at the 70th Emmys. In addition, at the recent Oscars, the foreign film Roma received 10 nominations and 3 wins. Their United States distributor? Netflix.
Streaming networks have become a mainstay of television and are slowly working their way into the Hollywood movie business. Why is it that people have become so drawn to streaming networks’ originals? Is it the exclusivity, their ability to work outside of rules and regulations, or are streaming networks just creating better content? I believe that their draw falls under three categories; accessibility, binge-ability, and boundlessness.
These streaming networks have made a high level of film available in the home of the individual. No longer do you have to wait for a particular time to watch your favorite television shows. Any time, any day, any location, you are able to access entertainment. The efficacy of the modern world, along with the decrease in “nine to five” jobs has created a need for television on personal time. Streaming networks can build viewership without having to worry about airtime.
Additionally, in instances such as Roma, there is no need to travel to a theater or buy a ticket that costs the same as a full month’s subscription to Netflix. This accessibility makes it possible for any viewer to become a fan, whether they watch television on their lunch break, or at midnight after a long day.
Ever forgotten about a television show you used to watch every Thursday? Unable to keep up with the schedule, in addition to the difficulty of returning engaged after full weeks or months of the show being on break? Streaming networks allow for an instant fandom to be created around their shows and films, as any viewer can have access to a full season in seconds. Viewers can become immersed in a matter of days, watching full seasons without stopping. Even if the next season comes out in a year, prior seasons are still available whenever you want to binge them. The ability to engage with multiple seasons of material allows viewers to become quickly attached to the characters and the plotlines.
The boundlessness of streaming networks is most apparent in the first episode of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black; two of the main characters are having sex in the shower, entirely nude. Could ABC, NBC, or CBS show this on prime airtime? Absolutely not. The rules of cable television even don’t allow for swearing during certain times. Streaming networks have full freedom in the visuals or audio they decide to show. They have no rules limiting their stories, and therefore have the ability to boundlessly create content for viewers and subscribers of the streaming networks.
There is no way to empirically claim that streaming networks are creating better content. If you count the awards they have received in recent years, loyalists to the Academy would say they are creating better content. Rather than looking directly at each individual show, we can identify how the streaming networks have connected to their audience. The logistics of a streaming network allow people to relate to characters on their own time, in their own capacity, and without the limits of cable television. This new style of viewership defines why they have been taking over the award season.