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Thank you, Netflix

Column My love letter to the streaming service for saving television
Fri Sep 27 2013, 13:36

MONDAY 30 SEPTEMBER is going to be a very sad day.

If you haven't already guessed, that's because Monday marks the end of Breaking Bad, with Netflix streaming the final episode in the UK just hours after it airs in the States.

Because of this I have booked Monday off work, as have some of my friends. We plan to gather at 9am sharp to watch the final episode as soon as it is added to the video streaming service, which will be followed by 50-some minutes of me pacing back and forth around the front room as we near learning the fates of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Sob. 

If it wasn't for Netflix, Monday probably wouldn't be quite so exciting. I'd arrive home at around 6.30pm, having avoided social networks all day for fear of reading a Breaking Bad spoiler (although Netflix's own Spoiler Foiler tool looks to change that), to walk into a world of stress in trying to find a decent stream of the final episode. Panicked pacing would probably follow in this scenario too, but likely because of the awful image quality and out of sync audio.

This is why I believe Netflix is so great, and demonstrates how its streaming TV service, for me at least, has completely saved the television experience.

In my flat, we recently upgraded to Virgin Media TiVo, and I can honestly say I have no idea why. Since the box was fitted a few months ago, I have found myself switching it on once. I'm ashamed to admit that was to watch an epsiode of X Factor, but I can proudly say since that experience I have never watched another. (However, we will brush the dust off our Tivo box to watch the last episode of The IT Crowd tonight.)

Instead, my TV is constantly hooked up to my Apple TV box, and all of my TV viewing comes via the onboard Netflix app. This costs £5.99 a month. Virgin Media Tivo isn't quite so cheap.

This £6 - beyond being able to watch Breaking Bad weekly - has revolutionised the television experience for me, allowing me to binge watch shows such as Netflix's Orange is the New Black and seven series' of The Office, without having to scramble around online for a different means of being able to watch such shows.

When I say different means, I am of course referring to illegal streaming websites. According to some recently reported figures, Netflix has caused illegal downloading to drop by 50 percent in Canada. That's not all it has saved. As it constantly looks to expand its catalogue of shows, Netflix has saved a number of shows that might never have made it onto our TV screens otherwise.

Someone who describes this more eloquantly than I can is Kevin Spacey. Spacey's own show House of Cards was picked up as a Netflix original series after US and UK broadcasters reportedly shunned the pilot of the political drama.

"Netflix was the only company that said, 'We believe in you. We've run our data, and it tells us our audience would watch this series.'

"Clearly the success of the Netflix model, releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once, proved one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom. If they want to binge as they've been doing on House of Cards and lots of other shows, we should let them binge. I can't tell you how many people have stopped me on the street and said, 'Thank you, you sucked three days out of my life.'"

Netflix hasn't just completely revolutionised the TV experience for me. Arguably it along with similar services such as Amazon's Lovefilm and new player have saved the experience of watching television in the internet age, and they continue to do so.

Sure, Netflix sometimes relies on others to furnish it with content, but the firm has already demonstrated that it really can save good TV. The show Arrested Development is another example of this, as what could have ended up as just a cancelled TV show got picked up by Netflix and since has seen great success.

So, for all this, thank you Netflix. µ


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