Re-run TV?

I got a kick out of this. It was revealed this week that the share of downstream Internet traffic generated by Netflix customers’ streaming movies reached thirty percent in the last measuring period. Thirty percent. But as eye-opening as that figure is, it’s not what I got a kick out of. In some bit of reporting associated with that announcement I learned the following little gem: the pet nickname by which people in Hollywood sometimes sneer at Netflix is “Re-run TV.” I find this genuinely funny. Twenty-five or -six million people (including me) are streaming content from Netflix, comprising thirty percent of all downstream traffic, but Hollywood can still look down on them because they’re just “re-runs.”

In the world these guys grew up in, the one in which their business model was based on total control of content and delivery, there was for each piece of programming a “first run” during which the media biggies allowed people to watch it once, assuming they could be in front of the delivery device at the appointed time. Subsequent performances were “re-runs” for which the media corps were paid big bucks by smaller networks and independent broadcasters. Run, and re-run. And since everything on Netflix has been seen before, why hell it’s all just a bunch of re-runs. In their world, once, and in their dreams now, the viewing public flocks to them en-masse for the must-see content, and once that content has been seen they might agree to dribble it out bit by bit to other, clearly inferior outlets.

Meanwhile, on Planet Reality, I got to watch five seasons of Lost, all of Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, four seasons of Rescue Me, Weeds, Big Love, Torchwood, and dozens upon dozens of documentaries and movies, including most recently all the best, campiest Bond flicks from the sixties. Some of the movies I’ve seen before. Most of the television I haven’t. It’s all “first run” to me, and delivered to my computer, in my office, or on either of our two TVs, when I want to watch it. More importantly, the only way any of the networks can get anywhere near having twenty-six million people care what they are doing on a given night is to get two cute royal kids to marry each other. Hard to pull that off regularly.

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