The Netflix Experience: Immediate and Unlimited Television Viewing as User Fantasy

Curator's Note

With the advent of its original programming such as Lilyhammer, House of Cards, Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development Season 4 and Orange is the New Black, Netflix is rebranding itself as “the world’s leading internet television network.” Formerly known primarily as a DVD-by-mail distributor, Netflix is now marketing itself as a brand new television viewing experience. Investing over two billion dollars per year in content licensing and creation, Netflix is rebranding itself in relation to industrial concepts of "quality television" as a means of competing with other television content producers. In competition with television networks such as HBO, BBC, and AMC and sites such as Hulu and Amazon, Netflix is now making the transition to producing online original content. In particular, Netflix is comparing itself to AMC (focusing on high quality television shows such as The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad).

Selling itself as “commercial-free unlimited-viewing subscription TV,” Netflix is also fulfilling the media user’s fantasy of immediate and unlimited access. Netflix enables viewer control over the viewing experience by including no cancellation fees, allowing the pausing, playing, and stopping of content at any time on multiple devices, and personalizing its membership screens and recommendation algorithms. By releasing entire seasons of television programs like Arrested Development and House of Cards at one time, Netflix encourages (and rewards) binge watching. Thus, the experience of watching Netflix includes not only viewing quality original programming that is unavailable in other places, but there is no pesky delay between episodes as each season is released simultaneously. However, though Netflix may offer unlimited viewing, the programming it offers is not as unlimited as it seems. In the comments sections of its website, numerous Netflix members lament the loss of particular networks (Starz), shows (Sports Night) or recent seasons (Dexter Seasons 5-8). And, since HBO GO is now one of its main competitors, HBO programming probably will not arrive on Netflix Streaming any time soon. However, Netflix will continue to remain in business so long as it keeps updating the Netflix experience in an attempt to fulfill all of our viewing fantasies.