All posts by bordersdonotbind

VoD Streaming In Australia

For my final blog post, I want to expand on an aspect of my topic that I haven’t mentioned much in these blogs or in my seminar presentation, but that I do wish to include in my research report. The rise of the streaming giants is having a significant effect on Australia’s media landscape. Australian’s are well-known for their excessive pirating habits of popular television shows and films – we have, for quite some time now, held the title of world’s most prolific pirates of Game of Thrones. 

However, the introduction of Netflix (and local competitors Stan and Presto) to the Australian market has seen these numbers decrease slightly, a nod to the willingness of the Australian public to legally access content as long it is in fact there to legally access. VoD services provide easy and affordable access to huge libraries of content that were previously harder to find – hence why torrenting figures were higher before Netflix and co were introduced.

While torrenting statistics have gone down, the number of Australian’s using a VPN has increased in recent years due to privacy concerns and the desire to access content from streaming services that are usually made unavailable to us. This leads to another issue that comes with the introduction of Netflix – and that is that it localises it’s content significantly. Netflix in Australia only has approximately 2000 titles in it’s library compared to the US Netflix library of nearly 6000Many Australian users enlisted the help of a VPN to gain access to libraries from other countries including the US and the UK and were disgruntled to find out that Netflix would be taking measures to stop this from happening. However, it’s likely that Netflix isn’t trying too hard to do this and one of their future goals appears to be to make all of it’s content globally accessible, but that just may take some time.

This news comes as a new report by the Australian Productivity Commission came out stating that “Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that prevent them from using foreign online streaming services like US Netflix”.

The report also “urges a major overhaul of intellectual property laws” in Australia, proving what a significant impact the rise of VoD services is having on the Australian media landscape.

How Is Netflix Just So Damn Good?

This topic was decided upon stemming from the thought, “why is so much good content being produced on Netflix?”. Some of my favourite shows in recent years have been Netflix original productions (House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black), or Amazon original productions like Transparent. Shows like these have and continue to dominate prestigious Hollywood awards seasons, winning Emmy’s and Golden Globes year after year. The amount of VoD services that have original productions nominated and critically acclaimed grows every year. So clearly, my previously mentioned thought, has some validity to it, despite the fact that the term ‘good’ relative to content can be incredibly subjective.

I have realised that I’ve failed to mention that I intend on presenting my final project in the form of a research report. Therefore, I have also realised that I need to get crackin on a literature review. Luckily for me, I have come across an academic thesis written by Henry Zhu Tang in 2014,The Collaborative Filtering Effect of Netflix Ratings for Indie Films versus Blockbusters and Heavy Users versus Casual Users. This source is incredibly valuable to me as it incorporates many of the themes I discussed (and intend to expand on) in my previous blog post. Tang writes about the way Netflix uses recommendation algorithms to assist it’s users in finding content they presumably would be interested in and how this correlates to the type of content Netflix chooses to buy and also fund production of. Before reading this, I wasn’t even entirely aware of this connection. Everyone knows about the recommendation algorithms, love them or hate them, if you use the service, you are subjected to them. Personally, I don’t know where I stand on the privacy issue of Netflix knowing intricate details about my personality based on my TV and movie taste, but I do like a good recommendation. I hadn’t thought deep enough about the connection to how they utilise the recommendation algorithm for the type and quality content they offer. As it turns out, Netflix started out in 1997 as a service dedicated to providing more alternative content:

“In 1997, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix, an online DVD-by-mail retailer that usurped the traditional brick-and-mortar model. At once, a wider library of titles had become available to consumers than ever before. Netflix introduced a proprietary recommendation system, powered by a collaborative filtering algorithm, to select movies to watch for its customers, a feature it continues to use for its global video streaming service today. This collaborative filtering algorithm would further highlight indie or niche films that could not be found (or were prohibitively difficult to find) in stores.”

Many of the ideas Tang writes about are connected to 4 of my 5 main talking points so far:

  1. Content with better diversity.

      2. Creators having more freedom around the production of content.

      3. VoD services content favouring audience viewing habits.

      4. Netflix buying up the rights to more low budget, yet ‘prestigious’ films at Sundance.

Due to how supportive this thesis is to my talking points for my report, I will likely go ahead and rely heavily on it throughout.

The Disruption of Video on Demand

Due to my influx of thoughts on the topic of cyberculture and Hollywood (particularly VoD), this blog post is going to consist of me spitballing all the ideas I’ve been having in regards of what I may wish to include in my final project. From this, hopefully I can begin to better craft an outline of a legitimate research report.

  • Better diversity in Netflix/Hulu/Amazon produced content in regards to gender and race. E.G. A huge cast of women from many different backgrounds in Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black and Amazon’s Transparent (a show created by Jill Soloway that centres on a trans woman and her family). As this Inverse article states, “Like Fox in the 1990s, Netflix has turned ‘diversity’ into a winning formula, but this time, it looks to be a strategy that will have some longevity. While Hollywood is still full of pledges and apologies, Netflix is proving in practice what studies have shown for years: representation matters.”
    There’s also a brilliant Decider article on the proliferation of female-lead content on Hulu: “while Hulu was investing huge amounts of money to secure the talents of Hollywood’s most-esteemed male producers, women were morphing into the most potent creative forces behind their new original content slate. Realising this made me sit up for one big reason: It’s not the norm. For decades, the narrative has been that Hollywood — whether we’re talking television or film, comedy or drama — is a hostile environment for creative female forces. Hulu had quietly assembled a programming slate where women were not only equal to men behind-the-scenes, but often in charge of them”, going on to then suggest a theory about why streaming services tend to show more diversity in their original programming: “The hiring system in Hollywood tends to favour cronyism and advancing up-and-comers who agree with the establishment’s take on things. If Hulu has managed to think outside the box on this score that’s probably because Hulu, like its primary competitors Netflix and Amazon, grew out of the start-up culture of Silicon Valley”.
  • VoD services producing original content often lends more freedom to the artists in control of making the content. Writers are free to write an entire season of a TV show from beginning to end without the worry of episodes airing weekly as they’re still writing. Therefore there’s less influence from audience opinion on storylines. Also, not being subject to the opinions of advertisers frees up much of what can be included in a TV series and when storylines can occur. For example, the protagonist on Hulu’s The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri gave birth to a child early in the fourth season of the show, something that would be unheard of on a traditional network sitcom. As Decider puts it: “Traditionally, sitcom babies are only born in November and May. Why? Well, November and May are when ‘sweeps’ are. That’s when networks try their best to boost ratings so they can boost advertising dollars. Since everyone loves babies, they’re considered ratings gold. Hence, why you don’t see too many big births early in a sitcom’s season…Now that Mindy Kaling doesn’t have to write a show to fit network protocols — or please advertising schedules — she’s free to have her little bundle of joy as soon as she wants on her show”
  • Consumer habits favouring the content produced and bought by online streaming services. Everybody loves a binge-watch. Everybody loves Video on Demand. Audiences choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it and for how long. This isn’t to say that traditional broadcast TV is dead – yet. Some people still enjoy the nostalgia of appointment-like TV watching. But even traditional television has been clued onto the consumer habits of wanting to chose when and how they watch content for quite some time. Hence the many years the ability to record, pause and rewind shows has been around.
  • Internet regulation and how Australian’s in particular have and continue to interact with online consumption of content. The introduction of Netflix to Australia has affected a number of things. 1) Piracy – Australian’s are pretty good at it, numbers are supposedly declining since VoD services entered the market2) The issue of Australian Netflix subscribers using VPN services to access content available in other countries – Netflix supposedly trying to ‘crack down’ on this behaviour, but is it really? Will they actually dedicate themselves to this issue or will they ease up on it? This issue leads to the discussion on making more content global. 3) Discussion regarding Australia’s terrible Internet quality. Slow speeds, poor connections, not up-to-standard infrastructure in general. In world where VoD services are only growing, Australia’s internet cannot keep up with the demands of such services.

Looking At Cyberculture and Hollywood

DIGC335 is a class I’m not afraid to admit I feel a little out of my depth in. I am interested in digital media and the tech world in general, but for the most part my involvement is limited to reading the occasional Wired article and discussing how cringe-y the Twitter accounts of most politicians are. I do not know how to code. I only recently figured out what the ‘dark web’ is. Please forgive me for this. I have much to learn.

I sit in our DIGC335 seminars and marvel at the information being thrown around about Artificial Intelligence and cyborgs and for quite a while I was paralysed trying to think of a topic I could devote myself to for my research project. I was relieved to eventually settle on something that I actually do have a vested interest in. For my final research project, I’m going to examine the way cyberculture is infiltrating Hollywood. More specifically, I intend on looking at the major online Video on Demand (VoD) streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even YouTube. Some of the areas I’ll be looking at include how VoD services are affecting:

  1. The creative process and production of content.
  2. The type of content being made.
  3. Distribution of content.
  4. Consumption of content.
  5. Government regulation relating to Internet access and quality of infrastructure.

From the top of my head, so many of my favourite writers, producers and actors from both television and film are not only accepting of the rise of streaming services, but are straight up benefitting from it. There’s a huge cast of diverse women on Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black, Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project moving to Hulu after being dropped from major network Fox, Broad City being picked up to series by Comedy Central only because it was initially a successful web series launched on YouTube. The examples of cyberculture enabling artists and resulting in good quality content in the film and television industry are endless.

From the onset, I do not believe the rise of Netflix will see the death of Hollywood. I do, however, believe that it has, and will continue to significantly disrupt the traditional entertainment industry. I am interested in examining how streaming services came to find such major success in recent years, what that currently means for film and television, and what it might mean in the future. For now, here’s Amy Poehler and Tina Fey’s take on it (8min 15sec – 8min 40sec):