Streaming platforms have become so popular that they are becoming bywords. Netflix has been the subject of numerous internet memes and is notorious on college campuses for its ability to distract students for hours on end. It’s pretty common to hear people recommend TV shows and then mention that they are available on Netflix, making the assumption that just about everyone has access to an account. Sites like Netflix seem to have become integrated into our popular culture.
I explained in a past article how streaming services can offer a convenient way of saving a little money on your media intake. This is one of many reasons people are starting to favor internet streaming over cable for watching their favorite shows. Streaming is also far more convenient in that it allows for control over one’s viewing experience; no more pandering to TV’s rigid schedule or flipping through channels endlessly to find that there’s simply nothing good on. Streaming allows viewers to watch what they want, when they want, and to watch as much of it as they want. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of digital content which is a package that’s hard to beat.
Even as Netflix has reached meme status, its foothold could be slipping. In much the same way that Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have undercut cable and started eating into that market as cheaper alternatives, Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick are beginning to challenge the growth of streaming services by offering even cheaper options. It just goes to show that you should never get too comfortable, resting on your laurels. That’s why Netflix is currently working on implementing a couple of new plans to adapt to the competitive nature of the industry.
Undaunted by competition and potential threats, the streaming company has been gradually making the shift towards producing its own original content. Several recent Netflix original shows have reached mainstream popularity, and are well-loved by critics and fans alike. With sites like YouTube steadily increasing in popularity and viewership over the years, people generally seem more open to original content produced solely for the internet than they might have been just a few years ago. Netflix appears to be the first major streaming service to move in this direction, which could grant them the advantage of seniority.
Their tech people have also been working on new methods for encoding their content that could cut data usage and give them a little boost in speed and efficiency. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a layman’s explanation of encoding is that it’s the method used to store media as digital information that can then be transmitted. Currently, Netflix uses algorithms to choose bit rates at which to stream, based on their users’ connection speed. The new algorithms also take into account the complexity of the video being streamed. This means that content with lower complexity can be streamed at a higher quality than more complex content at the same bit rate. Streaming through Netflix with these encoding algorithms would be optimized for each individual piece of content as well as for network conditions, which should lead to a better streaming experience all around.
Only time will tell if Netflix’s moves to stay ahead will pay off. It’s hard to imagine that something as ubiquitous as Netflix could die off, but remember that MySpace was once relevant too. Netflix seems to be forward-thinking and hopeful, despite share prices that have been slipping.