Without Netflix Would We Have Breaking Bad?

Photo: Heisenberg, the clandestine alias of Walter White, the protagonist of the critically acclaimed TV show, Breaking Bad, played by Bryan Cranston.

Streaming video platforms like Netflix bring us the TV shows, movies, pop stars and freedom in programming, entertainment and news that we love and depend on.

When it comes to streaming video, the big question confronting everyone right now is: What does the rise in popularity of streaming video mean for content creators and consumers? Or, more to the point, what does the consumer’s voracious demand for streaming video — both live and on-demand — imply?

Two interviews I came across recently made me kind of giddy with excitement for the business of streaming video and digital media. One was with the creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, and the other was an interview with comedian David Cross by Ray Suarez on NPR’s OnPoint. (Check out both interviews below.)

Gilligan essentially said that a great deal of credit — if not all credit — for Breaking Bad’s mega success is owed to the technology that’s allowed viewers to watch the show on-demand, whenever they like on Netflix, and is largely responsible for the show not being cancelled by AMC, the network on which it aired:

“The availability of Breaking Bad on iTunes and Netflix and all these various platforms of video on demand that haven’t existed for too long now is another reason that the show [has been so popular]. This new technology coming online at about season two, or thereabouts, in earnest, really, I think is one of the reasons why we’re here today… That we’re able to be here, and that we didn’t get cancelled round about season two or three for lack of viewers. The ability for people to instantly catch up with what is a very hyper-serialized show… All credit, or a great deal of that credit, has to be given to this new technology.”

Speaking on NPR, Cross echoed the sentiment that streaming video has helped carry his career as far as it’s come. Netflix breathed new life into several shows Cross had been a part of such as Arrested Development which had been cancelled and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret which had been left to collect dust on the shelf of the broadcasting network after the show run had finished.

One tremendously popular show Cross starred on was cancelled after its third season. Suarez, who interviewed Cross pointed out: “After it was cancelled by Fox in 2006, after just three seasons, Netflix reunited the cast of Arrested Development for a fourth season in 2013. And there’s a perfect example of how on-demand content has changed your business.”

Cross responded by saying that an entirely new life was breathed into programming that would have otherwise been left to slip away into obscurity had it not been for Netflix saying, let’s get this stuff back on the air:

“There are three shows that came back that would not have happened without Netflix. One being Arrested Development, one being With Bob and David and the other one being The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, which found its audience through Netflix. I think when it first came out on IFC it didn’t make very much of an impact. And then it lived on Netflix and it really grew and it got this [greater following], not just here, but internationally. And that’s why IFC came back as well, years later, and said let’s bring this back, let’s figure out a way to do a third series.”

In the case of Todd Margaret, IFC, the show’s original broadcaster, recognized the opportunity to capitalize on the newly attracted worldwide audience the show had garnered.

The effects of this wave in online streaming content are many and varied. From advertising, to the way we interact socially, to the way culture and news is transmitted, to the broadening variety and quantity of entertainment available to us; streaming media is stirring things up.

At work I’m constantly hearing industry specific terms like OTT (over-the-top) content, set-top box, streaming media, VOD (video on-demand), digital content and TV Everywhere being thrown around, and it gets to the point where you start to think that everybody must know what these things are and how it relates to their day-to-day life. But to hear it being brought to the airwaves, across print media and put into a pop culture context by those creating it, and in such a large volume now, is particularly exciting because it means that the content storm we’ve been predicting for some time is really getting into full swing.

How has Netflix and streaming video changed the way you watch TV and the way you interact socially? Let us know your thoughts with your comments below.

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