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How the Netflix Revolution Has Been Driven by the Millennial Generation and a Changing Visual Media Industry

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When asked the question, “What do you like to do?” it is not uncommon to hear people list activities such as hiking, swimming, video games or painting. People will even list watching TV or movies as a favorite way to pass time. However, recently a new media source has become rather prevalent in the list, especially among young adults. With over 40 million users, Netflix has come to rest comfortably among other pastimes, and is listed often as an activity that people enjoy in their spare time. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t long ago that Netflix was on the verge of collapse. After a price hike in 2011, Netflix lost 800,000 subscribers (Sandoval) and over $12 billion in revenue (Cohan). It is surprising to many that Netflix profits are now at an all-time high. So how exactly has this company managed to sail the seas of media upheaval so successfully? The answer is two-fold – the lifestyle of the millennial generation and changing demand in visual media can both be credited with creating the possibility of the Netflix revolution.

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Millennials have grown up in an age where instant gratification and advancing technology are part of everyday life. Millennials expect to have what they want when the want it, and media is no exception. That’s why Netflix fits so perfectly into their lives. These young adults love that they can watch a wide variety whenever and wherever they want. A survey done in 2014 showed that 71% of adults age 25-34 subscribe to Netflix, while 18-24 year olds are close behind at 65% (Beres). Instead of sitting down in front of the television during primetime to catch their favorite shows (like the generations before have done), Millennials prefer to be able to watch at their convenience from their portable devices. Netflix fits nicely into this lifestyle, and also makes it possible to watch as much of a particular show as you want at once.

In recent years the phrase “binge-watching” has become a commonplace saying, and refers to the practice of watching three or more episodes at once of a television series. As handheld and portable devices have become more common, and Netflix has increased its availability of shows and movies, “binge-watching” has become increasingly common, especially among Millennials. More than half of Millennials admit to watching three or more episodes together daily or weekly. According to Damon Beres of Huffington Post, this is a trend that Netflix is more than willing to take credit for. In fact viewers are also more and more willing to admit to the practice, with 73% of self—reported “bingers” claiming that they have positive feelings associated with “binge-watching” (Stenovec). Certainly this development has significantly and positively affected the company’s bottom line.

Many studies show that Millennials in particular are demanding entertainment from different sources than the almighty television. A study done by the National Association of Television Program Executives (or the NATPE) found that preference for viewing television programming on a television is waning among Millennials. Only 55% of Millennials prefer a television for viewing, compared to 90% of older generations. Moreover 43% of Millennials were reported to have a subscription to Netflix in 2013, and the number is growing (Richter). Its clear to see that with the dawn of the internet era, young adults feel more engaged and enabled in their viewing choices by portability and ease of access, both of which are provided for by companies such as Netflix.

Since its near fatal collapse in 2011, Netflix has only been getting stronger. The fact that it is now commonly listed as a hobby among the Millennial generation is proof of the company’s widespread appeal. Since Netflix fits so well into their lifestyle, allows them to watch whenever they want and as much as they want, it offers the perfect assets that young adults want. Unfortunately for broadcast television, every revolution has a martyr. The growth of content streaming cannot go ignored, and if cable companies want to stay in business, important actions will need to be taken in the coming years. But for now, Americans can most likely expect words or phrases like “Netflixing” and “Netflix and chill” to become increasingly common, and perhaps even make their way into the English dictionary.

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