Ten years ago, television was just a thing you watched before bed or at dinner. In 2017, television is the newest and most revered form of narrative media—one that consumers as well as actors, actresses, directors and producers have flocked to for money and fame. TV as a form of high art or media has never been a popular idea. Once Soaps and American Idol were the only thing worth watching. Now, here lies a plethora of 20 episode-long giants and articulate mini series. The film industry sits in decline and cinemas suffer at the hands of instant streaming and HBO.
The rise of TV consuming has been fast and vast, and to blame perhaps is the need for constant occupancy of attention and lust for zeitgeist. For example, a front runner of this new TV empire came in the form of Breaking Bad, a show which many revere as the best of all time. Quite peculiar, considering at the time TV was never a thing you reviewed seriously, there wasn’t much imagery or dialogue to fester over in Friends or Eastenders, and seeing TV as an intellectual format in which to play with aesthetic and character seemed an odd untouched prospect and only something ever done in film. So when Breaking Bad came along, what came with it was an addiction to narrative that caught like wild fire, and the first to capitalize on this was Netflix.
Netflix boasts 70 Million paying subscribers in the UK and Ireland alone, where as SkyTV (once a popular and key player in new TV releases) only has 9 Million households that subscribe to its TV packages. What this shows us is that Netflix, a streaming app that creates its own content, whilst housing many popular titles like Breaking Bad or alternatively RuPaul’s Drag Race, has essentially replaced a once market leader in television within the UK. Which is quite bizarre as Netflix didn’t exist in the UK until five years ago. Five years! What this shows about consumer trends in TV is that streaming and binging is the newest form of popular media, which means TV is the flavor of the month (year) for intellectuals and creatives to spend their time and money.
Is the rise in television the death of film?
Perhaps, film as a form of media has always been revered and widely spoken about within the context of culture and zeitgeist. But now it appears where once film managed to hold down a 1 hour 50 minute narrative with ease, it just seems consumers are no longer happy with the format, which I would argue is because longer, better explained, greater characters and more time is allowed for TV. How it twists turns, evolves and reveals to us information is like your favorite film in ten hours. And because TV has proven so profitable networks and media empires are plunging huge sums of money in to outrageously ostentatious projects, as they know they can make their returns on it because of the addictive nature of TV. Not to mention the change of social normalities around TV and the wide discussions now had about Game of Thrones and The Handmaids Tale around the office.
Despite all of this I don’t necessarily think the Emmys will become the new Oscars, however I think that TV at the moment holds a lot of great stars and accolades, and rightly so as many important conversations have been started because of the variety on TV now namely in shows such as The Handmaids Tale and Transparent, both of which are housed on streaming sites and have both won many Emmys, meaning that the center of visual narrative media and talent as well as popularity is on TV.