When I first signed up for Netflix they didn’t have as many original series. Everyone was harping on about how wonderful Orange is the New Black was though having tried a few its appeal was lost on me. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt launched the week I signed up and whilst I enjoyed the first season, and that fantastic theme song what I enjoyed more about my Netflix subscription was my ability to stream boxsets of shows I’d missed or dismissed at the touch of a button. Without Netflix, I wouldn’t have fallen in love Scandi Noir hit The Bridge, Showtime’s Nurse Jackie or the US version of The Office. I had heard these were all great shows and Netflix allowed me to sample them without having to take a punt on buying the DVDs. I also raced through the majority of The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Community and Fargo.
Over the years though, the amount of licenced content on Netflix has dwindled as the mega-streamer chooses to push its own content. My favourite Netflix Original arrived earlier this year with the fantastic Russian Doll. Natasha Lyonne’s groundhog day-esque dramedy was original, surprising and heartbreaking. I loved Russian Doll, devouring the whole series over the course of a day. I took to Twitter to praise it, I made sure everyone in my social circle knew how much I enjoyed it, but for every Russian Doll Netflix delivers a season of The Punisher, or The Umbrella Academy or recently axed ‘comedy’ Friends from College. Netflix does create interesting original content giving writers and creators creative freedom never before seen but for me, that doesn’t always yield a must-see series of television.
The licenced content is harder for Netflix to come by nowadays. Sky Atlantic have exclusive rights to all the HBO and Showtime dramas. Amazon has certain rights to ABC shows. The BBC are slowly making content available longer on the iPlayer and Channel 4 has ALL4 where boxsets are available alongside the catchup service. The streaming services are fragmenting. The popularity of Netflix has led to other companies wanting a piece of the pie.
When Netflix purchased Friends for some crazy amount of money recently, my timeline was full of people are either discovering the show for the first time or just happy to have their favourite show so readily available. My sister, who like me has seen every episode multiple times, raced through the series gorging on it as if she’d never paid a visit to Central Perk. Now, even Friends is in danger of leaving Netflix with Warner Brothers setting up their own rival service. Then there’s a Disney streaming service which may or may not decide to continue with the Marvel series that Netflix has really been culling. There’s an air of mystery surrounding a streaming service from Apple though they have already announced some original series of their own. The market is incredibly crowded.
Today, a new service was announced. BritBox (a service already available in the US) will see the BBC and ITV join forces for a service that will offer boxsets and more worryingly ‘exclusive original content’. As a TV lover this should be an exciting announcement, but, it worries me slightly. Firstly it COULD mean that the ITV and BBC content currently available on Netflix and Amazon like The Office, Peaky Blinders, I’m Alan Partridge could be taken down leaving them with even less licensed content, but perhaps more concerning is the idea of a collaboration between the two networks for original programming. What does this mean for terrestrial TV? I don’t want to see ITV and BBC drama output suffer because the companies are ploughing money into BritBox originals.
There’s also the question of whether this service is needed when we all have the catchup services at our fingertips. Looking on the positive side of things, it could be a place we go to stream the absolute classics or those shows that have never been released on DVD. But do you really want to pay for another platform? I currently pay for Netflix, Sky, Amazon and my TV licence. I can’t see me wanting to add to that cost. I appreciate it seems hypocritical to bemoan the amount of content I watch on Netflix and continue to pay for it, but it’s part of my job.
What do you think? Are you excited by the prospect of the BBC/ITV joint venture? Let me know by commenting below.