Netflix: Revolution in media consumption?

Watching TV as we know it is dead. Netflix will introduce a whole new way of consuming audiovisual content. At least, that is what trend watchers like to predict when it comes to Netflix. Netflix’ business model may be innovative indeed, but has it fundamentally changed the way people are consuming audiovisual media?

From August 2014 to May 2015, iMinds-MICT-UGent researchers Bart Vanhaelewyn, dr. Tom Evens and Prof. dr. Lieven De Marez conducted a series of studies, ranging from estimating a prior-to-launch Netflix adoption potential to a follow-up survey combined with in-depth interviews six months later aimed at validating the adoption potential and assessing how Netflix is used within Flemish households.

In its first six months, Netflix has not established a real shift in the way we watch video content. In fact, the first adopters of Netflix are people who were already familiar with streaming films and series on the Internet. In that way, Netflix subscribers watch the same type of content as before. What has changed, is the intensity: watching series on Netflix is so effortless that it is tempting to keep watching one episode after another (the so-called ‘binge-viewing’).

Just like watching TV, most users prefer watching Netflix on a big screen in the living room. Striking is that they are even prepared to make an investment for that: 15% of the Netflix users said they had bought a Google Chromecast just to be able to stream Netflix on their regular TV screen. But on top of watching Netflix in the living room, we found most users are also exploring, and enjoying, the flexibility of Netflix. Occasionally watching the last episode of a series in bed on a tablet just before sleeping, or watching a movie while taking a relaxing bath, or watching series in your garden on a sunny day. So while the living room and the TV screen remain the standard way of consuming video content, Netflix puts an extra, flexible layer on top of that.

If Netflix content is consumed more individually than scheduled TV programming, that is mainly because Netflix is seen as a perfect pastime at moment they are actually alone. But Netflix users still prefer to watch in the company of others. So people prefer making a compromise with others rather than watching their favorite show individually. Hence, we can conclude that Netflix, in the first six months at Belgian soil, has not yet brought about a radical shift from collective viewing to individualized viewing.

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Netflix report