The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 21st

Column: Why Netflix rose above all the rest

My first Netflix experience is likely quite similar to many others — it involves "The Office." 

My father ordered season four of the show on DVD so we could catch up before the new season aired. After finishing that legendary season of television with him in just a few days, I remembered being astonished at how easy the whole process was.

“Wait. I can ask this computer for any movie and it’ll magically appear at my house within three-to-five business days? Oh boy!” — Me, c. 2007

Now I can only say “Oh how the turntables.” A Netflix subscriber can now watch all nine seasons of The Office whenever they want, along with a plethora of other award-winning movies, shows, and standup specials thrown in for good measure. 

Netflix began in 1997 as a DVD rental service, slowly shipping copies of popular movies and TV shows to little dweebs like me, and the company has undergone immense changes since then. The best portrait this new era of Netflix can be gleaned from my own “Recently watched” tab. The first four shows in my lineup are "Master of None," "Narcos," "Daredevil" and "The Crown." Apart from their astounding quality these shows have one thing in common — they’re all Netflix originals. 

The emphasis on original programming marks Netflix’s clearest point of transition. In February of 2013, Netflix released its first original series, “House of Cards.” It stars Hollywood heavy-hitters Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as the cold-blooded and ambitious Underwoods, scratching the political itch "The West Wing" once had. Along with the new show, Netflix also introduced a new strategy for scheduling — that is releasing the entire season at once, letting viewers determine the pace at which they watched. 

“Hold up. A whole season of television? All at once? No more dependence on the ever-dwindling U.S. Postal Service? Golly gee!” — Me, c. 2013.

But now, four years and more than 100 original productions later, Netflix has expanded their original programming to cover nearly every genre of entertainment. They’ve dominated the drama category with the foundational “House of Cards” and “Orange is The New Black” — and they’ve developed this category even further with "Sense8," "Peaky Blinders" and the insanely popular “Stranger Things.” Netflix even broke successfully into the documentary genre with “Making a Murderer.” 

Netflix’s flexibility is the key to its success, and explains why they’ve been able to cover more ground than any other network when it comes to quality entertainment. By offering a simple subscription service — thus bypassing time slots, advertisers and other network drama — Netflix can hand creative control over to their writers and directors. 

"Master of None" is the clearest example of this. The sometimes 20-minute, sometimes 50-minute sitcom is the pure creative vision of creators Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari — oh, and it’s also the best comedy show out right now. Sitcoms spearheaded by standup comedians have been around for years, but they’ve never been done like this. A show like this could have only originated in the laissez-faire environment of Netflix. 

This openness is also key when considering the platform’s future. Netflix is approaching (and may have already reached) a point where reliance on outside network hits like "The Office" and "Grey’s Anatomy" is no longer necessary. 

Because let’s face it — even if you have “Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica” in your Tinder bio, would you seriously cancel your subscription if Netflix removed "The Office" from their site? Of course not! You’d be sad for a minute, go watch seven seasons worth of blooper reels on YouTube, and then drown your sorrows with a binge-fest of another series on, you guessed it, Netflix.

They’ve got the awards, they’ve got the actors, they’ve got the money and, most importantly, they’ve got us right where they want us. If they keep churning out award-winning television, and if they remain able to throw money at any creative voice they choose — it might not be long before Netflix tells all outside programming “Goodbye, Toby.” 


To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive