Back in the days before VCRs and DVRs if there was a television program that you wanted to catch, you had to actually be watching it as it aired or you’d be out of luck (unless a rerun aired.) VCRs changed this substantially by allowing us to record programs when we weren’t home, and DVRs offer even more features, such as automatically recording an entire season of a favorite series for us. But in the past few years two major entertainment companies have broken even more boundaries for television and movie viewers: Netflix and Hulu.
Netflix was founded in 1997 as a mail-order DVD rental company but with the advent of online streaming its main business is now providing access to television shows, movies, documentaries, and more via its subscription service. It’s estimated that there are almost 100 million subscribers that all watch Netflix-provided media on mobile devices such as a laptop, tablet, or phone. While Netflix delivers original and current series, Hulu–which was founded 10 years ago–tends to focus on more classic and vintage programs in addition to more modern shows.
Both companies are changing the way television is consumed and offer several benefits over traditional television and cable. For starters, there’s nothing more convenient than being able to immediately watch an episode of a favorite program any time you wish using your best streaming devices. The online platform also means a viewer can watch television anywhere they choose where WiFi is available. Netflix also helped popularize the term “binge watching”, particularly when if began offering the popular Kevin Spacey series House of Cards. Binge watching is when a viewer watches several episodes of a show in a row and receiving instant gratification. Thanks to online media streaming, no longer does a viewer have to wait a week to view an episode of a series.
There are a few downsides to online streaming which has also changed the way American viewers consume television. Families are no longer gathering around the console like they used to in the 20th century–with so much variety at their fingertips, family members can easily fragment themselves in separate rooms with their own viewing preferences. And with so many programs available to stream at any time, it’s easy for a viewer to get picky and just skim through a series without really consuming it. Because mobile devices are also used when multitasking, users may not completely pay attention to a series. Still, companies like Netflix and Hulu won’t be going away any time soon and with so many people spending more time online than in front of an actual television set, it’s safe to say they have altered the TV landscape for good.