Streaming content broadens TV audience

Streaming content broadens TV audience

It is now cliché to list “watching Netflix” as a hobby. The vegetative act is ordinary. Almost everyone has, at some point, relished in the simple joy of staying home and binge-watching “Orange is the New Black.” Online consumption of television has become a unifying experience for our generation. With HBO planning to release a new streaming service in 2015 and Showtime rumored to follow suit — and now that students living in NYU housing have have HBO Go access — even more content will be readily available. More importantly, that content will be available to more people.

From “Breaking Bad” to “True Detective” to “Mad Men,” the number of high-quality dramas in recent years has skyrocketed. With HBO leading the cable television renaissance, we are enjoying a surge in smart content. Of course, television is no longer a medium limited to established network and cable players. Netflix has produced a range of original programming, including the brilliant “House of Cards.” More recently, the onset of original YouTube shows points to even more avenues for television consumption.

With the growth of quality content comes an increase in the conversation surrounding it. So many people are anxiously awaiting the next season of “Game of Thrones.” Every reaction to what is happening onscreen is an experience shared with millions of other viewers. Until recently, however, high-end programming has been exclusively consumed by viewers able to afford steep yearly rates. With HBO and Showtime leading the charge, the conversation surrounding these programs will extend to include a new segment of viewers.

In its early days, television was a swamp of mindless sitcoms and procedurals. It was considered lowbrow entertainment, not conducive to criticism and analysis. Today’s television, however, is rich in intellectual and emotional depth. It tackles heavy social themes. It contains nuanced, morally ambiguous characters. Frank and Claire Underwood, of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” are fascinating, not because they are categorically good or bad people, but because they constantly straddle the line between. But the biggest advancement in television is not the improvement in quality of content — though that has been crucial — it is the democratization of the best content this medium has to offer.

Television has evolved to meet the needs of a society that craves complexity and intelligence in its media. Discussion and cultural analysis of shows with other fans is half the fun of watching television, and soon that enjoyment will be shared with more people. The modern dilemma, then, is trying to decide which show to stream next.

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