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Netflix is a company that likes a lot of things. It likes to bring subscribers relatively cheap content. It likes to dabble in original programming. Above all, the company really, really likes to take shots at broadcast TV. This week Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took another swing, saying broadcast TV's days are numbered. Here’s what he had to say:
"It's kind of like the horse, you know, the horse was good until we had the car. The age of broadcast TV will probably last until 2030."
That may be a short quote, but it’s not particularly sweet. In fact, in two sentences Hastings calls out broadcast television for being an outdated model and also predicts that it will only last for another 16 years. While 16 years might seem like a long time, it’s really not so far away, all things considered.
This isn’t the first time that Netflix has taken shots at television. Boosted by surveys indicating people like to binge-watch, the company has expanded into New Zealand and Latin America, where THR reports Hastings' latest comments were made. As the company inflates, its problems with broadcast television have become more apparent. In 2013, the company released a multi-page document taking shots at how broadcast TV forces people to consume the content, and if you want more examples of the attacks, you won't have to look far.
In some ways, Hastings has a point. Viewership on network television has decreased exponentially in recent years, and despite a few successful shows, ad revenue is down overall. Forget just network TV, many households have cut cable, opting for cheaper streaming outlets, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. TV is rife with problems, including outdated technology with DVR and On Demand, outdated sports packages that black out games, and constant bickering between the cable companies and the networks. And that’s not even getting into the costly way that broadcast television is pitched and usually goes to pilot before a network ever decides whether or not it will air.
There are major problems with broadcast television and there are increasing options to watch TV programs elsewhere. However, what Hastings doesn’t seem to realize is how much Netflix, and Netflix users, owe regular television. There are zero reasons Netflix should be gung ho and gleeful about what they perceive to be the demise of broadcast television. At this point, a good chunk of the streaming service’s content comes from traditional broadcast programming. In fact, Netflix recently paid NBC a boatload of money just to stream one show, The Blacklist, and that’s not taking into account the hundreds of other broadcast shows that have helped the streaming service to become a viable TV alternative.
Sure, Netflix is starting to offer more original programming, including Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, the upcoming Marco Polo and more. It’s a great service to have and it’s currently much cheaper than an expensive cable package. However, if broadcast TV does die off in five years or 15 years or 25 years, it’s not as if Netflix has the ability to fix many of the problems in the current TV landscape. It can't possibly generate enough original content to fill the departed shoes, and even if it was somehow able to do so, prices would skyrocket. Netflix works because it's a supplement to cable for fans who love television and a fine enough stand-in for those who are mostly indifferent and/ or can't afford cable. The more prices rise, the less it can accomplish either one of those goals.
Who knows, one day Netflix might pave the way for a future kind of television. However, for now, it's certainly not doing itself any favors by pushing the networks away.