Magazine article Metro Magazine

Netflix: New Media in New Spaces

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Netflix: New Media in New Spaces

Article excerpt

It's not broadcast TV, a webcast, a second screen, a re-run or a super version of YouTube; somehow, Netflix has become an international 'other space'. At once a production house, broadcaster, recommendation and hosting service, and pseudo-DVD rental store, it has found a market where commercial broadcasters had previously dared not tread. It has even recently admitted to monitoring traffic on illegal torrent sites in order to inform its legal programming --a move that has gained the attention of news organisations such as the BBC, The Huffington Post and Wired. Suddenly, pirate sites are no longer the enemy, but instead a form of free-market research.

In the last issue of Metro, I reported on the successful relaunch of former network sitcom Arrested Development, which, according to a May 2013 report in Forbes magazine, cost Netflix around US$45 million to make. The new production was taken to with gusto and complemented by a mind-blowingly insightful marketing strategy, with Netflix clearly targeting the extended online community already present for the show rather than trying to compete with the original Fox broadcast. It began with a competition for fans to come up with a new tagline. The brilliant winner, 'We've unmade a huge mistake', served both as a reference to one of the original show's iconic catchcries (GOB Bluth's 'I've made a huge mistake') and as an ad for Netflix. In one line, it demonstrated that the internet could be used by fans not only to lament the problems of mainstream broadcasts, but also to see those problems fixed.

When the show was released (and audiences binged or rationed, depending on their willpower), a nod to its online production status was made in the program. The new Netflix team superimposed the watermark 'Showstealer Pro Trial Version' when including 'flashbacks' from the original Fox production --a play on the type of aesthetic a fan-made online production might have been branded with. Basically, if you'd ripped one of your old Fox DVDs to make a fan vid, it's the type of 'interference' the new production might have to put up with. The watermark was hailed as the 'geekiest gag ever' by online reviewers a high piece of praise for a show already layered like a laugh lasagne. But it also showed that the online environment, with all its previous limitations, could be a creative place for audiences as well. Given that so much of the show's cultural energy has lived online (both during its original broadcast and since then), it's no surprise that the new production has run with this wholeheartedly.

Beyond the online space, Netflix also set up fourth-wall-breaking stunts like real-life Bluth's Original Frozen Banana stands. In the US, there were stands set up in Times Square and Balboa Island, while in the UK there was a stand erected near the London Eye. Australian Bananas' social media department also got involved, circulating Photoshopped images of Bluth's stands in front of key tourist spots in Adelaide, Sydney and Uluru, and, of course, near our own Big Banana. But while the local 'stands' were a happy piece of promotion for the fresh-produce company, they didn't have the same effect for Australian Arrested Development fans wanting to watch the show on Netflix. As reported in ZDNet in July 2013, consumer lobby group Choice acknowledged that Australian audiences were unfairly denied access to Netflix content in a timely and cost-effective manner. …

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