Big TV’s Gatekeeper Function Is Eroding
The cable and broadcast networks have always derived power from their gatekeeping function. Broadcast is limited by spectrum. In theory, cable could have as many channels as they want, but they’re limited in practice. Even more limiting is the analog nature of channels: there are 24 hours in a day, and no more. Ignoring for the moment that not everyone is willing to abide by network schedules, this means that a channel cannot offer more than twenty four one-hour shows (or whatever combination). They have to pick the ones that they think will be the most popular for their audience.
Netflix has no such limitations. They can, if they want, choose to make shows with limited audiences*. They can (and have) begun to explore the long tail.
I take a producer/creator POV, and this is where I think TV gets really interesting. Now that streaming is going mainstream (I think the various streaming devices have hit critical mass), it’s possible for niche content producers to find their audiences that will support their shows monetarily.
I think of Netflix as an aggregation app. They are great at bundling a wide enough variety of content most people will find something worthwhile to watch most of the time. What I am looking forward to seeing (and perhaps producing) is niche content apps going after niche audiences.
*Up to a point, of course. It would be impractical (at this time) for Netflix to produce content for an audience of one. That said, I am pretty sure their cut off point is much lower than any cable channel.