‘Full(er) House’: Nostalgia in a VOD Ecosystem

This post was originally written for The Jungle, a weekly newsletter about the business of YouTube. Subscribe here.

By Sarah Ullman

The “Fuller House” announcement is a victory for predictability, the milkman, the paperboy…and evening TV?

Well, Netflix, anyways.

I’d like to propose the concept of “nostalgia programming,” or using a combination of the flexibility of internet distribution and the power of childhood memories to create “event-ized” or tentpole programming for a digital-native content platform.

When “Full House” ruled the airwaves, a popular television show commanded enormous audiences and the attention of a large segment of the domestic market. The show was a cultural phenomenon, especially if you grew up in the ‘90s.

In today’s digital content marketplace, “the internet allows brands to mean different things to different people because the service can be personalized for individual viewers.” It’s much more difficult to manufacture mass impact because the strength of content is its appeal to a specific niche.

“In the on-demand environment, you need love, not like.” — Roy Price, Amazon Studios

With “Fuller House,” Netflix is tapping into IP that appeals to an entire generation of “millennials” who grew up with DJ, Stephanie, and Michelle at a time when a consumer’s attention was more easily focused. Rather than going niche, they’re making a play for broad appeal in the 25–34 demographic, and using their widely accessible SVOD platform to give a generation of consumers what they love in an on-demand environment.

Nostalgia programming is a concept that will last as long as we have shared cultural memories ripe for revival. What will nostalgia programming look like for a generation that grew up in this fractured, niche content on-demand environment? Will they rediscover our classics as we consume the spin-offs? Likely, nostalgia programming will lose its mass impact and transition into a smaller scale phenomenon.

I’d like to sit in on the composer working to rewrite the “Full House” theme song, which was originally written to express the feeling of familial love in a rapidly changing world. What are the lyrics for a theme to today’s family-focused sitcom? “Fuller House” exists in a world so far beyond predictability, milkmen, paperboys, or evening TV, that only nostalgia can possibly bring us together.

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Sarah Ullman (@thesillysully) is a writer and creative consultant focusing on the YouTube ecosystem. She writes a weekly newsletter about the business of YouTube called “The Jungle” (subscribe here) and specializes in helping “traditional media” clients transition to the digital landscape.