2010s TV: How the rise in streaming services radically shaped the media landscape

January 29, 2020 — by Marisa Kingsley

The days of going to Blockbuster stores to pick up box sets of our favorite TV shows with our parents have long been forgotten. We’ve now entered the new decade with a wealth of TV shows at our fingertips through streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu and dozens more. 

In 2019, according to FX, there were an estimated 532 scripted television shows in the U.S., a record high. That is a 153 percent increase from 2009, when there were only 210 shows. 

The rise in streaming services had radically changed the media landscape and how we consume media as a whole. Although many shows are still on cable networks, the availability and convenience of online streaming has made them an imperative force in the media industry — the biggest players being Netflix with 137 million subscribers and Amazon with an estimated 26 million, according to The Motley Fool

This dramatic shift in viewership has seen also caused a drop in cable subscriptions, which has compelled many cable TV companies to create their own streaming services in order to compete with streaming giants. The most recent announcements including NBCUniversal’s Peacock service and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max to launch in the spring.

Despite many of these streaming services offering cable TV shows, much of the attraction of these services has been original content, according to a Harvard research study

Subsequently, the monetary incentive to create compelling, addictive TV shows and movies grew exponentially as the decade continued so much so that Netflix allocated $15 billion into original content in 2019 alone, according to The New York Times.

Critics write in Vulture: “The tail wags the dog now, to such an extent that cable channels and networks alike have essentially become branded production houses supplying shows to streaming platforms that increasingly seem to be the only place people are interested in watching TV anymore.”

Along with the monetary benefits, content produced by these companies has become a place for experimentation,  altering the conventional format of 60- or 30-minute runtimes, as well as offering new possibilities in ways of structuring, characterization and plot. 

While this has led to many popular and acclaimed series like Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and or HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” many critics note how these media corporations have changed the meaning of the word “television” to being classified as “content.” For example, the Showtime series “Twin Peaks: The Return” was released in 18 hour-long episodes and sparked much debate as to what can be considered a TV show or simply a long movie released into parts. 

Additionally, because many services are releasing their original content by seasons at once— versus the traditional one episode per week — it’s now normal for viewers to spend hours binge-watching whole seasons of their favorite shows. It’s become routine to meet up with friends to binge-watch the latest Netflix show or classics such as  “The Office” or “Friends.”

As we enter the new decade, it’s difficult to predict what will remain in 2030: Will Netflix continue to skyrocket? Will Disney, Hulu or another company knock Netflix off its perch? Will shows offered on streaming services dominate or cable TV manage to survive in a rapidly digitized world? Stay tuned.


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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.


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