In autumn 2010, Reed Hastings, boss of the then online DVD rental company Netflix, stood in front of Wall Street bankers and said: "We are now a streaming company that also sends DVDs by post." Netflix had started broadcasting films and series directly over the Internet three years earlier. During this time, the company had grown from the fastest growing US Postal Service customer to the largest sender of streamed video in the evenings in the United States.
This was the beginning of the story of a decade that changed our viewing habits, gave us new word creations such as "bingen" and caused nightmares for the managers of traditional Hollywood studios and TV stations.
A decade that saw no less than a revolution in the way we consume entertainment. That brought with it a massive media change that we are still experiencing live and the outcome of which is still uncertain. And last but not least, this enabled a golden age of the series, the end of which is currently not foreseeable.
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Netflix hadn't even started to really develop its driving force in 2010. At that time, not a single series or film was produced.
In August of that year, the company spent $ 1 billion on online distribution rights for Paramount, Lions Gate, and MGM studios. The competition literally fed the upstart, and that for years. Although she reluctantly took Netflix more and more seriously, she sold him the material he needed most for his growth: series and films.
The traditional studios and broadcasters had no other choice. They had made phenomenal money with DVDs and Blu-rays in the 1990s, more than $ 16 billion in the United States in 2004 alone.
But the economic crisis and increasing sales of digital copies of films started to hit the business. The upcoming streaming finally broke it. From the media house's point of view, however, it was still better to sell streaming rights to Netflix than to forego sales from the home video market altogether.
The revolution of the technical innovation of streaming in terms of ease of use and volume can be seen in the subscription models from Netflix from 2010: At that time, the company offered its first pure streaming subscription for $ 7.99, which offered unlimited possibilities Downloads included. In comparison, the DVD subscription, which is still available, was $ 11.99. It allowed to rent three films at the same time.
Paul Sakuma / AP
Netflix boss Reed Hastings in 2001, when DVD's were still in vogue and "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" a bestseller
It quickly became clear that the full potential of this revolution was far from being exhausted. Because at Netflix, the audience mostly got older productions, months after the cinema release or the premiere on other TV channels. Allegedly, Reed Hastings had always seen his company not only as a distribution distributor of third-party content, but as a creative producer.
In March 2011, Netflix announced that it wanted to produce its own content in the future. On February 1, 2013, with the first season of "House of Cards", the first stream of an in-house production started. Netflix immediately made all the episodes available, thereby underlining the character of streaming as a virtually endless stream of content and offers. On July 11th followed the second Netflix original with "Orange Is The New Black". Both series became global pop phenomena.
And with that everything changed.
Also for the German television viewers when Netflix started here in 2014 and in Austria. What was announced in 2010 has now grown into a global media disruption that affects everyone: producers and filmmakers, studios and cinemas, broadcasters and, last but not least, consumers.
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For the first time in 2019, 14 to 29-year-olds in Germany spent more time with streaming services (34 percent) than with the programs of linear channels (33 percent) - this is the result of a study commissioned by ARD and ZDF. Other studies come up with even more drastic numbers and see Netflix already ahead of the linear channels in terms of the total number of viewers.
The fight for the audience's attention has only just begun. Apple has entered the race with its streaming offer TV +, Disney + is also starting in Germany after its premiere in the USA in March, Warner Bros./HBO and NBC are warming up in the USA for 2020.
The endless stream that started with "House of Cards" has already caused a flood: the renowned media journalist Liz Shannon Miller has counted 689 premieres of fictional series for the USA in 2019 alone. In 2010 there were 216.
Nobody can see all of this, and it should be a matter of time before the number levels out again at a much lower level. But hand in hand with this oversupply comes a wealth of narrative and creative freedom that has never existed in the history of television.
It is hard to imagine that a talent like Phoebe Waller-Bridge could have prevailed ten years ago as successfully as the "Fleabag" series, which fluctuates between the greatest jokes and the deepest abysses. That a broadcaster would have given an artist like Ava DuVernay the money and freedom to tell a hard, excruciating story of structural racism, like she did with "When They See Us".
Of course, on the other hand, Netflix is giving a director like Michael Bay $ 150 million to shoot exploding bullshit like "6 Underground". This example shows how dramatically things have already changed in 2019: "6 Underground" would have been a safe candidate for a summer blockbuster a short time ago. Today it is a television film.
Categories dissolve, the mass becomes unmanageable, and not to be forgotten: So far, the history of streaming has been a very American one, not only because of its bigger than life painting and the great crescendo and pathos with which the outsider (in in this case Netflix) who shows it to everyone. But also because the content-related innovation still largely emanates from there. Anyone who believed that the USA was a tired, exhausted country because of its division and the eternal struggles under Trump would also be taught something better, given the unleashed creative energy.
Germany, on the other hand, still looks sleepy, as if the industry couldn't get out of rubbing its eyes. The number of noteworthy new, radical, eye-opening is still very manageable, and this applies not only to ARD and ZDF, but also to the German branches of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
A globalized entertainment world, however, confronts us viewers in this country more and more with the agony of choice. And it gives us unprecedented freedom (if we have different subscriptions). Both together mean that we are now faced with a much greater sense of responsibility in the area of entertainment, which is supposed to give us relaxation.
However, entertainment has never been apolitical, no matter how it comes across. Today this applies more than ever. A very positive consequence of the streaming revolution: the program is more diverse and colorful than ever. Films and series depict social debates, from the question of equality to the climate crisis, as clearly and courageously as never before.
As strong as the development of the entertaining media is driven by economic interests and markets, and as great are the dangers that television, as we knew it, extinguishes a campfire and numerous echo chambers close in its place: the streaming Revolution brings with it immense narrative richness, and at the same time it enables the viewer to be emancipated.
The finger on the remote control will decide more than ever what world we see.