When Netflix branched out from mere DVD rentals by mail and offered streaming services, the addition was seen as a silly gimmick that could never compete with more traditional ways of consuming media. Obviously, critics were wrong about the future course of entertainment. Now, those more traditional companies are scrambling to catch up to Netflix’s innovation and fan base.
Between the launch of Disney’s own streaming service and network television giants like NBC announcing a Netflix competitor, cord cutters are soon going to find themselves having to make some tough choices about what to watch and how to spend their entertainment subscription budget.
We can expect departures from externally-owned content as other streaming services pop up and competition grows ever fiercer. Netflix saw the writing on the wall years ago and began pouring resources into creating their original content to keep their service afloat, but will viewers ever see another show like The Office on Netflix? Most experts think not, and the reasons why are complicated.
NBC is removing ‘The Office’ from Netflix
NBC is going straight after one of Netflix’s biggest fan favorites by refusing to renew Netflix’s contract to offer The Office. Beginning in 2021, The Office will no longer be available on Netflix, and fans will have to head over to NBC’s streaming service if they want to continue to binge their favorite sitcom.
‘The Office’ is a product of a different era
While The Office may not seem like something from the distant past — after all, the show only went off the air six short years ago — it might as well be vaudeville for all the transformations that have taken place in the entertainment industry since it originally aired in March of 2005. Netflix hadn’t even launched a streaming component yet, and people were still glued to the network’s schedules if they wanted to catch their favorite shows. Options were much more limited, and prime time TV was a real source of serious advertising dollars for networks.
The format of The Office is framed by these realities. The show consisted of nine seasons, each with around 20 to 25 episodes. Run time was a mere (and strict) 20-ish minutes to allow for the show to stay within its 30-minute time slot and make room for commercial breaks. Since viewers would have to take long breaks between weekly episodes, plot lines could not get too complex without reminders and callbacks to keep viewers on track and to allow those who missed an episode to catch up.
Today’s viewers expect something else
No matter how popular the nostalgia of The Office has made it on streaming services, modern-day viewers would be unlikely to accept a Netflix original that followed the same format. The rules for how television shows get put together have changed. Netflix’s shows don’t follow hard and fast rules about how many episodes there will be in a season or how many minutes there will be in an episode.
Consider a show like Netflix’s Glow. While each of its two seasons contains ten episodes, the lengths range from a quick 29 minutes to a much longer 46 minutes with lots of variation in between.
In addition to format, cable cutters have different expectations for the content of their shows. The Office had the goal of reaching the broadest possible audience. But Netflix is able to cater to niche audiences, creating shows that would never have gotten the viewership or approval ratings necessary for network television but that are fiercely loved by the people who watch them.
At the same time, audiences expect much more complexity from the storytelling of their programming. They don’t want constant recaps and reminders about what happened in the previous episode because, for them, the previous episode was probably just a few minutes ago. Many people watch entire seasons in a week — or even a day. This allows the plotlines to become much more complicated without losing a viewers’ attention.
While many people see these changes as improvements, the upshot is that a Netflix original is unlikely to replace The Office as a binge-able, easy-to-watch show with hundreds of episodes. Once The Office leaves in 2021, there may be little to fill the void.
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