By: Madison Mathews Media
Last week, the 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards recognized the television industry’s outstanding actors, directors, and series. In the last few years, this industry has seen an additional market open up. Historically, broadcast television was the only way to watch TV; however, in 2013, the game changed when Netflix won its first Emmy for its original series, House of Cards. Since then, online streaming platforms have become the dominating force at the Emmys. In fact, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon exceeded expectations for online streaming programs this year by winning 35 awards collectively—23 to Netflix, 4 to Hulu, and 8 to Amazon. But why are these online platforms performing so well? Specifically, why is the caliber of show exceeding that on the typical broadcast network?
In short, broadcast networks do not have the same freedoms that online streaming platforms, like Netflix and Amazon, have. For online platforms, there are no rigid 30- or 60-minute time limits that broadcast networks must enforce. As you might have noticed from your streaming-site-of-choice, an episode may last 25 minutes, 42 minutes, or over an hour, and then quickly transition to the next show in the series. And to make these platforms even more appealing, you can watch episodes consecutively, a luxury that is rarely available on broadcast networks. And thus, binge watching was born!
Broadcast networks must also appeal to a mass audience in order to grow and maintain ratings, a quality that online platforms do not necessarily have to worry about. Online platforms do not have to adhere to the guidelines that manage what can be seen on live television, specifically, guidelines for the use of language, violence, and similar qualities. Also, writers of a broadcast TV series must fit into a certain “creative-mold” to satisfy their target audience and the advertising companies who use these shows to market their products. Online streaming platforms have the opportunity to give their writers creative freedom—hence the numerous awards are given to an original series such as The Crown, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Handmaid’s Tale, just to name a few.
This is not to say the broadcast industry is doomed—there is something so exciting about waiting every week for the next episode of your favorite series. However, for these networks to regain their former reign at the Emmys, broadcast networks need to step outside the box and explore better opportunities for the next big series of the television industry without having to adhere to the 70-year old traditions that have been stifling their creativity.