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It’s Not TV, It’s Netflix: On Netflix, Cultural Status, and Technological Obsolescence
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Media Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7982-1060
2015 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper situates the streaming video platform Netflix within the debate around the shifting cultural status of television and contributes to it with an analysis of Netflix’ promotion of home video technology. It argues that it is not only the (original) programs available on Netflix, but the connected devices that are used to watch them, as well as the cultural status and social practices tied to theses devices, which help the platform elude the notion of lowbrow entertainment and distance itself from traditional network television. In order to explore this proposition, the paper looks at the discussions and debates surrounding Netflix and home video products in popular periodicals, such as newspapers and lifestyle magazines, trade publications, and promotional materials, but also on technology and home decoration blogs. The paper traces the technological development of the devices that can be used to access Netflix, ranging from the first video game consoles, set-top boxes and connected Blu-Ray players from 2008, to the streaming sticks, handheld devices, and smart uHD TVs of today. With a case study focusing on streaming video products developed by Google, it argues that individual devices and even whole product categories regularly fall prey to technological obsolescence—a common process in the home video industry in which manufacturers either upgrade their products through minimization or make them obsolete through integration. Connecting this development to various ad campaigns launched by Netflix, as well as previous scholarship dealing with strategies of displaying or concealing technological objects in the home (Spigel 1992, 2012; Klinger 2006; Newman and Levine 2012), the paper argues that Netflix’ interest in supporting inconspicuous high-end technology not only reveals the streaming service’s domestic aspirations, i.e. where exactly it wants to be located (or not) in the home of the viewer, but also how it positions itself culturally and within the television industry: as a technologically flexible, highbrow alternative which evolves and can exist almost anywhere in the domestic sphere instead of being restricted to “a box in the corner” (Hills 2007). By supporting a plethora of devices and letting the viewer decide how to connect to and make use of the platform, Netflix uses home video technology to its advantage and distances itself from television’s persistent image as lowbrow technology without agency.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Netflix, Cultural Status, Technological Obsolescence
National Category
Media and Communications
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-126096OAI: diva2:897226
SCMS Conference, Montreal, March 25-29, 2015
Available from: 2016-01-25 Created: 2016-01-25 Last updated: 2016-02-04Bibliographically approved

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