When Piper Kerman entered a low-security Connecticut prison in 2009, she had no idea that millions of people would volunteer to share her sentence with her—from couches and bedsides across the globe. Alongside Netflix, this New York memoirist is redefining the viewer experience (and girl power) with an estrogen-fueled collective armed with guts, color and unmatched talent.
Few things are certain as we reflect on a year that will soon pass. Kanye continues to rant, Beyonce is still invincible, Olivia Pope gets it “handled,” and the term “watching television” will never be the same. For products of a post-Millennium generation, this seemingly normal activity looks archaic, even to the biggest boob tube addict. For those of us born before the birth of Internet TV, childhood memories are punctuated by the images we grew up with—our proverbial social slideshows. Furthermore, those memories are partially, if not completely, inspired by the characters we watched week to week. Whether it be Saturday nights on Nickelodeon, Friday nights with the WB or Saturday morning cartoons, 90’s babies are the last to know what it means to run home after school, eat dinner and do our homework—all for the sake of not missing our weekly dose of entertainment. Back then, we catered to television; today, it caters to us.
While shows like Breaking Bad, Modern Family and anything spawned by Shonda Rhimes, continue to thrive in traditional form (ads included), others are born, revived or syndicated in cyberspace. Needless to say, Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings were light-years ahead of the curve when they created Netflix in 1997. Inspired by a Blockbuster late fee, the DVD subscription service would take the idea of a video rental and up the ante by going to the World Wide Web and offering more than a physical store. Just a few short years later, they would adopt its current model of charging a static monthly fee in exchange for hundreds of titles available for your repeated viewing pleasure. Today, it demolishes similar video streaming sites with over 40 million subscribers, a quarterly net income of over $30 million and an Emmy nominated series (House of Cards). Next year, armed with a new interface that will spread content across multiple platforms with supplemental information typically offered by standard television, Netflix will take shape as a network similar, if not better, than giants like HBO and Showtime.