Applying the Netflix Model Correctly

Can you remember the last time you purchased a song on iTunes? I haven’t bought a song in two years! It’s not piracy that has my heart, it’s Spotify. David Bowie once predicted that music would become as ubiquitous as running water. We’ve already seen that prediction come true for many different industries. Rather than using an a la carte buying system for TV or film, I use Netflix and Hulu. Constant Internet connectivity has eliminated our need to painstakingly choose which songs, books, or videos deserve our hard-­earned money. So, what makes this all­you­can­eat buffet style work so well? Millennials love having the perceived freedom of choice and access without sacrificing convenience. Plus, paying for content for short-lived consumption seems so archaic. As a cash­strapped 20­something, paying small monthly fees in exchange for limitless content becomes an alluring decision. It almost seems like an infallible system.

Let’s be clear though, many industries don’t necessarily need a Netflix model to gain the love of a Millennial. When I heard Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited service was a “Netflix for books,” my ears perked up. Amazon’s new service gives subscribers unlimited access to 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks for $10 a month. While this seems like the perfect form of convenience, there’s already an adequate system in place known colloquially as the library.

The great thing about a library (besides being free, of course) is that many allow you to transfer the borrowed book onto your Kindle from the comfort of your home. Plus, justifying the cost of such a service would mean I’d have to read a lot. While a library of 600,000 may seem like a lot of books, anybody who subscribes to a streaming model knows there are going to be plenty of crappy fillers in that mix. Some of my Millennial cohorts can justify watching a filler TV show in the Netflix library, but I’d be hard­-pressed to knowingly do the same for a book.

Now let’s look at cable and satellite services (aka MVPDs). MVPDs are learning that flooding a user with choices doesn’t always equate to an increase in usage. A recently published study from research group Nielsen reveals that despite a steady increase in the average number of channel offerings for households (the current average is 189), people have only been watching 17 channels for the past six years! Clearly, increasing channel offerings hasn’t done much to smooth over price complaints or stem the tide of cancellations.

So what does this all mean? Sometimes, satisfaction in a service doesn’t come from having a wide range of choices or the most convenient solution; it comes from having quality options to choose from at a good price. For now, I’m perfectly content with an occasional visit to the library to stream my favorite shows in peace.