Blockbuster vs Netflix: the case for quality content over quantity
How good is Netflix? All your favourites in one spot; documentaries, drama, TV shows and big blockbuster movies old and new as well as high-quality original content. Oh, and it’s cheap; $14 a month, better than shelling out per DVD or (dare we say it), VHS.
When Netflix hit the market, it did more than blow its competitors out of the water (sorry, Blockbuster); it disrupted the entire industry by bringing simplicity and accessibility to the consumer. No more waiting in line to rent a DVD, no more driving to a store to find out there were no copies left or coming home to find your VHS wasn’t rewound. These problems were solved.
But at what cost?
Variety isn’t quality
Netflix (and later Stan (AUS), CraveTV (CND) and HBO GO (USA)) may have made our lives easier but have you ever thought about how much time you spend just searching for what to watch?
With the advent of Netflix, suddenly there were more movies and shows for every conceivable occasion; for date-night, unwinding on a Sunday afternoon, an educational fix or something cringe and binge-worthy.
But there’s the problem; the same variety that provides convenience is also working against us.
How much of what we can access immediately is genuine quality? How do we know what’s good, and more importantly, what isn’t?
This focus on quantity is what kickstarted Blockbuster’s decline as Netflix introduced audiences to massive libraries of content. Of course, in that library, there is quality television and movies but that quality has always existed; quality broadcasting is nothing new and Netflix certainly didn’t reinvent that wheel.
Building on this example, content creators we started flooding our audiences feed with a variety of content. But variety does not always equate to quality; variety is a product of quantity.
While the television and film industries face an unprecedented volume of programming, content creation is no different. And this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The issue now is there’s too much information. Yes, we want to engage our audience but how can we achieve that without overwhelming them with the amount of content we’re producing?
In a landscape oversaturated with content, quality is undoubtedly declining. Netflix itself, though responsible for creating critically acclaimed original content, has a track record of compromising on quality to increase variety which added to noise on the platform.
So, for us as communicators the takeaway is clear. While we fill the space with new content regularly, let’s not fall into the trap of surrounding our quality content with noise. Let’s focus on adhering to strict guidelines to ensure the quality of our work.
We want to engage our audience, not overwhelm them.
The beauty and simplicity of a movie rental
Remember how simple was it to just look at a wall of movies and decide what to watch from that finite selection?
It may be a stretch to think back to a time when video stores reigned supreme in this market, but Blockbuster stores stocked only quality material.
And that’s the point, limiting stock (quantity) increases the variety of quality options and gives audiences comfort to try something new. Quantity doesn’t equal happiness or satisfaction and that’s reflected in general consumer behaviour. Buying more doesn’t equal happiness, nor does having more options.
Bringing it all together
We want quality, not quantity. Though we think it’s convenient to have thousands of options at the click of a button, it’s easier to decide when there’s just a wall (not an infinite warehouse) of quality material in front of you. And this is what we as communicators need to understand – quantity doesn’t equal quality, and quality is what brings people back for more.
This blog was inspired by Business Wars, a podcast by Wondery, that tackled the Netflix vs. Blockbuster fight of the 1990s and 2000s.
Also published on Medium.