As of 2018, Netflix has over 130 million subscribers worldwide, and if you are one of them, it’s not hard to understand why that is the case. Netflix may be the best thing that’s ever happened to television.
Netflix was initially a DVD rental service founded in California by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in 1997, the year DVDs were first introduced. If you subscribed to Netflix they could send you DVDs by mail, which completely changed the video rental game (Netflix was to Blockbuster Video what Amazon was to Toys “R” Us).
Following that success, Netflix expanded their service by introducing streaming content on their website (a decision inspired by the popularity of YouTube), including “Netflix Original” content that was only available as part of their service.
Their first original series was a co-production with Norway called Lilyhammer (2012-14) starring Steven Van Zandt of The Sopranos fame. The Norwegian-American black comedy was a great show, but little did Netflix know that this would be the beginning of a sea change in the way we watch television, not to mention utter world domination.
The first sign that there was something special about Netflix came in 2013 when the TV series House of Cards was released. The idea that Netflix could be nominated for an Emmy for their original web content alongside broadcast and cable shows was crazy until House of Cards came along. Beau Willimon’s intelligent political drama (adapted from the BBC miniseries) was the first online-only web series to be nominated for an Emmy, which was a watershed moment not only for Netflix but for Amazon Prime, Hulu, and every other website. Before Netflix, HBO had always been the network with the most Emmy nominations each year, but Netflix has overtaken them.
As someone who subscribes to Netflix, there are a number of reasons why I love it so much. The simplest way to describe it is that they have more shows that I love than any other content provider (Examples include Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, The Crown, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None, BoJack Horseman, Big Mouth, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lady Dynamite, Trollhunters, Hilda, Voltron: Legendary Defender and Castlevania), but here are five other reasons why I’m such a big fan of this website.
1. It Expanded the Marvel Universe
While Disney focused on Marvel’s major names at the movies (Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk) Netflix put a spotlight on Marvel’s street-level underbelly with shows about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher, which were more gritty and grounded than the cosmic exploits of The Avengers and The Guardians of the Galaxy. The Marvel Universe is huge and I’m glad they are able to give characters like Daredevil attention on Netflix when there would likely be no room for him in the crowded movies, and the number of episodes for each show provides a level of character depth that goes further than most Marvel movies.
2. It Brings Television Back From the Dead
One of the benefits of unlimited content is that a show can get cancelled at one place and immediately picked up at another. This happens sometimes on broadcast television (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man Standing) but most of the time if one broadcast network doesn’t want a show, none of them will. However, streaming services have been consistently generous about giving cancelled shows a second life.
After NBC cancelled Community, Yahoo picked it up. After FOX cancelled The Mindy Project, Hulu picked it up. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was initially supposed to air on NBC, but when they dropped it (for some dumb reason), Netflix picked it up and it is one of their best shows.
Netflix has also given a second life to Full House, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Black Mirror, The Killing, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Magic School Bus, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Queer Eye and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
3. It Attracts the Biggest Talent in Hollywood
I’m constantly flabbergasted by who Netflix makes deals with. A lot of people who don’t put out content regularly have been drawn to Netflix because it gives them creative freedom.
Comedians like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld made huge comebacks to stand-up comedy on Netflix. Even people who have worked exclusively on broadcast and cable are gravitating towards Netflix. Norman Lear and Matt Groening (the creators of All in the Family and The Simpsons) made their first sitcoms in ages, and now they’ve lured Shonda Rhimes (Scandal), Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Alex Hirsch (Gravity Falls). TV hosts like David Letterman, Chelsea Handler and Bill Nye returned on Netflix after swearing off television, and people like Maria Bamford and Colleen Ballinger have done the most quality work of their careers on Netflix due to the creative freedom they have been granted.
4. It Has the Best Stand-Up Comedy
Thanks to Netflix, we are not only in the golden age of television but the golden age of comedy. All the funniest comedians in Hollywood are not gravitating towards HBO anymore. In addition to Chappelle and Seinfeld, Netflix is releasing some of the most personal and hilarious stand-up specials right now. Some of my favorite comedians on the streaming site: Patton Oswalt, Norm MacDonald, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Ali Wong and Tig Notaro. Netflix has even helped turn unknowns like Tasmanian comedian Hannah Gadsby into stars. People who you never see do stand-up anymore like Judd Apatow, Kevin James and Adam Sandler have even gotten into the act, and there are specials still to come from Ellen DeGeneres, Tiffany Haddish, Ray Romano, Billy Eichner and Ken Jeong. If Richard Pryor and Robin Williams were still alive, they would probably be on Netflix too.
5. It Has a Diverse Variety of Programming
One of the reasons why Netflix is so popular is because it really does have something for everyone. Netflix is known primarily for its prestige television. It features some of the best written dramas, the sharpest comedies and the smartest science fiction in TV history, but it also has documentaries, period pieces, stand-up specials, animation aimed at kids, animation aimed at adults, anime, talk shows, reality shows, superhero shows, and foreign shows ranging from Mexico, France, Germany, Japan, India, South Korea and more.
And best of all, no commercials.