What's your favorite show on Netflix?
That's a frequent topic among friends, family, and colleagues as the preeminent video streaming service continues to grow and become a bigger part of our lives. This year's Techsurvey told us that half our total sample watches Netflix at least weekly. That's bigger than any other TV network – by far. And expect that percentage to grow when we get the results back from Techsurvey 2019 launching in January.
But once you get beyond all those new Netflix shows, series, and documentaries, some of their most popular programs are “reruns.” That's right – syndicated TV shows you've seen before – in many cases, a number of times. The appeal of old shows like “Cheers,” “Frasier,” and “Twilight Zone” speak to the power and impact of nostalgia – a lesson Netflix just learned the hard – and expensive – way.
While they invest upwards of $6 billion annually in program content, they're writing big checks for “oldies.” Here's a case in point, and a cautionary tale about overlooking the appeal of nostalgia. The Ringer's Miles Surrey reported Netflix recently posted a small notification that the “Friends” catalogue would expire on January 1st.
That led to a deluge of tweets and other correspondence from Netflix subscribers, prompting the company to rethink its decision. In the end, Netflix relented, and issued an updated notification that “Friends” was given a one-year “stay of execution” – for a hefty price.
Netflix had to write a check for $100 million for the one-year licensing fee to WarnerMedia, the rights holder of “Friends.”
That tells us a lot about the value of nostalgia, not just on television but in all corners of pop culture. And it turns out the immense value of evergreen content isn't just for Baby Boomers. Everyone enjoys going back in the time machine to enjoy old movies, TV shows, and music.
Here's the way Surrey summed it up:
That emotional tug is costing Netflix and other program suppliers untold millions of dollars, many of which they're recouping with advertising, subscription fees, merchandising, and social buzz.
Media consultants would likely advise marketers and programmers to sit back, relax, and go with the nostalgic flow. Or as the great philosopher, Tony Soprano reminds us, looking back at the past may not make for the most stimulating of activities. But it sure makes a lot of money.
As we come to an end of another unspectacular year in new music, most contemporary radio programmers – from pop to rock to hip-hop to country – lament the current music scene. Meanwhile, the market for the been-there-done-that, tried-and-true stuff thrives, be it boring or banal. As Yerger wraps up his smart think piece on the cultural trends of then and now, he asks, “At some point when do we stop relying on the past and start using it to shape the future?”
Radio remains conflicted about the power of the past, especially its ability to use it to transform the industry. While other media like TV and movies embrace it, radio is often mired in an uncomfortable world of apologizing for its nostalgic programming – or certainly underselling its value.
And to that end, radio runs away from the glory – perceived or otherwise – of its past. It is a medium that has a remarkable legacy, an amazing history, and countless reasons to celebrate its contributions to pop culture.
Oddly enough, most people heard this music first on a radio – under their pillows, on their workbench, in their cars, or on a boom box at the beach. And while radio is in many cases the source of all these memories, it somehow doesn't seem able to market or cash in on its vaunted place in the lives of music fans everywhere.
There's still great magic left in radio – what it has meant to generations of listeners and what it could mean to future consumers. As curated content that is free, ubiquitous, intimate, anseamless to use, there is nothing else like it in the mass media landscape.
Strangely, there's conversation in the industry about dropping the word “radio,” and replacing it with the broader, more buzz-worthy term, “audio.” I get it. There's something modern about “audio,” as it encompasses everything from streaming to podcasts to bluetooth earbuds. As we keep reading research that shows how audio consumption is growing, it is tempting to chuck the past and embrace a new brand platform.
But that would be a mistake. “Audio Shack” is lacking. “Radio” is…sexier.
And for proof, note that Spotify, Pandora, Slacker, and SiriusXM all try to be radio.
But there's only one “radio.”
Look no further than a Queen song that may not be as iconic or as well-known as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” or “We Are The Champions.”
“Radio Ga Ga” – which the band performed at that famous Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in 1985 – may be the ultimate love letter to radio ever recorded. But it's also an exhortation for radio to recapture its greatness. If there's ever been an ode this powerful about streaming or podcasts, let me know.
Below is the original video with the embedded lyrics:
Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the power of nostalgia for radio through the lens of a Millennial programmer with a unique and thoughtful perspective on the music and its generational appeal.