What is the purpose of our lives? What are we meant to do with our brief time here? Is there meaning to our suffering, or does it speak to nothing more than the cruel, indifferent chaos of the world?
These are vital questions for all human beings, but particularly for those humans in the streaming video industry. Last week, an NBC executive described linear network television as "TV like God intended," implicitly predicting a return to traditional media consumption hastened by the will of the supreme metaphysical being. Today, Netflix struck back against that impression as part of its earnings announcement. In a joint statement, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells wrote:
Our investors are not as sure of God’s intentions for TV, and instead think that Internet TV is a fundamentally better entertainment experience that will gain share for many years. The challenge for traditional media companies, most of whom see the future pretty clearly, is to use the revenue from Netflix and other SVOD services to fund both great content and their own evolution into Internet TV networks. Seeso, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, CanalPlay, HBO Now, and CBS All Access are the beginnings of these efforts.
This is meant to be reassuring, and to many, I'm sure it is. If I were a Netflix employee or investor, I would be unsettled by the idea that the company might be some kind of abomination, its very existence an act of defiance to the creator. But in some ways, the uncertainty is even worse. Hastings and Wells are certainly right. None of us can know God's plan for television, or for our very lives, but should this knowledge inspire courage or pious terror? Should we be inspired by the gaping chasm at our feet, which threatens not only our lives but our souls? Or should this chasm remind us of the inescapable madness that lies beneath even the most stable video streaming platforms?
Netflix shares rose 8 percent on the heels of the announcement.
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