A decade of Netflix: how on demand transformed TV tech

How has Netflix transformed the TV ecosystem?

This March marks 10 years since Netflix first launched in the UK. Alex Hole, vice-president and general manager at Samsung Electronics Europe, looks back at how far the TV ecosystem has evolved over the past decade.

It’s difficult to understate the impact Netflix has had on consumer behaviors, but all the credit shouldn’t just go to the streaming giant.

In 2012 we went from waiting for films, taxis and dating prospects to being able to pick and choose exactly when we wanted those things. What’s more, it spawned pioneering user interfaces that suddenly made things easy for the consumer. This is the expectation of today’s consumer for any tech in their lives: easy to use, fast and effective.

So, 10 years on, what is the legacy of the instant gratification generation Netflix and the ilk have helped create?

A new kind of water cooler moment

The rise of ‘on demand’ across many aspects of our lives has had particular implications for the TV space. Long before the pandemic took away the water cooler moment in the office by keeping us at home, Netflix’s binge format was starting to chip away at the long-held tradition of the TV serial.

As streaming platforms have provided new ways to access content, increasingly consumers have come to expect to watch content when they want. While the platform pioneered binge-watching, many publishers – even streamers – are looking at reverting to a more traditional delivery process of week-by-week, including BBC staples such as Killing Eve, Apple TV’s The Morning Show and Disney+ Marvel shows including Loki.

Meanwhile, Netflix launched a linear channel in France, recognizing this market’s ongoing desire for scheduled programming. It’s evident that all consumers don’t have just one way of watching TV. Today’s water cooler moment is more complex and can mean many different things.

The changing role of the TV in the home

Netflix pioneered ’on-the-go’ – a more casual viewing experience of movies and TV, with many people at the time streaming on their laptops or phones. But over time, as smart TV capabilities evolved to include streaming, it became a key device for over-the-top (OTT) content. Then, accelerated by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, the TV started to gain a whole cohort of other uses for consumers. A Europe-wide survey by Ipsos found 27% of viewers had used their smart TV as a music player, 19% for browsing the internet and 9% identified it as a source of education.

The changing role of the TV from a passive entertainment player to an active smart home device is an exciting development, one comparable to the transformation of the mobile phone from a calling or texting device into our pocket supercomputer.

How to reach the hard-to-reach

How we interact with our TVs and with video content now has fundamentally changed from what it was 10 years ago. But along the way, realizing that this powerful shift was going to change the industry forever, technology has been created to provide advertisers with the tools to adapt.

This starts with understanding viewership changes. At Samsung Ads we measure viewership trends across our millions of European smart TVs, giving advertisers insights into cohorts such as gamers, and general streaming usage versus linear. Barb has also introduced streaming TV measurement, giving advertisers multiple reputable types of dataset to build out their understanding.

Connected TV (CTV) provides an opportunity to reach the growing cohort of audiences that only view TV content in streaming environments. For example, light linear viewers on Samsung smart TVs, who make up a third of all linear TV watchers, spend less than 7% of their time in a linear setting.

It’s now possible to measure the reach of a linear campaign using smart TV insights such as our ACR technology, and to negatively target those viewers who have been overexposed from any CTV outreach. Advertisers can also understand how much of their audience is totally, or mostly, outside the linear space, and use those insights to reach them in different ways across the TV space.

As the TV ecosystem continues to evolve, I’m excited to see what the next decade brings us. If we have learned one thing over the last 10 years, it’s that a lot can change in a short space of time.