Movies and TV
Five Reasons 'Binge-Watching' Is Bad For Us

David Sayers | 5 Aug 2015 17:00
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4. There's No Accounting For Preservation

I think almost all of us already understand the value art has, both in and of itself, and for what it can tell us about the history of times gone by. Most of us in turn then understand why it is so important to keep art preserved, so that these things are not lost for future generations. It's predicted that over 90% of American films made before 1929 are lost because no one at the time gave any thought to preserving this budding art form. Believe me, this is not an abstract concern. Much of the video-game industry's output from the Golden Age and before is facing the same fate, with only the very best known and most-liked titles being given lifespans longer than the hardware they were made for.

House of Cards

Now, we may not see movies and TV in the same way as we saw film back in the 1920's, or video-games in the 70's and 80's. However, the way we consume them is changing, rapidly, and in a manner that is making much of the art we consume a throwaway thing. To understand how, you have to look closely at the business model of sites like Netflix. These streaming sites do not usually buy the rights to the art they host; they rent them. Netflix will only host a film or a show for as long as it's willing to keep renewing their licence for it, meaning all but the biggest crowd-pleasers can end up homeless after a relatively short run, with perhaps in the future not even a physical existence to show for it. If trends continue, with physical media becoming ever more obsolete, then it would be all too easy once again for movies and shows that didn't quite make the cut to once more start vanishing into thin air, accessible only by the memories of those who watched them at the time, which won't last forever.

It might seem like Netflix's expansion into production is a potential antidote for this problem. Surely, you might think, they will take greater care of productions such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, among others, that they have made themselves? Well, you would be right... in theory. However, this raises a problem all of its own. A film or show made exclusively for streaming, that has been filmed, edited, and distributed in an entirely digital process from start to finish, has no need for any kind of physical media presence at all. The rights may be better preserved, but the art itself is vulnerable to being corrupted. This doesn't have to be a problem in the future, but going forward, we would do well to understand the value of permanence that a fully digital existence can never guarantee.

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