More animation than you can eat? Cable and Netflix made it happen, but are audiences spoiled for choice or overwhelmed?
I’m not old (or at least, at 36, I don’t feel old) but I can remember a time when cable channels didn’t have enough content to fill an entire day. Instead, they ran on an 8-hour loop so shows broadcast in the morning were broadcast again in the evening. The reason was that libraries were only so large and channels wanted at least a bit of time between repeats. Although that didn’t stop The Simpsons from making light of the fact. Producing new content was also very expensive. Cartoon Network started by broadcasting old Hanna-Barbera shows for a reason.
Initial forays into original content yielded profits however, and soon every channel was at it. Some even generated enough library titles to broadcast a single show all day, every day. (cough Spongebob on Nickelodeon cough) Along comes Netflix, et al, combine it with rapidly falling production costs and now the door is wide open.
All of which is really good news! Besides audiences having more choice, the industry as a whole is expanding, and more and more artists find gainful employment.
Except, much like the entertainment business in general, audiences are balkanised. Monoculture no longer exists and while you may love one particular show, most of your friends likely never heard of it. Technology plays some role in this. Netflix’s suggestion algorithms show different shows to different people; crafting a truly unique viewing experience. The only thing left for them to do is go one step further and show different cuts of the same content to different people depending on their interests. But that’s a topic for another day.
The sheer abundance of choice means keeping up with everything gets difficult. Staying on top of industry news is one thing, but the films and shows themselves is a different matter. I find I simply cannot devote all the time necessary to even checking out a lot of the TV shows in particular that come out. If I do dedicate time to one series, that then means that five others don’t get even a peek. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
Am I overwhelmed? Personally I believe so and it’s unfortunate given the rising tide that’s lifted all boats. Whereas before the best was only a handful of series’, now there are many more and the best have only gotten better. The result is that even the best of the best get stuck in the ‘to watch’ list. Half of the new Animaniacs’ first season still languishes in my queue. I still have a handful of episodes of Hands of Eizouken! to get through too; even though that series is a few years old now.
As for films, pretty much every big-budget release gets a pass. Part of the issue there is that every American film is exactly the same. So independent and foreign films are where I dedicate time these days.
All this, bear in mind, is when I find the time, and only if I have it. Life gets busy the older you get!
What is Everyone Else Doing?
I’m curious as to how other people are handling this explosion in animated content and what it may mean for the industry as a whole.
Are viewers simply relying on algorithms to suggest new things to watch? Are they slowly circulating around a particular universe or studio (think Marvel)? Or do friends and peers (physical and virtual) continue to form the backbone of recommendations?
Let me know what you think either in a comment below or via email (charles [at] animationanomaly [dot] com) and I’ll publish a follow-up!