Love is blind slip-up by Netflix unintentionally makes a case for traditional values. In a bit of irony, “Love is Blind,” the popular Netflix dating show, has inadvertently made streaming’s growing pains crystal clear, while reinforcing some of the advantages that linear and traditional TV networks still enjoy.
Netflix’s attempt to offer a live “Love is Blind” reunion show hit a snag on Sunday, as the leading streaming service tries to incorporate live events into its menu, a process begun with the recent Chris Rock comedy special.
Yet the challenges of bringing live TV to streaming, coupled with efforts by the various services to introduce sports into their mix, merely underscore that linear TV – perceived to be the dinosaur in the watching-at-home equation – still excels in certain areas that distinguish the old guard from their more new-fangled competitors and the shiny new services seemingly destined to supplant them.
Indeed, live events and sports remain very much the life’s blood of television, as evidenced by the recent NCAA basketball tournament, improved Oscar ratings and now the pivot toward the NBA playoffs. For advertisers, those showcases also provide the benefit that fans are more likely to watch live than their favorite scripted shows, and thus less prone to zap through the ads.
While streaming built subscribers with a consumer-friendly “Have it your way” approach – basically telling viewers that they can watch at their own pace, including the ability to binge series in their entirety over a few days – they have also seen wisdom in experimenting with more conventional, old-school distribution patterns.
Specifically, more streamers have come around to the notion of releasing episodes at weekly intervals versus binge drops allowing the audience to devour them all at once. The more traditional pattern has been seen as an asset for HBO shows like “The Last of Us” and currently “Succession” and “Barry,” building suspense and excitement.
As NPR critic Eric Deggans put it in a recent discussion of the pros and cons of the practice, staggering the release “spreads the impact of a show on the zeitgeist. People start to talk about it, and it gets other people’s attention, and it becomes a snowball that kind of rolls its way through the pop culture landscape.”
While this debate is hardly a new one, the interest from streaming services in approximating what broadcast and cable networks do, at least occasionally, does seem like a tacit admission that there’s still life left in viewing patterns that persisted for decades. It also comes as TV channels ramp up to make their case to advertisers placing billions of dollars worth of bets on programming in what are known as the annual “upfront” presentations.
The executives leading those networks have largely been on the defensive in recent years, as they watch ratings decline and more consumers “cut the cord” in terms of anteing up for a monthly cable or satellite bill, shifting their entertainment dollars to a hodge-podge of streaming services.
Still, for cable and broadcast channels trying to make the case for their continued relevance and viability, the argument might be as simple as pointing to something like Netflix’s “Love is Blind” misstep, and the fact that streaming services have developed a keen interest in providing a facsimile of what they’ve been doing all along.