BAFTAs, Netflix and looking to the future
The BAFTA TV Awards have come and gone for another year and once again, the cream of the crop in British Television have taken home the coveted awards and are already back in production offices and on sets around the UK to raise their game for next year. Standards and quality in British film and television productions are, undoubtedly, at an all-time high, but with a few surprises among Sunday night’s winners and losers, there are more questions than ever about the future of British film and television production.
BBC’s Happy Valley was the big winner on the night and was a very deserving recipient of the award for Best Drama Series and the Best Leading Actress award for the talented Sarah Lancashire. For a complete list of winners, click here.
For many, though, some of the announcements came as a surprise. Following The Crown’s success at The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards earlier this year and with a total of 5 nominations for the series at the BAFTAs (Best Drama Series, Best Leading Actress and Best Supporting Actress), the show’s victory seemed to be a foregone conclusion. It was, however, not to be, prompting critics to cry ‘snub’.
Snub or no snub, the real winners on the night were Netflix. The triumphant Happy Valley, which had its series 1 debut on BBC One in April 2014 was first released on Netflix in the US and Canada four months later and marketed as a ‘Netflix Original’. The release of series 1 on Netflix in the UK came in summer of 2016.
The Crown is famously a Netflix original production and has been reported as the most expensive TV series ever made. At £100m, it’s an investment that has earned significant returns in the form of viewership, subscriptions to the platform, universal acclaim and the highest accolades at some of the world’s leading awards ceremonies. For cast and show-runners to leave the BAFTA TV Awards empty-handed was nothing if not unexpected.
Challenges to New Technologies
It’s been a busy few weeks for Netflix and for straight-to-streaming productions. The Crown’s perceived snub comes days after Cannes Film Festival announced that the upcoming festival is the last time that straight-to-streaming films will be eligible for the prestigious awards. The decision was born out of concerns that the future of cinema and television is in jeopardy because of new distribution and exhibition methods.
It’s not the first time that such fears have arisen about the future of cinema. In the 1950s, the advent of television caused pandemonium in cinema and film distribution circles. The biggest threat was to the newsreel. People no longer needed to go to the movies and pay an entrance fee to see film footage of world events. The concerns were proven to be very real when ‘streaming’ of news directly to the homes of the public essentially wiped out the newsreel. In response to the technological developments, the cinema industry was forced to adapt and make way for the inevitable rise of television.
The current concerns about distribution methods sound familiar. Now, however, it is television that faces the biggest threats from streaming platforms. Undoubtedly, consumers have been moving away from traditional viewing models in preference of the freedom offered by new service providers. Add to that the quality of straight-to-streaming content created by these service providers and the threats to traditional methods are just as real as those once faced by the obsolete newsreel.
Although Netflix was established in 1997, it was 2007 before they introduced film and TV streaming. In 2013, they expanded further to launch their film and TV production operations and their popular online distribution service. The current Netflix model changes how visual media content is consumed and has set new standards and expectations of film and television audiences.
The efforts of film traditionalists and attempted barriers have not stopped the growth of new viewing technologies. This week, among all the happenings at awards and festivals, Netflix opened a new customer service centre at its European hub in Amsterdam. The distribution giant also announced a European expansion which will result in the creation of 400 new jobs, two new European original series’ and a suggestion of further production news to come.
Looking to the Future
So, whether cinema and television purists are ready for it or not, the Netflix revolution is on our doorstep. Maybe it’s time for the old school producers and distributers to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors who were faced with the TV crisis of the 1950s. It’s time to adapt to the new face of visual media, to rise to the challenge of expanding boundaries and to embrace a future and a new age for film and television production.