Amanda D. Lotz
Queensland University of Technology
Peabody Media Center
Amanda Lotz is a media scholar, professor, and industry consultant. Her expertise includes media industries, the future of television, the business of media, net neutrality, and digital distribution.
We Now Disrupt this Broadcast:
How Cable Transformed Television and the Internet Revolutionized It All
My most recent book pieces together the twenty-year transformation of U.S television. The story begins in 1996 and, contrary to what many thought at the time, is not a story of death, but of the collision of new technologies, changing business strategies, and unprecedented storytelling.
We Now Disrupt This Broadcast explores U.S. television’s transition through two extraordinary disruptions. First, the success of original, scripted cable series transformed long held norms of television storytelling, perceptions of what U.S. commercial television could be, and several of the established practices for making television. As the book begins in 1996, advertiser-supported cable channels have to beg talent to produce series for their channels. Within a few short years, the dynamic is reversed, and cable becomes the epicenter of television’s new identity as a sophisticated and interesting cultural form. Chapters in Sections One and Two use milestone series including La Femme Nikita, OZ, The Shield, Monk, and Mad Men to tell the story of changing business practices in the industry.
But before the new norms of a broadcast/cable television landscape could be established, the emergence of broadband distribution of video threatened nearly every aspect of the television business, while also tremendously improving the experience of watching television. Broadband distribution not only brought additional program providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu into an already abundantly competitive space, but also finally forced adjustment of business models that were barely holding together. The cable service industry that was largely forgotten during the flurry of attention to cable channels and their distinctive and innovative programming revealed that it had transitioned into the internet service industry. By the time anyone realized that the future of television—broadcast or cable—was intricately tied to the internet, the cable industry had established an incredible advantage in incumbency.
In addition to the many technological changes broadband distribution introduced to television, Section Three uses series such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and House of Cards to explore how the business of making television changed as cable channels created their own studios and expanded internationally.
By 2015—the year that became the tipping point from the television of the broadcast and cable era to the beginning of the post-network era of broadband distribution—new indications of the future of television emerged by the week. Legacy industry competitors launched broadband-distributed services such as HBO Now and CBS All Access to chart a path into the new era. With appetites whetted by increasingly prevalent streaming and on-demand services, viewers’ desire to self-determine viewing practices assaulted industry norms such as channel bundles, the linear television schedule, advertising, and even the notion of the channel. Contrary to many predictions, broadband distribution didn’t come to kill television, but to revolutionize how it reaches viewers.
Available for purchase here
Portals: A Treatise on Internet-Distributed Television
Is Netflix television?
Television audiences and its industry alike have been confused by the emergence of new ways to watch television. On one hand, the programs seem every bit like the television we’ve long known, while the way we can watch, what we can watch, and the business models supporting them differ significantly.
Portals: A Treatise on Internet-Distributed Television pushes understandings of the business of television to keep pace with the considerable technological change of the last decade. It explains why shows such as Orange is the New Black or Transparent are indeed television despite coming to screens over internet connection and in exchange for a monthly fee. It explores how internet-distributed television is able to do new things – particularly allow different people to watch different shows chosen from a library of possibilities. This technological ability consequently allows new audience behaviors and new norms in making television.
Portals are the “channels” of internet-distributed television, and Portals identifies how the task of curating a library of shows differs from channels’ task of building a schedule. It explores the business model—subscriber funding—that supports many portals, and identifies the key differences from advertiser or direct purchase that require development of a model of subscriber-funded media. Portals considers what we know about the future of television, even though we remain early in a process of transformative change.
Available open access here
Available for purchase here
Upcoming Talks and
Defining the Internet-distributed Video Marketplace, with Ramon Lobato. Association of Internet Researchers, Brisbane, QLD, October 3-5, 2019
Evaluating Netflix: Beyond ‘Quality Television’, with Ramon Lobato. Cultural Studies Association of Australia Conference, University of Queensland, December 4-6, 2019
Caught on Video
Much of my 2014-2018 research agenda condensed for this talk at the University of Texas.