Netflix’s real-time streaming service, launched in France, provides an unexpected alternative to television as the platform also announced a new deal with Sony.
The program, called ‘Direct’, is a real-time service with a stream that covers five days, to prevent repeat programming. It was announced in November 2020 originally and rolled out fully in December 2020.
Direct is a pre-programmed feed that offers popular French and international content, and a combination of both films and television shows.
It is, in essence, Netflix’s challenge to free-to-air television. There is no rewind button, and the feed isn’t personalised, instead reflecting the most popular shows in the country across a range of demographics.
This may seem counterintuitive, given that one of the appeals of Netflix is having total control over what you watch and when you watch it. However, as pointed out by Vulture, the average viewer takes five to ten minutes to decide what to watch.
Barry Schwartz, a US psychologist, famously coined ‘The Paradox of Choice’ in his 2004 book of the same name. In the book, Schwartz posits that having too many options ultimately disappoints us and that we end up choosing nothing at all.
While this phenomenon is in no way unique to Netflix, the idea of a preprogrammed stream of shows makes a choice for viewers who may frequently find themselves paralysed by indecision.
This is particularly relevant to older audiences. While the average Australian watches 1.9 hours of live broadcast TV every day, Australians over 65 watch on average 4.4 hours.
Netflix’s statement on ‘Direct’ said that, “in France, watching traditional TV remains hugely popular with people who just want a “lean back” experience where they don’t have to choose shows.”
“So we’re trying a new feature for our members in France – called “Direct”. Maybe you’re not in the mood to decide, or you’re new and finding your way around, or you just want to be surprised by something new and different.”
If the function were to expand outside of France in the coming years, Netflix would also have a host of new content to share. The streaming platform has announced a new agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment. From 2022, Netflix will have an 18 month exclusive window for Sony’s theatrical titles.
According to sources, Netflix’s winning offer was $1 billion over four years. Under the agreement, Netflix will have first access to all of Sony’s theatrical releases, and any direct-to-streaming Sony releases. They will also license an as yet unconfirmed number of Sony’s past releases.
Netflix will also be committed to making a number of the projects that Sony is looking to create.
Netflix film chief Scott Stuber said in an official statement that, “Sony Pictures is a great partner and we are thrilled to expand our relationship through this forward-thinking agreement.”
“This not only allows us to bring their impressive slate of beloved film franchises and new IP to Netflix in the U.S., but it also establishes a new source of first run films for Netflix movie lovers worldwide.”
The deal will replace the agreement between Sony and Starz (owned by Lionsgate), which began in 2005.
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