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Thursday, September 05, 2013

Netflix is the New Primetime Television

I saved Emmy-nominated House of Cards and Orange is the New Black for sick days, but once I started watching, it became clear it would be hard to stop: they were filled with great writing and acting.  However, they were also filled with adult content, which seemed a dramatic change from non-cable primetime television.

This led me to thinking about ratings.  Not rotten tomatoes ratings, but MPAA and similar ratings based on content.  In the second half of the 20th Century, television, movies, music and video games all made the move to regulate themselves through voluntary parental guidelines to avoid harsher, mandatory regulation by outsiders.   

One of the reasons that television, movies, music, and video games faced pressure to regulate themselves was the ease of access by minors.  It is true that Netflix, on the other hand, is password protected and requires a credit card to subscribe.  Nonetheless, once kids gain access to Netflix, they gain access to everything on Netflix, including adult content, unless the parents set parental controls.

In any event, Netflix original programming is rated based on content just like television—both House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are rated TV-MA.  This offers the same type of voluntary signaling that television, movies, music, and video game ratings do.  While there are certainly ways for minors to circumvent the system—and they do every day—there is some minimum signaling and child-protection efforts after all.

Posted by Margaret Ryznar on September 5, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Permalink


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I have a dream, that someday my adult entertainment, drinking and smoking habits will be freed from an Amerika made safe for children. If I were the Pied Piper I'd free Amerika by marching the brood into the sea.

Posted by: Jimbino | Sep 6, 2013 12:41:41 PM

You can get disposal credit cards at Rite Aid these days. A credit card doesn't seem much of a limit.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 5, 2013 11:57:29 PM

(Though I agree that both series are excellent. I think you could make the argument that HOC and OITNB are the best drama and comedy series on television, respectively -- though it would be hard to agree on which is the drama and which is the comedy.)

Posted by: Beg to differ | Sep 5, 2013 11:17:49 PM

My suspicion is that Netflix is rating its content to signal that it is prestige television just like the best HBO and AMC series, not because it's worried about minors (or worried about other people being worried about minors). Sort of like how movies would cut stuff to get an R rating instead of just releasing NR -- it's not that they cared about kids watching or anything, they just wanted to look like the other high profile mainstream movies.

Posted by: Beg to differ | Sep 5, 2013 11:14:14 PM

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