How Black Mirror Reflects the Disruptive Innovation of Netflix

Many successful businesses stall or lose marketshare by not adapting to the next big technological breakthrough because they are unwilling or unable to reconsider their initial model.  Netflix is one of the rarest cases of an innovator that disrupted itself.

Equatorius welcomes contributing writer Zachary Tanimoto.

Netflix is killing the streaming industry.  With new shows coming left and right, Netflix never fails to keep a subscriber engrossed in a TV show long enough to seduce one past their trial’s expiration date.  For a small fee and the world of television series, dramas, and movies at the touch of your tablet, computer, fire stick, or smart TV, Netflix offers a deal that cannot be resisted.

Netflix wasn’t always the giant it is now.  Much like any modern start up or sprouting business, the company began with a creative mind — in this case, two — and built a flexible foundation, continuing to test assumptions around their target market (see: Should You Give Up on Your Startup Idea).

Netflix began in 1997 as a simple DVD sales and rental business, birthed by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph (yes, Netflix dates back to the movie rental era).  But what was it that made Netflix stand out amongst its competitors?  The answer:  not much.  To remedy this and adjust their target market, Hastings and Randolph turned to DVD rental by mail.  This continued until 2007, when Netflix added media streaming to its list of services.  In 2012, Netflix began content-producing, and since then has released numerous original series, with many more series and films to come.  Bringing us to the present, as of the beginning of 2017, the business boasted a subscriber total of 66 million.  Talk about gunning for an idea and staying flexible. 

Now, there are layers to the idea of Netflix and its ability to innovate, while adapting to seismic shifts in a rapidly evolving market.  Not only is Netflix an example of how innovation can disrupt an entire industry, but its content reflects that disruption and takes it a step further — by imagining what innovation may be yet to come.  

If you yourself are an avid Netflix user, then you’ve probably heard of the show Black Mirror.  Similar to how Netflix is a leading innovator in our world today, so is this very show that Netflix houses.  But what do these two have in common? 

Black Mirror is a show that comments on the technological age we live in currently, with each episode portraying some futuristic world where technology either rules that setting or plays a major role in it.  Juxtaposed against the world we know, this fictional future can seem almost immediate, inevitable, or far off in a lofty and unknown future.  Plots include a world where everyone can rate each other on a scale of one to five stars, characterizing your place in society; a world where everyone lives their lives according to a dating app that constantly matches you on dates, in search of “the one;” or a world where everyone is so engrossed with the news and what is playing on TV that they don’t notice an abductee gone missing.  Sound familiar? 

This fictional world in Black Mirror is strikingly familiar.  Try maybe, the Uber rating system for both driver and passenger; the abundant use of dating apps; and Netflix, with today’s large video streaming culture.  Crazy connection, I know.  But what does this tell us about innovation and what can we take away from it? 

In a way, this increasingly entrepreneurial world is sprouting an abundance of start-ups and innovators.  Yet even as these grow in size and influence, they continue to inspire other similar creators and creations, e.g. Netflix beginning as an innovation, now becoming a platform for other creators, such as the TV shows and films it makes available.  At the end of the day, both Netflix and Black Mirror tell us that the world is a quickly adapting hub of ideas with the potential to shape the course of humanity.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur or simply have an interest in game-changing new ideas, you, too, can play an active role in our future world.  

So think: after being inspired, what’s your next step? 

Article by Zachary Tanimoto | Equatorius | Image: Charles Deluvio via Unsplash | Copyright © 2018 Equatorius All Rights Reserved.

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