A radically altered view of television would be something more like the Anti-Banality Union's most recent work, Police Mortality, which assembles full-length films by re-editing scenes from older movies into a new whole. The repetition of certain psychological tropes and dramatic structures becomes visible as a cultural pathos. Artistic agitation is not where companies like Netflix make money, and so the defining standards of what passes for television will continue to be limited by what it's safely possible to make money on (e.g. David Fincher, Kevin Spacey, cynical political conspiracies that leave audiences in a forever passive position).

The only remaining unknowns over the switch from broadcast and cable television to streaming television will be over how to make the maximum amount of money from it without making the audiences conscious of their being double-sold.  Last month, Nielsen announced it would finally include online streaming audiences in its viewership statistics. Netflix streaming accounts for almost one-third of the video streaming traffic on the Internet in the United States, a substantial advantage over YouTube's 13 percent. An audience that large is a highly valuable marketing demographic, which is currently watching commercial free on Netflix.

A handful of original series aside, the great majority of content distributed on Netflix has been produced elsewhere, made for business models that depended on advertising revenue, and whose productions regularly interrupt themselves so that marketers can insert themselves into the drama for a few minutes. The anomaly of Netflix is that it has wiped away the advertisements and preserved the content meant to distribute them. The future will not be about what other new series Netflix will be able to produce, but about whether it will, like cable television and glossy magazines before it, be able to make money from charging access fees to two parties, one fee for viewers and one for advertisers. In the meanwhile, we'll sit here watching the smoke rise from distant fires, the transformation of living material into burnt ash as hypnotic as it is predictable.

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