Media companies that are dependent on content must always be feeding the great content beast or die.
Newspapers did it, and the surviving ones still do. Their descendants, the news content sites, do it today.
Unlike their newspaper ancestors, the websites have to keep it up all day. Always be posting and always be updating is their mantra.
“All must turn with the clock-tick,” wrote a Chicago newspaper editor in a 1922 book I once read. “It makes no difference if the day be dull or thrilling. The relentless machinery waits for its injections of human intelligence.”
Netflix and the other streaming services live or die by the same mantra, although not quite daily or hourly like the news sites.
For the streaming services, it is “always be adding,” as in adding new content. This is why slowdowns or shortfalls in subscriber growth are so concerning to them.
Feeding the streaming system’s relentless machinery requires a lot of money. You read about it all the time in the business and trade press -- the amounts the streaming services invest to produce and license content annually are in the many billions of dollars.
If subscriptions slow down, so will the ceaseless manufacturing of fresh content. How do you feed the content beast then?
A new show premiering Thursday on Netflix was the catalyst for the above introduction to this TV Blog. The show is called “Keep Breathing.”
It is a dramatic limited series about a passenger in a small plane who is the sole survivor after the plane crashes and the others in the plane -- the pilot and another passenger -- are killed.
The accident strands her in a remote northern wilderness where rescue is nearly impossible. She has no food, shelter or phone service.
She is a first-world person -- a securities litigator -- with no relationship whatsoever with the wild and no knowledge of what one has to do to survive there.
The series is about what the lawyer -- cleverly named “Liv” (played by Melissa Barrera, pictured above) -- does to survive against the formidable odds she faces.
The first episode, running about 35 minutes, was great. It established its story effectively and without delay, and when the episode ended, the TV Blog wanted to see what happens next. The show is designed and constructed to be binge-watched and it succeeds.
So, what’s so special about that? Many shows today that come to the streaming services, whether original or off-network, are attractive and compelling enough to encourage binge-watching.
Whether or not these shows are “good” or “bad” depends on individual tastes that are purely subjective.
What so many shows such as “Keep Breathing” have in common, however, are the high standards under which they are written, cast, filmed and edited.
Once upon a time, “cinematography” was a word few would ever associate with TV shows. Location shooting beyond the streets and neighborhoods of New York and L.A. was rare or unheard-of.
“Keep Breathing” takes place in a location of breathtaking beauty that is almost certainly not anywhere near L.A. or New York.
The filming is meant to convey its remoteness and, by extension, the hopelessness of Liv’s situation.
The point is that it looks expensive. As a matter of fact, all original scripted dramas these days look this way -- which helps explain why TV companies today talk about their annual production costs in the many billions of dollars.
The production bills are paid with subscriptions, advertising or both. All have to keep rising to meet the constant demand.
The relentless machinery awaits.