Pay Attention, This Has Quality: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Netflix and ‘Quality Television’

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This thesis aims to gain insight in the new TV landscape that the arrival of Netflix has created. A way to enter this landscape is to analyse the relationship between Netflix and ‘quality television’. Therefore, the research focuses on the different ways Netflix employs certain parameters of ‘quality television’ in their Netflix original series. Three themes are central in this analysis: characters, mise-en-scène and narrative structure. The methods used to analyse how these parameters are employed within each theme are image analysis and narrative analysis. The goal of this research is threefold. First, it creates insight in the practices of the new player in this field, Netflix, by focusing on the stylistic identity that the company has created. Second, it gains insight in the impact Netflix has on the TV landscape regarding the concept of ‘quality television’. Third, this research wants to create a base on which further questions concerning Netflix, ‘quality television’ and the new TV landscape can be asked. The analysis has shown a distinct relationship between ‘quality television’ and Netflix. What also became clear is that some elements of the addressed parameters were more foregrounded or present than others. Netflix makes a clear choice to focus in its specific stylistic identity on formal and visual elements of ‘quality television’, and not so much on the structural elements that function as a foundation of these formal aspects. Netflix chooses to concentrate more on the appearance of ‘quality television’ than on the attribution of their own products to this concept. The first conclusion is that Netflix employs parameters of ‘quality television’ mainly to attract attention of the viewer and thereby gaining access to the commitment of the viewer. The second conclusion is that Netflix diverts from the definition of ‘quality television’ as it is known today. Because Netflix does not focus on ticking all the boxes of ‘quality television’ but uses to concept in a more coordinating manner, the company is able to deviate from the definition. This deviation becomes visible in the fact that Netflix spreads several parameters of ‘quality television’ over a larger and more diverse audience than ‘quality television’ up until now has done.
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