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Netflix’s effects in transforming global cultural norms


In the 21st century, the emergence of internet-based over-the-top (OTT) service platforms, known as video-on-demand (VOD) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Apple TV+ have tremendously influenced people’s cultural activities. Equipped with Al, big data, and algorithms, OTT service platforms have reshaped global cultural markets, as they have changed the norms of the cultural industries. From content distribution to production, to the media industry itself, OTT platforms have substantially transformed the ecology of global entertainment markets, as cultural production and consumption are increasingly happening with the help of Al and algorithms. Cultural consumption in the U.S. and elsewhere has shown a tremendous increase, and it has seen a significant jump from traditional media to digital media. The rise of digital media platforms is challenging the supremacy of television and movie theaters as major entertainment centers.

Admitting that several important OTT platforms exist, Netflix has played a pivotal role in transforming the global entertainment markets, as it “has had a transformative effect in the relationship between consumers and content providers” (McDonald and Smith-Rowsey, 2018, 1). Over the past decade, Netflix has grown as one of the major OTT platforms utilizing big data, algorithms, and Al in order to create the best possible recommendation system, which consequently provides huge profits for platform corporations, while hurting the traditional broadcasting and film industries. Netflix has especially continued to expand its market share in the global cultural markets. Having mostly conquered the Western markets, including Canada and the U.K., Netflix has pivoted east and vigorously sought to rack up the number of its subscribers in Asia starting in 2015. Young and increasingly digital populations in Asia present an incredible opportunity to ramp up Netflix’s international subscriber base, and subscriptions in Asia already surpassed the 58 million in the U.S. at the end of 2018 (Gilchrist, 2018). From production to distribution to the OTT industry itself, Asia has experienced a phenomenal shift of the platform and cultural markets mainly because of Netflix’s effects. Netflix is commonly received as one of the major hubs of reflexive distribution (Braun, 2015); however, Netflix has also functioned as a major player in production and exhibition, which is a new business model for many followers in both the Global North and the Global South.

This chapter investigates Netflix’s effects as one of the most influential OTT platforms in the global cultural industries, focusing on the crucial nexus of Al, digital platforms, and popular culture. It first discusses the major characteristics of Netflix as the most significant Al-supported OTT service platform, which controls the vicious chain of the cultural industries, from distribution to production. Second, it examines the ways in which Netflix influences the content production industry, focusing on Al and algorithm-driven distribution processes. Then it investigates Netflix’s effects in the local OTT industry to understand why OTTs have incorporated AL Through these discussions, it eventually articulates whether Netflix has expanded an asymmetrical power relationship between the Global North, primarily the U.S., and many developing countries in the Global South. The analysis of the power relationship between them will shed light on the current debates on the increasing role of Netflix utilizing Al, big data, and algorithms on a large scale in the global context.

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