You probably don’t know it or believe it could be possible, but Netflix is probably ruining your life…

The British are considered to be the most advanced TV viewers in the world. A record 81% of the UK population have used an online service to watch TV or films, such as (deep breath) Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, 5 On Demand, All 4, ITVPlayer, Now TV, YouTube, iTunes, TVCatchup, Sky Go and Google Play, to name just a few of the major providers. There are even some niche offers out there, which include; something for the kids (Disney Life), something for the culture vultures (Mubi) and something for the non-conformists (Wuaki.tv), to give you three examples.

Netflix, an early mover within the online streaming / on demand market is by and large the UK leader. With over 74 million subscribers globally, 4 million of which are located in the British Isles. The popularity of Netflix is palpable everywhere, with people using the streaming service as not only a form of entertainment, but for also a number of euphemisms for, well, other things.

So, it’s fair to say Netflix is popular. And herein lies the problem. A problem which I will attempt to provide a balanced and objective argument against, using economics (i.e. maths and science) to show you, dear reader, why it might be a good idea to tune out and plug back into the real world.

My argument is based around opportunity cost, which economists refer to as ‘the value of the next-best alternative use of a resource’. In other words, we’re looking at alternatives and their cost / benefit, when they are compared to Netflix.

Close Alternatives

By and large, the differentiators between the most popular providers is brand preference. Take out the ‘Original Programming’ element for a second (two-thirds of British Netflix and Amazon users don’t watch their original shows), there is not a vast amount of difference in the content provided by Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV (The Big Three).

It is this moderately mundane content which really grinds my gears, and is the reason why I much prefer the renting options provided by Apple and Google.

Renting these on a regular basis, would be slightly more costly (especially if you’re a ‘binge watcher’), but they do enable you view a substantially better range of shows and films. In essence, spending slightly more, for an experience you are likely to gain much more ‘benefit’ from.

Despite knowing this, I often find people are reluctant to pay the extra. This shows there’s clearly a force influencing behaviour, which is interesting when you consider the relatively small fee that’s involved. It may have something to do with the fact that the cost for Netflix goes straight out from your account each month (you never need to actually ‘purchase’ it) compared with renting, which involves making a ‘buying decision’ and could lead to pre or post-purchase anxiety.

Distant Alternatives

Now we’ve got the (relatively) straight-forward alternatives out the way, we’ll focus on something all of us have, but often not enough of: time.

Whether you watch one or ten episodes of Breaking Bad, you’re taking up time that could be spent doing a whole range of weird and wonderful things. You could join a yoga class, learn an instrument, improve your culinary skills or even start a knitting club. I’ll be happy to wager that each of those activities will bring you more enjoyment, than weeping at another mediocre romcom, getting irate at a foreign criminal justice system or binging on the historical analysis of El Padrone.

If that hasn’t convinced you, think of it like this: at an average of three and a half hours spent watching TV each day, the average British adult spends 9 years of their life watching TV. What better things could you be doing with all that time?

To Conclude…

If you have read thus far, you’ve really won on two fronts. Firstly you’ve learnt about a fundamental economic principal, and secondly I’ve also saved you from a life of misery and regret (fingers crossed). I do hope that next time you’re flicking through your favourite streaming service, you’ll think back to this wonderfully insightful blog and think how this may be ruining your chance to be truly happy…

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