"Come TV with us" : the business strategies, discourses, and imagined audiences of Netflix and Hulu

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Mann, Lane McDaniel

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With Netflix promising 600 hours of original content in 2016 and Hulu revamping its original content slate, there exists a vast body of popular cultural criticism and news stories about online original television programming. However, academic literature on Netflix and Hulu is limited. This thesis provides a foundation for understanding the publicly constructed business models for two of the most prominent subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services, their origins, business strategies, and imagined audiences. Through discourse analysis of industry paratexts and trade press coverage this study reveals how Netflix and Hulu’s programming choices, branding strategies, marketing materials, and public rhetoric communicate and construct particular public business goals, models of success, and ideal audience engagement. It finds that Netflix and Hulu’s stakeholders have distinguished their brands in specific ways. Partially through the influence of various industry stakeholders, both platforms have adopted business strategies from earlier forms of media (cable and broadcast), while also formulating particular constructions of audiences and adopting specific ways of engaging and sustaining those audiences. However, the companies have also manipulated new technologies, privileging fresh ways of measuring engagement, and promoting certain types of viewership behavior. The differing business decisions made by Hulu and Netflix, and the distinctive ways they convey such decisions to the press and public, have contributed to specific cultural narratives about legacy media companies, new technologies, the current state of television, the ongoing flux of media industries, and especially prized audience groups in the twenty-first century.


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