Digital Disruption & Chill

So, I’m guessing we all know who this guy is. He’s obviously netflix. How though has this handsome streaming service changed our lives and, more importantly, what does it indicate for the future of media?

First up, let’s talk about the ‘digital disruption’. If you’ve never encountered the phrase before, essentially it refers to the fundamental industrial, economic and social shift we are experiencing from the physical to the digital. Simple, right? Only not only does digital disruption refer to the elimination of physical necessity in intangible products, it also applies to digitisation of processes resulting in a physical effect (Willis, 2015 p. 22). Complicated and long winded explanation you say? I like to make things sound more complicated then they are to seem smarter, if you hadn’t noticed. Chill.

Basically all it is the elimination of physical necessities in the distribution of goods and services. The netflix example is a simple one when compared with its predecessors, physical film distribution networks. Not only is Netflix replacing the physicality that was the local video store, but digital distribution and streamer services are replacing the physical medium we previously used to transport media. VCRs, DVDs and even BluRays will eventually succumb to a digitally disrupted world where a physical copy of something is entirely redundant.

Though the same process, the disruption applies slightly differently to traditionally safe sectors outside the media industry. The rise of Uber is a key example of the elimination of the need for physical ownership. Previously, cab companies had to own the car and employ a driver. Digital disruption has allowed the company to bypass the physical necessity, in this case a car, and rely on what is essentially the subcontract of both (Everett, 2016, p. 20).

That’s how Netflix is changing the rules in regard to physicality and distribution. What is most interesting about Netflix, though, isn’t just it’s cunning elimination of the physical, but it’s emergence from solely distribution to production as well. Though not a digital one, this move is incredibly disruptive in of itself. Netflix, with its phenomenally successful original programming like House of CardsOrange is the New Black and Daredevil, has simplified the production process of entertainment media. As well,  the economic success of Netflix and it’s original content has proven the concept for future production/distribution of entertainment, making the future domination of entertainment by a few, digitally based, producer/distributor companies a distinct possibility.

What then, happens to the old dominators of the media landscape? Well, dear reader, I don’t have the word count to do a long winded explanation that makes me seem more smarterer, so I’ll put it simply. The old dominators that relied on the physical have adapted too, but have not shied away from the physical. Instead, they have found a new home in what is, for now at least, one of the last, safe bastions of physical media necessity; specifically the management and ownership of communications infrastructure (McChesney, 2014, p. 69). Check that shit out, I strongly recommend it.




Everett, C 2016, ‘Disruption in the age of the digital business model’, Computer Weekly, pp. 18 – 22

McChesney, RW 2014, ‘The Global Media Giants’, Global Media Journal: Indian Edition, 5, 1, pp. 63-71,

Willis, P 2015, ‘Digital disruption: Our life-changing experience’, Access, 29, 3, pp. 22 – 24,


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