If 2016 was the year in which our television viewing habits were revolutionised, 2017 will see them normalised. Until now, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon have felt like high-end curios, offering content with largely niche appeal.
But two programmes have introduced online viewing to the mainstream globally.
The Grand Tour, a big-budget version of the BBC’s Top Gear, showed that such companies (in this case Amazon) could beat traditional broadcasters at their own game. And the success of The Crown on Netflix has pushed even more significant boundaries.
Peter Morgan’s drama about the Royal family has attracted a different sort of subscriber – older, more conventional and less likely to adapt to new technologies. The series returns this year and will fuel a trend for more streamed quality drama.
Netflix is to air an adaptation of LM Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables, while Amazon Prime has made Z: The Beginning of Everything, a drama about the love affair between F Scott Fitzgerald and his future wife Zelda.
That is not to say standard TV will die out. The success of The Missing, BBC1’s harrowing kidnap drama, proved there was still an appetite for the cliffhanger in the UK – many in South Africa will have seen the series too, thanks to Unlocator! By bypassing firewalls and using remote servers, Unlocator, a so-called “Smart DNS”, allows you access to more content than you are geographically limited to.
The creators of The Missing, Harry and Jack Williams, are back this year with another fiendishly plotted series, Rellik (“killer” spelt backwards), which will no doubt satisfy viewers’ demands for a storyline that they have to study at an almost academic level.
The BBC is also making The Strike Series, based on JK Rowling’s crime novels (written under her pseudonym of Robert Galbraith).
But more traditional drama will thrive. This month, ITV begins airing The Halcyon, an eight-part drama set at a London hotel in the Blitz.
But the most pervasive trend of 2017 will be “geek TV”. Amazon and Netflix are commissioning shows that already have a large, dedicated fanbase. From this month, Netflix will screen A Series of Unfortunate Events, based on the children’s books by Lemony Snicket and, later in the year, Amazon will show American Gods, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel.
It is usually only a matter of time before these shows land up on DStv or, if we are lucky, Netflix South Africa.
The streaming services have budgets that their more conventional rivals can only dream of (rumour has it that The Crown cost around R138-million per episode) and such cinematic gloss blurs the boundaries between television and film.