We Made A Big Gamble On Americans Wanting To Sit Around And Mindlessly Watch TV For Hours Straight, But It Paid Off

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Science & Technology

Astronomers Just Going To Go Ahead And Say Dark Matter Nitrogen

‘Fuck It, We’re Done,’ Say Scientists

WASHINGTON—Declaring that this is the last time they ever hope to speak of the aggravatingly enigmatic substance, astronomers from NASA announced Thursday that they are just going to go ahead and say that dark matter is nitrogen.

What We’ve Learned About Pluto

Nearly 10 years after its launch, the New Horizons space probe made a flyby 7,750 miles from Pluto, marking the first time in history a spacecraft has examined the dwarf planet up close, and NASA has begun to release data and images transmitted from the approach. Here’s what we’ve learned about Pluto so far

Timeline Of Mass Extinction

Scientists predict that human activity has put the world on the brink of the sixth mass extinction in earth’s history, an event characterized by the elimination of a large number of species within a very short period of time. Here is a timeline of extinction events over the planet’s history

Study: Floating Heap Of Trash Now Ocean’s Apex Predator

SANTA BARBARA, CA—Noting that no marine species posed a threat and the total domination of its habitat, a study released Wednesday by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara revealed that the floating mass of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now the ocean’s apex predator.

Dementia Study Reveals Fond Memories First To Go

BALTIMORE—Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a new study this week on the cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other deteriorative brain disorders, finding conclusive evidence that dementia sufferers’ fondest memories are nearly always the first to go.

FDA Approves Female-Libido-Enhancing Man

WASHINGTON—In an effort to address the needs of women suffering from a lack of sexual desire, the FDA announced Tuesday that it had approved a new female-libido-enhancing man, which is expected to be made available to the general public by year’s end.

New Report Finds Humanity 10 Years Away From Something Called Ash Age

TUCSON, AZ—Explaining that the large-scale shift in geologic conditions and social organization would require a new taxonomic classification, researchers at the University of Arizona released a report Tuesday revealing that humanity is approximately 10 years away from something that will be called the Ash Age.

NASA Announces Bold Plan To Still Exist By 2045

WASHINGTON—In what is being described as the most ambitious mission ever undertaken in the space agency’s history, NASA officials announced at a press conference Tuesday their bold new plan to still exist by 2045.

YouTube Turns 10

On April 23, 2005, three former PayPal employees started a video-sharing site called YouTube, which has since grown into an influential media platform with over 1 billion users.

Pros And Cons Of Screen Time For Kids

As technology becomes more of a staple in everyday family life, parents are making choices about how much screen time to allow their children—and asking questions about how computers, phones, and TVs might help or hinder a child’s development.

Geologists Unearth Fully Intact Rock

FORT COLLINS, CO—Describing the discovery as the most flawless specimen ever unearthed, a team of geologists working in northern Colorado announced Friday they had excavated a fully intact rock.

Rehabilitated Otter Released Back Into Food Chain

SAUSALITO, CA—Following nine months of surgeries and physical therapy to heal the aquatic animal’s debilitating injuries, officials from the Marine Mammal Center released a fully rehabilitated sea otter back into the food chain Tuesday.

Conservationists Attempting To Get Head Start On Mars

WASHINGTON—Fearing that any further delay might prevent their movement from having any meaningful impact, a consortium of leading conservationists confirmed Wednesday it is attempting to get a head start on preserving the planet Mars. The newly form...

Apple MacBook vs. Google Chromebook Pixel

Shortly after Apple debuted its new ultra-thin MacBook this week, Google announced its new Chromebook Pixel 2, which similarly boasts the new Type-C USB port and high-tech trackpad.

How Cable Companies Plan To Fight Cord Cutting

More consumers than ever are “cord cutting,” or getting rid of their cable service in favor of watching shows online, challenging the cable industry to launch new initiatives in order to keep customers.

Features Of The Apple Car

After dominating sales of smartphones, tablets, and other electronics, Apple is reportedly secretly designing its first car, code-named Titan.

2015 Tech Trends

Showcasing everything from wearable devices to self-driving cars and personal drones, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show revealed the latest in new technology.

Doctors Recommend Getting 8 Centuries Of Cryosleep

STANFORD, CA—Claiming that the practice is essential for effectively recharging the body and waking fully rested and alert, doctors at Stanford University issued a report Monday emphasizing the importance of getting at least eight centuries of atomi...

Scientists Receive $10 Million Grant To Melt Stuff

COLLEGE PARK, MD—Saying the money would help further researchers’ understanding of the awesome scientific phenomenon, representatives for the American Institute of Physics announced Tuesday that they had received a $10 million grant to melt st...

Pfizer Releases Vintage Cask-Aged Robitussin

GROTON, CT—Touting the new offering’s full-bodied flavor and bold, fruit-forward bouquet, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer unveiled a vintage cask-aged variety of its popular cold medicine Robitussin on Friday. Labeled as Robitussin Reserve, the hi...

Apple Releases Brief, Fleeting Moment Of Excitement

CUPERTINO, CA—Ending weeks of anticipation and intense speculation, tech giant Apple unveiled a short and fleeting moment of excitement to the general public Tuesday during a media event at its corporate headquarters.

Startup Very Casual About Dress Code, Benefits

AUSTIN, TX—Touting the business’s laid-back, nontraditional corporate culture, Go-Go Maps founder and CEO Mike Hannasch explained to reporters Thursday that his company is pretty casual when it comes to employees’ dress code and benefits...
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  • How Theaters Are Trying To Win Back Moviegoers

    The number of Americans who went to the movies hit a 20-year low in 2014, leaving theaters scrambling to find ways to incentivize the public to see new releases on the big screen rather than watch films at home or on the internet. Here are some methods theaters are using to win back audiences and increase box office sales:

We Made A Big Gamble On Americans Wanting To Sit Around And Mindlessly Watch TV For Hours Straight, But It Paid Off

Great entrepreneurs—those steam engines that drive our economy—aren’t the people who follow conventional wisdom. They’re the ones who take risks, the ones who dare to try what no one else has imagined. They don’t ask what’s possible; they ask what could be possible. That’s why last year, I approached my board of directors with an admittedly far-fetched idea: What if Americans wanted to sit around and mindlessly watch television for multiple hours in a row?

It’s crazy, right? Americans finishing a television program and then wanting to watch the next episode of that same program? I’m surprised I wasn’t immediately laughed out of the room.

I honestly don’t know why this idea occurred to me. I guess I just had this gut feeling, this random hunch, that maybe people would want to sit on their couches or prop themselves up in their beds for five hours at a time and watch TV shows. Sure, this hunch could backfire and we could look like fools, but I said, let’s give it a shot. So we took a huge leap of faith. We went all in on the notion that Americans would want to stay in their houses all day and watch not just one, but six, seven, or even eight consecutive hour-long episodes of TV.

I had the bold idea that perhaps Americans actually aren’t extremely patient people who enjoy waiting for a week to go by to watch the next episode of the show they like. Maybe they are in fact impatient, don’t want to properly digest an episode of TV, and actually want to blow through a season of television, paying just enough attention to know how major storylines ultimately resolve.

When we told our investors, they were skeptical. And I’ll be honest, I had my doubts too. It was hard to see why anyone—American people especially—would be attracted to the notion of getting home from work and completely zoning out in front of their television or laptop screens. I even thought, and I know this sounds nuts, that the same people might be inclined to eat their dinner while watching nonstop TV. You can imagine how much blowback that got me. People said, “Reed, you actually think U.S. citizens would rather watch TV during dinner instead of checking in with their families and talking about their days? That people would make TV a priority over the people they call mom, dad, son, and daughter?”

Ha! When I see it on paper in black and white like that, I honestly can’t believe I let myself go through with it.

I asked my colleagues to imagine a hypothetical customer: someone who doesn’t have an active social life, someone who doesn’t exercise very much—someone who would actually prefer to sit down in front of a screen and watch fictional characters interact as part of a compelling story for an entire evening. As I said it, I knew it sounded completely insane, but I also knew that if by some miracle this hypothetical customer turned out to exist, we had a chance to make a whole lot of money.

Everyone I talked to said the gamble wouldn’t pan out. They told me Americans already look at computer screens during work. There’s no way in hell they want to come home from that and stare at another computer screen for hours on end. Your average Joe just wants to take a leisurely stroll with his family, then maybe read a book for a while before getting a good night’s sleep. Good luck convincing anyone to watch more than 30 minutes of television a day, they said.

Did we know that it would work? No. Did we know that Americans had a hidden side to them that really enjoys watching television for hours at a time? No. Did we know that they could be both lazy and antisocial and pathetically want to connect with unreal characters in an effort to escape their own boring lives? No. Did we think they even had the ability to watch an entire season of television over the course of three weekdays or a single weekend? Of course not. But we figured it was worth it to at least ask these questions.

And the American people have resoundingly answered, “Yes. We like watching a lot of television.” Who knew?

Frankly, I’m still astonished at how wholeheartedly people have embraced the idea of lying in bed and watching original fiction-based programming—that Americans were actually willing to pay to lapse into extended trance-like stupors in front of their computer screens night after night and watch attractive actors and actresses.

Will this success last? It’s hard to say. But whatever happens, Netflix will adapt, keeping our eyes on the horizon, that thin line between insanity and genius, looking for the next great risk. Who knows? Maybe people will even want to sit down and watch movies.