Hulu, Netflix, & Displacement Effects

My new favorite theory: Displacement effects.  For those of you not familiar with displacement effects theory, it’s really rather simple. The general assumption is that new media, e.g. the Internet, cannibalize time spent on traditional media, e.g. television.

So, what’s so interesting about this? Seems logical enough to assume that new technologies can cause displacement effects on old technologies, right?  It does seem logical, you say? Okay, prove it.

The existing literature on displacement effects of new media on traditional  media, namely the computer on television, currently contains mixed conclusions. Some scholars argue that computers do not take time away from traditional media, whereas other scholars argue just the opposite. This is an important topic especially in the marketing and advertising industries where budgets are relatively fixed from year to year. In an effort to spend advertising dollars most effectively, these industries need to be aware of which media are garnering the most attention and, more importantly if certain media are losing market share.

Though many recent studies would suggest that the Internet does not cause displacement effects on television, it could be argued that recent technological advances in streaming video online, e.g. HULU and Netflix, would make a huge impact on displacement effects research moving forward.

With this in mind, I bring you to my research proposal topic (and possible study) for this semester. For me personally, both HULU and Netflix have played huge roles in causing displacement effects on my television viewing behavior, and who’s to say that I’m alone? Currently, I can view Netflix via my computer, Roku, Playstation 3, Wii, and now my iPhone, whereas just a couple of years ago my best option was to wait for the mailman. Does this mean that I now watch more television as an effect of this increased technology? As someone with a full-time job, freelance gig, and graduate studies, I can honestly say, “No.” I’m watching the same amount of television, but on different devices, which fits perfectly within the displacement theory framework and the idea of time cannibalization.

So, getting back to the question: Am I alone? I doubt it.

There are many ways in which I am unique, however, my use of online technologies to conveniently watch television isn’t one of them. There are thousands and probably millions of people who can attest to this very television viewing habit. This being said, I have yet to come across any displacement effects studies that have taken advanced streaming video into consideration. It’s possible that these studies exist, but have yet to be published, however, I still think it’s worth taking a look at.

In any case, expect a follow-up post on this by the end of the semester. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for further areas of analysis or if you just want to provide some insight on the concept discussed above, leave me a comment or get in touch!

5 Thoughts

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Evan Shaw, Tina Cipara. Tina Cipara said: Food for thought, "Hulu, Netflix, and Displacement Effects" http://bit.ly/apW3kV […]

  2. Andrew says:

    Awesome! Now I see what you mean. I agree with you. I definitely watch less TV because I can watch it via Hulu Plus and other places online. That’s exciting that you’re looking into streaming media. I’m not surprised others have hardly touched it yet.

    With streaming quality getting better through the years (HD quality), broadband becoming more prevalent in households, and the processing speed of your average laptop increasing enough to be able to handle all that data, I certainly believe streaming is the new way to go. If only Netflix would make ALL of their material available through streaming, I might consider reactivating my account.

    I’d like to know what your results are.

  3. Tina Cipara says:

    I’m glad you think so! I’ve brought this same topic up in class discussion and I’m always in the minority. I absolutely agree that the advancements in both computer hardware and streaming video online could have a huge displacement effect for traditional media moving forward, and I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one.
    One comment I received during discussion is that the laptop could never replace the television as a social experience, i.e. You wouldn’t ask your friends to come over to watch the game on your laptop screen. Well, of course not, but what’s stopping you from hooking up your laptop to your TV screen? Honestly, I think that a lot of people who are doing research in this area are a bit behind the times in terms of available technologies today, which definitely limits their view of what’s possible and upcoming. I think this topic deserves some real attention and I’ll definitely let you know if my findings are significant!

  4. Andrew says:

    Agreed! It’s tough when talking to people who are unaware that they’re limiting themselves technologically. I’m not an IT professional by any means, but I hook up my computer to my TV every week so that my wife and I can watch Modern Family without having to squint at our computers.

    People do it all the time and just don’t know it by hooking up various devices to their TV’s:
    Gaming Consoles
    DVD/Blu Ray Player

    Obviously the people making this argument have never been to a college house party where the hosts set up their ipod to play through their TV speakers either 😛

  5. Tina Cipara says:

    Absolutely! I wouldn’t consider myself an IT professional either, yet we both are aware of the capabilities of the technologies around us. Perhaps this is something that is strictly applied to college students or the IT savvy and not necessarily generalizable, however, one day it may be the norm so it’s probably worth studying now.

    Btw, love Modern Family! I also stumbled upon Raising Hope this season and it’s actually pretty good. You and the Mrs. should check it out if you haven’t already!


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