Netflix Gives New Life to TV Shows (And Why Nonprofits Should Care…)

October 26, 2017  |  Monthly Media Roundup

In the age of streaming services, standout television shows stick around after their finales by finding new homes on sites like Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and Amazon Prime. Making these shows available or keeping them accessible after their air dates not only extends their shelf life, but also engages new viewers.

The West Wing, an NBC political drama that ended in 2006, remains a Netflix staple with a serious fanbase. The West Wing Weekly, a podcast started by the show’s lead Joshua Malina, analyzes each episode, often adding political commentary or inviting guests (in this week’s episode, former Secretary of Education John King) to draw parallels to current events.

Knowing which shows stay popular past their premiere dates can help organizations keep tabs on which plotlines that address social issues are still enticing new audiences.

Consider a few of Netflix’s most “binge-able” shows

  • GLOW
    A comedy about a group of female wrestlers in the 1980’s, GLOW’s storylines about abortion and women’s rights provide “sharp commentary on gender and racial stereotypes.”
  • Master of None
    Aziz Ansari’s series reveals what it’s like to be a second generation immigrant in America and provides a space for typically marginalized stories. The “Thanksgiving” episode, about a young lesbian coming out to her mother, won an Emmy for comedy writing.
  • Orange Is The New Black
    A look inside America’s prison system, OITNB brought conversations about criminal justice reform, mental health, LGBTQ rights, subtance abuse, and the Black Lives Matter movement to a mainstream audience.
  • Atypical
    This coming-of-age comedy follows the life of a teenage boy on the autism spectrum.

Original Netflix shows aren’t the only ones being binge-watched. Recent reports from Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, reveal that Grey’s Anatomy, Shondaland’s breakout medical drama, garners 200,000 unique viewers each month on the streaming site, adding up to 2.4 million new viewers on Netflix each year. In the past, Grey’s has featured episodes about gun control, mental health, race relations and sexism in the workplace.

So what makes a show both bingeable and socially relevant? The answer may be availability, both from a logistical and storyline perspective. Take Riverdale, which airs on the CW, but then becomes available to watch on Netflix just eight days after the season finale.

An update on the Archie & Veronica comics, Riverdale plays on the expected tropes of an after-school special: love triangles, high school drama, and small town gossip. However, it also digs deeper, with a modern look at issues that affect young people like homelessness, substance abuse, slut shaming and gang violence.

Most likely due to its renaissance on the streaming site, Riverdale’s second season premiere doubled its audience to a stunning 2.3 million same-day viewers. Social impact organizations focused on supporting teens should tap into the show’s fan base by tweeting during episodes or blogging about plotlines relevant to their issue of interest. Due to its skyrocketing popularity, the Riverdale actors have become pop icons with a voice. Camila Mendes, who plays Veronica, recently spoke out via Instagram about her struggle with eating disorders and on her partnership with Project HEAL, an organization that provides funding to individuals unable afford treatment.

At AndACTION, we want to help nonprofits use pop culture to tap into new communities of supporters. Get in touch with us at info@andaction.org to talk about ways to connect with fans of the shows mentioned above, or to brainstorm another series on a streaming site that can lend a new voice to your work.

Oh, and we’ve heard rumors of an en especially exciting Riverdale episode coming this season. Stay tuned on our blog to hear more!