Over the years, scholars started to deny the idea that people with a high social status solely value complex culture because of their high cultural capital. People developed a taste for a variety of cultural forms; both ‘highbrow’ and ‘lowbrow’. This, for instance, has led to a reappraisal of television. One of the reasons that has set this change in motion is the emergence of streaming services. These popular platforms offer a greater variety in television, and among these streaming services is Netflix. Through high production values and technological advancement, Netflix aims to offer what scholars have introduced as ‘quality television’. The term has been increasingly used in television studies regarding linear television content, but how do viewers perceive ‘quality television’ on a streaming service? This study explores how Dutch Netflix viewers with different levels of cultural capital experience ‘quality television’ on Netflix. Relatively few researchers have investigated the concept of ‘quality television’ on streaming platforms, which makes this thesis relevant and a contribution to existing literature. Using semi-structured interviews, 12 Netflix viewers, both male and female between the ages of 22 and 78, were interviewed. They were asked about their opinions on ‘bad’ and ‘good’ television content and their experience with Netflix. To investigate these opinions and experiences, theoretical knowledge is included in the theoretical framework of this thesis that focuses on the traditional cultural capital theory, the concept of emerging cultural capital, ‘quality television’ from a viewer’s perspective, and Netflix as a quality platform. These theories serve as a fundament for this thesis. The analysis provided four significant themes that arose from the data. The first theme shows that the higher educated are more culturally omnivorous as they have a broad range of preferred genres to choose from, while the lower educated are limited in their preferences. The second theme indicates the higher educated as ‘camp viewers’ as they admit enjoying watching ‘bad’ television programming. The third theme shows that Netflix viewers value content that matches their interests which is determined by their preferences, content or genre diversity, and innovation. Furthermore, the freedom to choose anything, at any time and any place, and Netflix’s substantive usability enhance the viewing experience among Netflix viewers. This is indicated as the fourth theme of this thesis. Finally, the last theme explains the controversy of ‘good television’ versus ‘quality television’ through the value judgments of the audience about the technical characteristics of television. In summary, it can be concluded that the concept of ‘quality television’ is predominantly used among scholars rather than viewers to indicate a specific category of television, but viewers do not directly label television as ‘quality television’ when they assess the content as ‘good’. Both groups evaluate television based on their preferences and interests, but also on their needs and personal moods. According to them, Netflix is considered a high-quality platform, but Netflix’s reputation among viewers is on thin ice due to its lack of innovation and oversaturation, but also due to the emergence of other ‘quality’ streaming services.

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Prof.dr. Marc Verboord
Media & Creative Industries
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Sanne Verhoef. (2022, June 27). ‘Quality Television’ on Netflix: Uncovering the Dynamics of Cultural Capital in Television Viewing on Netflix.. Media & Creative Industries. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/65078