NBC Is Then. Netflix Is Now!

NBC Is Then. Netflix Is Now!


Leonard Zwelling

It’s the final full day for us at Banff and it has been a very busy meeting with lots of pitches about our scripts and many formal presentations and panel discussions.

This afternoon the final two panels convened and they could not have been more different or stark in contrast.

The various networks of NBC Universal talked about their strategy to continue broadcast television—that is channels on satellite and cable. This is called linear TV. The NBC leadership insists that the broadcast niche is here to stay. It makes more money than Over The Top TV (via the Internet) and brings viewers back for a collective experience and appointment TV. This is what people will be talking about around the water cooler the next day. HA!!

These guys are the dinosaurs of media. Their days are numbered.

The next panel was from Netflix. As tired as the NBC executives sounded and looked, the Netflix guys popped. One of them was none other than Eric McCormack of Will and Grace who has a new show on Netflix. But the audience didn’t want to hear poor Eric. They wanted to hear from the Netflix VP. He held the keys to the Emerald City for the young producers and writers who filled the audience at this session. How do I pitch to you, they all wanted to know?

The message was as clear as seeing a Model T next to a Ferrari. NBC and the broadcast model is yesterday. Once we Baby Boomers die off, and the Millenials take over, everything will be streamed. Everything will be available for binge watching. Everything will be available forever. Heck, if I use Netflix and Amazon, everybody eventually will and they will expect to have a wide range of choices with full seasons of content for viewing any time they wish. When Netflix drops a new show it is dropping all ten episodes to 190 million subscribers in many languages in dozens of countries simultaneously. How can NBC top that?

So what is the lesson for we doctors?


Like it or not, the electronic medical record is here to stay. I know it sucks and creates more work, but it may yet be harmonized with good medical care and the government may someday mandate interoperability making one’s records accessible from anywhere. It will happen. I know it’s just a billing system now, but soon enough you will be able to talk to it instead of typing. It’s only a matter of time.

Hospitalists, blood drawing teams, IV teams and all kinds of specialists will supplant the primary doctor in delivering in-patient care. It may not be what we knew as interns, but it too is here to stay.

Hospitals have to be run efficiently with fewer people, more machines and a greater attention to the bottom line than ever before. Like it or not, medicine is a business. It needs to be run like one.

Sooner or later, everyone will get care. Some sort of single payer system is inevitable once we learn from the various –omics that we are all at risk for something at birth and that death is a pre-existing condition that is going to catch up with everyone.

How we get care, where we get care and when the services of an academic institution will be needed, will eventually become clear. This will be true at MD Anderson and all the other specialty institutions in the Texas Medical Center and around the world.

Every academic center will have to decide if it is to be like NBC and deny the future or like Netflix and create it.

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