For the past couple of weeks, after a move we should have seen coming for quite some time, Netflix has been making considerable waves. “But Netflix is always in the news, so why waste time blogging about them?” you’re probably asking. Well, the waves are BIG this time.
The online video rental service has extended the scope of its content considerably, announcing that it recently licensed the rights to an original program called House of Cards. The show will be an episodic drama starring Kevin Spacey—with David Fincher (The Social Network) on board to direct. So, it’s a “television show,” right? Well, here’s the short answer: no.
According to a New York Times article, the show is a “serialized political drama [that] will look and feel like a traditional TV show, but…will not be distributed that way.” Netflix has purchased exclusive rights to the show, which means that you’ll have to be a Netflix subscriber to view it. To be specific, the online video service has purchased the rights to an initial batch of 26 full episodes, in a deal rumored to be worth somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million. Forgive me if I sound clichéd, but that’s a whole new ballgame!
Given that Netflix has amassed an army of subscribers now over 20 million strong, the show shouldn’t have too much trouble finding an audience (provided that Netflix does its job in marketing the program), but that’s not really what’s important here. What’s worth looking into is the fact that, until now, television networks have been the traditional means of exhibition for original programming of this nature. A show like this would normally air on either a premium or cable channel before being made available on sites like Netflix and in retail stores nationwide. Well, starting with House of Cards, that’s officially not the case any longer. In bypassing televised exhibition entirely, the show will usher in a new beginning of sorts for original content of its kind.
Netflix is obviously no stranger to providing highly popular televised content. It already offers hundreds of TV shows, many of which can be viewed instantly by subscribers across a number of platforms. The BIG change here is that Netflix has acquired the new program independently (before the show has even begun filming), which, in one fell swoop, makes the company a heavy-hitter in a much broader entertainment arena.
The Chief Content Officer at Netflix is understandably optimistic about the company’s future in entertainment, according to the above article. He admits that only “a couple [of] years ago, this would be completely unheard of,” and acknowledges that “Netflix has become a real, legitimate entertainment brand in the eyes of both consumers and content creators.”
Truth be told, he’s right. Ultimately, the company is taking the first step in establishing itself as a more-than-capable contender in the grander scheme of things. They’ve already hinted that they’ll consider making similar deals in the future, triggering speculation as to whether channels like HBO and Showtime are becoming a thing of the past.
Look at it this way:
Did you really think that TV shows were always going to be called “TV” shows? Sorry, it’s all about the intranet these days (yeah, I said “intranet”—and I just did it again). While the conventional broadcasting method is obviously not going to change anytime soon, it’s interesting to think that a profound change is at least underway. With the distribution model of the music industry still in flux, it’s easy to see how film and television may follow in the same vein, perhaps sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that the number of people who stream video online has almost doubled since last year, and the number will most likely double again before long.
As always, we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out. Between now and the eventual release of House of Cards in late 2012, things will probably quiet down a bit. But if the show takes off, expect Netflix to follow-up swiftly on its success by offering more exclusive content. And expect other companies to follow suit with similar, online-only programs.
What do you think about this Netflix initiative? Will you make a point to watch House of Cards?