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Will Netflix’s Original Programming Initiative Doom Traditional TV Shows?

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.

Netflix's CCO is optimistic about this bold move.

Netflix’s CCO is optimistic about this bold move.

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?

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  1. Scooby DOO!

    I was pretty Tee-d off that netflix was not working last night, but holding down that aggession; i am all for movie american “idol”. Like the show, there will be tons of crap, but i’ll be excited to see high quality videos with the youtube-like feel.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      An “American Idol” movie? Are they planning on doing that?

  2. Jill Tooley

    I’m rooting for Netflix no matter what endeavor they strive for (unless it’s anti-kittens or something, in which case I’m out). I’ve been a subscriber for years and they’ve never once let me down. Their customer service is excellent, their selection is massive, and they’re working on improving their streaming content selection more and more each month. Plus, I don’t even have traditional TV anymore, so any shows I watch are from Netflix discs/streaming in the first place…so yeah, I’ll be watching House of Cards when it comes out. Kevin Spacey and David Fincher are just the cherries on top of the sundae!

    I don’t know if this Netflix show will affect traditional TV right away, but I strongly believe it’ll have an impact as it gains momentum. There are lots of haters out there right now who say that this is a dumb move on Netflix’s part, but I disagree. If the show is any good, then they’ll pick up subscribers and probably produce more original shows as well. And that’s an exciting thought for a Netflix fan like me. The times are changing, and I have a feeling that all-online shows are the next big thing! 🙂

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I feel the same way. The convenience of watching television shows in the form of streaming video is obviously a huge draw for many consumers, myself included. I have the utmost faith that the producers of the show (in conjunction with Netflix) will deliver an amazing program in an accessible fashion.

  3. JPorretto

    Ooooohhhh…. a political drama. Me likey. Director of Social Network, which was written by Aaron Sorkin, who created/ wrote The West Wing, which is my favorite all-time show. If that has any influence on the show whatsoever I’ll be a devoted follower!

    Now, I don’t think Netflix or streaming will ever “Kill” TV. Just like I don’t think Kindle will ever kill Books. I think they all will co exist in their markets, and that people like having both options. I personally LOVE subscription programming. You pay for what you want, not hundreds of channels you never watch. $9 a month for the “Netflix Station” is a STEAL! I think regular ol’ TV providers may have to re-strategize their structure eventually, but I don’t see it a apocalyptic by any means.

    • Jill Tooley

      I don’t know…I have my doubts about the longevity of traditional books and television. At the rate we’re going, new technology is going to keep replacing older technology until there’s only one route to go. Especially with print books vs. ebooks…it’s just not profitable for publishers to continue producing paper copies anymore and I have a feeling that’s only going to get worse as time goes on. More and more authors are finding out that they can make MORE money self-publishing ebooks and setting their own prices instead of going through publishing houses. TV will take a hell of a lot longer to change dramatically, but eventually all TV will probably be all online instead of network-based. Netflix’s initiative may not doom the industry right away, but it might if we fast-forward to years from now. Who knows, we might even be old fogies by then, but it’ll happen someday…mark my words!

      Before long, we’ll be in rockers and cursing all of these crazy new inventions… 😉

      • Joseph Giorgi

        “Those whippersnappers with their Kindle 6s and their iPad 17s and their and 8G Wireless Networks! They don’t know how lucky they are!”


      • JPorretto

        Well MAYBE in the future the e-versions will be the lead, and the successful ones get turned into the paper version?? I just don’t feel like physical books will ever completely die.

        • Tammi Kibler

          I am rooting for books. I just can’t believe every mother in America (or beyond) will bank her child’s literacy on batteries and power sources. I mean, what are we saying? Every baby needs a Kindle?

          I raised kids in the hand held electronic game era and their game play was often limited by the batteries I could afford. Do we want a world where only affluent children will be able to read as much as they want, wherever they happen to be?

          Gosh, go ahead and quit printing books if necessary, but please store the copies we have for people who think bigger than their wallets.

          Sorry, that sounds a little more whiny and sarcastic than I actually feel, but I think there are many issues ignored in the book/e-book debate. I believe we will see coexistence for a long time. I sat in airports for hours this month and it didn’t matter to me because I had hard copies of Steig Larsson and Wally Lamb on hand. Real books that don’t lose power and can’t interfere with takeoff still matter to me.

          I love the internet, but I’ve loved books all my life.

          • Jill Tooley

            I’m rooting for books too, Tammi! Trust me…as cool as the Kindle is, I will never make the switch unless I absolutely have no other choice. Part of the appeal of books (at least to me) is their display factor, and I couldn’t put my e-book collection on shelves…

            Yesterday I found out that a school near me is planning to furnish grade-school-age kids with iPads for learning purposes. I don’t even have an iPad, so that sounded nuts to me! My mind is boggled every day by these advancements, but it’s either get with the times or get left behind, unfortunately. 🙁

    • Joseph Giorgi

      It’ll be interesting to see what kind of writer they hire for the show. Hopefully someone as talented as Sorkin, if not Sorkin himself. Didn’t he just get the Oscar for his “Social Network” script?

      As far as streaming video killing TV—I honestly don’t know if it will happen or not, but I love to think about how dramatic a change it would be. TVs (and computers) won’t be around forever, and it’s just cool to think about how advancing technologies are changing media as a whole.

      • JPorretto

        Technically speaking, My UVerse cable box is an internet streaming device. It just happens to have a menu and channels.

  4. Bret Bonnet

    I am SUPER excited for Netflix, but at the same time, there are OTHER elements at play here…

    High definition videos are quite large to download/stream. Broadband providers like Comcast and Time Warner are starting to throttle people and give preferential treatment to their OWN competing on-demand video services to that of Netflix. Not only that, a majority of internet access is going towards metered access; meaning just like your phone – you’ll be paying as you go and NO LONGER RECIEVE UNLIMITED INTERNET.

    Netflix can have the best product and the best content, but if the ISPs (internet service providers) get their way, Netflix will fail no matter how hard it tries.

    Comcast just bought NBC; I bet Netflix will be next.

    • JPorretto

      I just read that the other day, and it’s very disturbing. I guess technically its fair to charge the people who use the most bandwidth more, but it’s sure not a kind gesture towards their regular customers.

      Nice Post BTW, you really got me talking today!

      • Amanda Sneed

        Same here! Awesome post! =)

        When compared to cell phones–it does make sense for companies to charge their customers for internet use according to the usage, but I’m sure even then there will be an unlimited option like there is with cell phones now.

        But as more people continue to get more technical–I think we are going to continue to see the price of internet use, phone use, etc. drop. Hopefully eventually it will be somewhat cheap to have an unlimited cell phone and unlimited internet use! =) I sure hope so anyway.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Wow, it’s really a shame to think that the ISPs will take complete advantage of our internet dependency like that. I’d hate to see Netflix fail because of the politics involved in online media.

  5. Kyle

    It’ll be VERY interesting to see how this move by Netflix will impact the distribution of “TV” shows. I love the convenience of streaming content, even though I let my Netflix subscription expire a few months ago. If Netflix continues to offer exclusive, but more importantly GOOD, content then I may reconsider subscribing to Netflix once again.

    Come on Netflix… Keep the incentives coming! I need more reasons to re-subscribe! 🙂

  6. Amanda Sneed

    I agree—great blog topic! I really like Netflix, I’ve been a member for a few years now, and overall I think it’s pretty great. My husband, however, is not as impressed with them. He thinks that their tv commercials are misleading, saying that you can watch unlimited tv shows and movies instantly for $8 a month. Their commercials are true, as you can watch unlimited items online, but they certainly don’t have every movie or tv show available yet. We can usually find something good to watch instantly, but it’s not close to the selection we would like to see.

    As far as Netflix replacing tv completely, I’m with Jeff, I’m not sure if this will ever happen. But who knows….it has happened a lot in the past with items they thought we’d never get rid of! I’d be ok with it as long as the selection with Netflix had everything tv does; and as long as it was easier to connect to a tv…because we are not huge fans of watching movies on the laptop, and we don’t have a game system. And it’s still not super easy to hook up to a tv.

    Plus, I’m wondering how many people will miss the commercials and the brainless flipping through channels. Some people do enjoy the commercials, and the channel flipping, well, some people enjoy that too. And for me personally, sometimes when I have unlimited choices (such as channels and movies), I find it harder to choose. So if we went to 100% online with Netflix, rather than tv, I think I’d have a hard time deciding what to watch, or even thinking of what to watch….sometimes the brainless channel flipping and watching random shows is fun, and the best way to find something new. But then again, we would most likely get used to it, like everything else, and eventually not miss that.

    All in all, Netflix is awesome though…it is going to be great to not have to buy individual dvds in the future, because they’ll all be instant, but it’s going to take time.

    Again–great blog! =)

    • Tammi Kibler

      You remind me that’s what I miss most about the library, I used to be able to walk the aisles and stumble upon topics I had never imagined would interest me.

      I miss the card catalog where I could look up a keyword and find tangential topics. Or at least I could use the Dewey decimal system to find related books on the shelf that maybe didn’t use the same keywords.

      With internet search you have to know what you seek.

      I think you are correct that some people will miss channel browsing. I know I would never have searched to watch an episode of Law & Order. I resisted the siren call of that opening bit “In the war on crime…” for over a decade, but I fell on an episode on A&E in 2001 and it became my favorite television show.

      Maybe Netflix can simulate this if they develop some sort of one click sampling so you don’t have to bounce back to a menu between “channels”.

      • Amanda

        Thanks for the comment Tammi!

        I really hope that books, e-readers, Netflix, and traditional tv can co-exist for a long while still. I will want my kids to use real books in school for sure! =) And my husband and I are always checking out new shows by channel flipping.

  7. Catherine Lockey

    I’m very happy with Netflix and am thrilled they’re taking the lead in intranet program offerings. This is the kind of digital option I’ve been waiting for.

    • Jill Tooley

      Me too, Catherine. I’m anxious to see what this will bring as it gathers some steam. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  8. Juliette

    I’m with Jill in that I LOVE Netflix. I haven’t had traditional television in 8 years and I’ve been happy with Netflix for the past 3 years to fill in the gaps. I don’t think it will replace traditional television and the networks, but it does add some competition, which is fine with me.

    My big concern is with the recent data caps that many companies are putting on internet usage. I was excited about my plan to finally get a blu-ray player and start streaming Netflix to my television but now I’m wondering how the caps will affect that plan…

    • Jill Tooley

      I didn’t even know about the data caps until Bret said something on here. That’s total crap! I’m going to be one sad panda if I can’t watch my “stories”! 😉

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