TV junkies get their fix through Netflix
Question: How does one overdose on their favourite TV series’? Answer (up until now): Buy the DVD box sets or order them as premium customers off internet streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon. Everything was good in the game except for one teensy weensy thing – the subscribers of the actual channels these shows originally aired on were the first to enjoy them. The new answer: Netflix, as it steps into the unchartered territory of airing original programming starting with the Kevin Spacey starrer ‘House of Cards’ which also has David Fincher on the roster as executive producer. According to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, this is the move that home entertainment history will look back on and call it the “turning point” when the game changed entirely.
Where all the players stand currently
With a move like this, Netflix is directly challenging the Television. That is an industry where cable giants have their own frontrunner shows that compete fiercly against each other – AMC has its ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Breaking Bad’, Showtime has this year’s Golden Globe winner ‘Homeland’, while HBO has surely hooked on audiences for the next eight years with ‘Game of Thrones’, the TV adaptation of George RR Martin’s fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Even Public television channels like PBS has its own white horse ‘Downton Abbey’. But the game is definitely changing. Amazon has obtained exclusive rights to the next season of Downton Abbey for next year. With the Downton deal by Amazon and Netflix’s gamble of producing its own show which costs them $50 million dollars each season, the stakes in this race are pretty darn high.
“It’s strictly business.” – Michael Corleone
If you’re still fretting over why I call the audience ‘junkies’, here’s the explanation. In all those mafia films, the drug which causes the most bloodshed is the one that sells the most. When Michael Corleone talks about killing Virgil Sollozzo, the entire family calls it a stupid idea but then he convinces them otherwise saying how that would open up the drug business. In AMC’s highly popular Breaking Bad, Walter White shows us how the going gets good once you produce your own product. I’m not saying ‘House of Cards’ is crystal meth, but you do see where this is going, right? Reed Hastings knows that if he wants to usher in what he calls the ‘future of TV’, what he would need is a show that is a trump card. ‘House of Cards’, although a fairly expensive show, has been accepted well by both critics and everyday subscribers. What remains to be seen is how it fairs against the already big titles in TV Drama.
Thin line between bingeing and overdosing
Another concern that remains to be addressed is – will binge viewing (all 13 episodes of House of Cards will be released on Netflix on the same day) be seen as a welcome change? It’s no secret that we, the viewers, are an impatient lot. The wait for the next episode of shows like Homeland, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, etc. makes people rant about their impatience on platforms like Twitter and Facebook and even in the physical realm. The entire season in one sitting is what many aim for with services like Netflix and Hulu. But then again, we, as people spoilt by these amazing TV shows, have really short attention spans. Once that one season session of House of Cards gets over, who’s to say people won’t run back to prime time cable TV? After all, we remember David Simon’s ‘The Wire’ as arguably the best TV show ever but when it originally aired on HBO, the ratings of the show, were average. The 33 million subscribers Netflix currently boasts of, will surely need new fodder, and that is when the true test will reveal itself. For now, we, the viewers are the clear winners; I’m not too sure if Netflix shares the same podium yet.