House of Cards: Is Netflix the new model for TV entertainment?

Today Hollywood welcomed a new power player to the business. No longer are the network titans like Fox, ABC, HBO, CBS etc or the big stars and production houses those that hold the most valuable TV and entertainment properties. Netflix’s market disruption achieved one of its greatest feats yet with the made-for-web series House of Cards winning the Best Director in a Drama Series Emmy; the first for a made-for-web series.

Directed by Seven and Fight Club director David Fincher and headlined by American Beauty star Kevin Spacey, the win is representative not only of a strong and talented team, but is also represents a significant shift in how media consumption is changing worldwide. No longer is quality content being held to ransom, drip fed and held for broadcast at a set time week by week. Consumers are seeking content on their terms – Content delivered when they want (on-demand), to whichever device they choose, in and “all you can eat” style servings. Audiences are binging on content and watching not only an episode at a time, but a series in a sitting; immersing themselves in the dramatic worlds and characters of these stories.

The Netflix generation started its content binging by flocking to services like BitTorrent, downloading series-long content to enjoy all at once, or defying the geographical bounds of broadcasters and taking content unavailable to them by traditional media week by week. This method just happens to be illegal, but the audience is doing what it feels is necessary to get the content that they want. Netflix has been converting this generation to legitimate, legal media consumption via its streaming service, which finds its audience insights (and in turn makes its content licensing decisions) via monitoring content popularity via illegal downloading trends. By understanding what audiences want, Netflix is slowly changing user behaviour towards its service as a legitimate and legal means to enjoy this content.

House of Cards star Kevin Spacey spoke at the recent Edinburgh International Television Festival with a keynote that shook traditional media players by the shoulders and described the arrival of a new age of media consumption where the audience is dictating the rules of content and consumption. The social web went wild with support for his comments.

Talking about the interest of traditional media networks when House of Cards was pitched Spacey said, “Every single one was interested in the idea, but every single one wanted us to make a pilot first…It wasn’t out of arrogance that we weren’t interested in auditioning the story, it was that we wanted to tell a story that would take a long time to tell”. With network business models depending on ratings and advertiser support week by week, Spacey recognised the limitations of such a model for such a different style of series. When ratings fall or fail to peak within just a few episodes, traditional media networks would shift a show to a less favorable timeslot and let it fade into obscurity. Netflix offered a different opportunity.

“Netflix was the only network that said we believe in you. We’ve run our data and it says our audience would watch this series”.

Data delivering the insights as to whether we’d prefer to watch? Data insights isn’t just fodder for the geeks and number crunchers anymore. The data derived from the behaviours and engagement of online audience is driving the evolution of Netflix’s on-demand platform and guiding what content is not only curated through content deals, but also what content Netflix is investing in to create their own exclusive, web-only content. Success stories like House of Cards.

“Clearly the success of the Netflix model proved one thing. The audience wants control,” Spacey said. This control is what is what traditional media players are finding so hard to relinquish, with this “on-demand” generation flocking to services like Netflix and Hulu for the content they want and when they want it. Wherever in the world they might live.

If you’ve not yet invested in a US VPN subscription, consider this your wake up call to experience the real possibilities of this clever entertainment industry disruptor and sign up to the Netflix service.

Watch Kevin Spacey’s keynote speech below and let us know – Do these comments reflect your media consumption habits? Do you watch on-demand and by downloading; bypassing the TV schedule to enjoy what you want when you want? Share your experiences below!

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One response to “House of Cards: Is Netflix the new model for TV entertainment?

  1. Pingback: #SXSW2014: Hollywood is looking to Silicon Valley to guide its evolution from traditional to “new” media | Conversation by Design·

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