Netflix Challenges the Status Quo with House of Cards

February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


House of Cards

House of Cards

Over the past few days, I have been watching House of Cards on Netflix. My two cents… if you like smart political dramas in the style of The West Wing and Newsroom, then you will likely enjoy this.

However, as much as I am enjoying the show, I am fascinated by the implications of Netflix original content, pushing the whole show out at once, and how social and digital lifestyles are embedded into the fabric of the show.

Netflix Original Content: I have been fan of Netflix’s steaming service for a while and it has been a great platform to catch up on old shows. It is not robust enough to replace cable, but now is part of my stable of content providers. If Netflix continues to develop a relevant and fresh content library – along with first-class original content, they will probably have me as a customer for life. Moreover, at roughly the same cost or less than adding an HBO, Showtime or similar channel to an existing cable bill, Netflix can be complimentary versus competitive. While most consumers are not ready to give up cable, they may be ready to add a new type of channel to their line up. I think this is strong step in that direction and IPTV and entertainment platforms such as xBox only make it easier.

Pushing out the Complete Series: This is genius to me. Like others have noted this is very experimental, but not off the charts.  I have enjoyed for years watching shows in marathon format, but you can always tell how the show is designed around commercial breaks and episodes. While the episodic notion of House of Cards is very much there, the flow of the show is much improved. Furthermore, I think House of Cards does a good job with keeping segments of the show moving, than say Newsroom, which can feel a bit monotonous over the course of an hour.

Some folks are commenting that this style of release will have challenges around spoiler alerts, but those don’t watch TV in real time are already used to that. Others have commented that social TV watching  is not possible. Yes, that is true, but we really giving up anything by paying less attention to what we are watching so we can read clever quips from strangers. Lastly, I am hearing comments that House of Cards will not create weekly buzz the way other shows do. I think there is some credibility, however, producers might find more balance in seasonal buzz versus episode-to-episode buzz. Furthermore, I suspect that producers will come up with some hybrid models that release shows in quarter or half seasons to gain best of both worlds. Remember, we are experimenting here.

Embedded Social Context: Many shows about politics and news are quick to have the stereotypical blogger character, but this shows goes deeper. One of the main characters is not just blogging, but challenging the current publishing model and finding that a staid paper is not evolving fast enough.  The shows main political operator also recognizes this and uses the fresh face of emerging media to drive his own agenda. Of all the TV I have watched lately, House of Cards does the best job of highlighting new media models and the resistance of the press to change. I think this is noteworthy story line in the show. I would say more, but don’t want to be a spoiler.

So…check out the show if you like political dramas and check out Netflix if you were waiting for a good excuse to add a new channel to your line up. Would love to hear any thoughts.

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