February 22, 2013

Netflix and the House of Cards Release

Earlier this month Netflix released House of Cards. It is by far the highest profile original content Netflix has in its video streaming selection. They are pioneering the next generation of media consumption, and they are doing it in their own way. If you have 13 episodes of a show that you want the word to see, most networks would go about it just like it has been done for years; one episode a week. Netflix took a different approach. They put it all out there on day one and let you decide how to space it out.

There are probably positives to unleashing the House of Cards firehose in one big burst. For one, it feels different. Netflix doesn’t want to be thought of as just another network with decent content. They want to be original. They want to be new. Releasing an entire series at once is definitely new, and appeals to the subscriber who is going to sit down and binge on video content all weekend. We’ve all sat down and watched 5 episodes of Friday Night Lights in a sitting, and by flipping the switch on House of Cards they allowed some people to experience it that way if they choose.

Still, I would have loved to be in the meeting at Netflix HQ where they argured how they were going to put the series out there. There had to have been a pretty good justification for doing what they did, and I’d like to hear it.

There seems to be a lot more positives to the traditional “one per week” model of show running. That way everybody is in sync, and there is more opportunity for conversations to occur. Netflix has the added benefit of making all the previous episodes easily available. If they’d run a pilot episode and hooked some people in those folks would get on twitter and facebook and talk to their buddies at work about this new show. Everybody could go home and watch it then next week there would be a presumably larger audience ready to watch episode two. With the way they did it we are all left to our own devices. It is going to be extremely unlikely that people are watching the same episodes at the same time. It makes it really hard to have a conversation about a show when you’re all in different places in the timeline.

There was a ton of social media activity the first few days after House of Cards was released. Then it went away, and I don’t expect it to come back. There are definitely those who have finished the series, but I’d say they are in the minority. I’ve started it, but I’m not very far along. The vast majority of people that will eventually finish the series probably haven’t even started it yet. When each of those people decide to fire up episode one they are going to be on a solitary journey to the end. And that is all well and good. It just doesn’t seem to maximize the hype. Maybe Netflix doesn’t care about hype. I don’t know.

Regardless of how Netflix rolled out House of Cards the company isn’t going anywhere. They have showed they can make original content and they aren’t going to stop with one series. I mean, Arrested Development is going to be huge for them in 2013. I’m sure they’ve got something else up their sleeve to follow that up. GQ had an interesting article last week. Netflix is here to stay, and I’m willing to ride that $8 per month ship until it runs aground.

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