House of Cards isn’t technically Netflix’s first full season release of new programming but it is the first high profile one. With the release of the Kevin Spacey political drama one has to wonder what the future of TV truly is. I became obsessed with this show and barreled through the entire 13 episode season in just a few days. I know that probably isn’t the norm, or is it? A large majority of people that I talk to tell me that they “marathon” entire seasons, or at least huge chunks of seasons of shows on Netflix. So the old idea of a season of a show lasting a number of weeks congruent with the number of episodes could be going the way of the dodo bird. I find myself having viewers’ remorse now because I could be waiting as much as a full year before season two of the show hits the streaming service.
So now I wonder if the Netflix approach to scripted material takes hold what is the future of consumption? Netflix will be offering a full season of a new series each month for the next three months. Are they hoping that we’ll just move to the new show from month to month? I find myself hungry for new content on Netflix more often than I like already. I enjoy watching documentaries via the service and am constantly frustrated when I pull up the new additions to the service and don’t see anything new to watch. Looking for new release fiction is almost not worth doing although there are a few surprises here and there, most notably the fairly fast move that Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol made to Netflix. As far as the new shows coming in the next two months go they are quite a bit different than House of Cards so if you aren’t someone who enjoys a lot of variety in your TV diet you’ll definitely be yearning for season 2.
If I were a betting man I’d wager that this form of releasing projects by Netflix is only a stop gap solution while technology catches up to the streaming giant. They have often said that they want to be the next HBO. An executive went so far as to say in a GQ article that Netflix was getting closer to becoming HBO faster than HBO is to becoming Netflix. It’s easy to see the potential for Netflix to move to live streaming episodes of new shows. So, each week they’d live stream a new show and immediately afterwards make it available for streaming. Microsoft has been dipping its toe in this area with the XBOX 360 off and on for some time. If this is the direction Netflix goes it would be disappointing because I’m looking for innovation, for a new paradigm to continue.
It could simply be possible that the company plans to just bring us a lot of content, offering up something new to watch every month for a given number of months crafting their own “Season”. That could absolutely be interesting although again you’d need a pretty open pallet for programming as they already have the political drama one month, a horror based series the next month, and a quirky comedy the final month. Whatever the future holds the company is doing one thing right: building an audience to follow them on the adventure. They had us with their streaming movies and previous seasons of network and cable shows and they’re keeping us with big name producers, stars, and series that already had a cult following before moving to the service. It’s a fascinating time to be following media because the possibilities for streaming and Netflix as an independent network are history making.
The problem that remains is that Netflix’ success rests so heavily on companies that are also competition. High speed internet is gripped by companies that also have some involvement in traditional TV broadcast so they’d rather not see Netflix succeed. Their answer is to govern internet speeds and bandwidth usage. These companies also hold a great deal of control over Netflix catalog titles of TV shows and movies. Starz for example freaked out when House of Cards was announced and decided not to renew its contract with Netflix meaning that Starz owned programming would be disappearing from the service. This was sort of a big loss for Netflix because they were getting Starz original programming right after it had aired on the pay service. So subscribers to Netflix could see Party Down and Spartacus without subscribing to Starz. Other distributors also dropped out of Netflix in the aftermath of the announcement about House of Cards. Netflix has recently answered back with exclusivity deals with Disney among others. The true future of Netflix resides in the back end, the connection speeds and bandwidth. If the company can partner with someone like Google, who is working on their own independent high speed internet access, they may be unstoppable.
The question still remains, how will we consume media in the future? Will we eventually go back to seasonal viewing via live streaming or is getting entire seasons in blocks the way of the future?