Watching the tube is no longer the only way people watch their favorite television
shows. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional route is still going strong (where does CBS
get all these viewers?), but new channels are opening. Slowly, the television world is
being turned on its head through the birth of digital services that offer streaming content
instantly. Be it recording shows through DVR or TiVo, or streaming movies and
television through HBO Go or Hulu, catching up on your favorite television show has
never been easier.
One of the biggest and most popular services is Netflix; a company that started
with DVDs delivered to homes through the mail, and is now fully focused on updating a
large library streaming content. As opposed to just a service that provides a path for
content to the consumer, the company just last year experimented with creating their own
“Lilyhammer”, a series about a New York gangster trying to start a new life in
Norway, debuted its first season on Netflix. Unlike traditional television, every episode
of the first season was released at the same time. Considered a success, Netflix decided to
commission another show with the help of executive producers David Fincher (The
Social Network) and Kevin Spacey (American Beauty). What they got is “House of
Cards”, a fresh take on politics in the nation’s capitol that has created much buzz since its
release last week.
“House of Cards” follows Congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) as
he ruthlessly conquers modern Washington, D.C. His wife Claire (Robin Wright) stands
by his side through thick and thin, even though she’s aware of his affair with journalist
Zoe Barnes (Kata Mara). Along for the ride is Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris) as Peter
Russo: a congressman who has a few problems with drugs and alcohol and owes some
loyalty to Francis. The world of politics has never been seen as fair or pleasant, and this
show shows its ugly side. But it’s entertaining throughout, and will probably be getting a
ton of Emmy attention later this year.
Netflix may have taken the first few steps in killing cable television. As someone
personally who enjoys binge watching a season or two in a couple days, there’s nothing
better than being able to play the next episode and not having to wait another week to
watch it. Later this year, Netflix will release the fourth season of the seven-year absent
“Arrested Development”, and should bring even more attention to the once-at-a-time
release strategy. Critics have questioned the business model of this strategy: if you
release a whole new season at once, will people still be talking about it a week later?
In ten years, could we see the death of basic cable and television premiers, as we
know it? I’m not sure. What I do know is that the future is coming fast, and with top-
notch content like “House of Cards” being produced directly for online streaming, a
chunk of the television business could be gone.
By E.J. Spangler