Friday, 14 February 2014

Question: I still think Netflix's business model is overrated, don't you?

Friday, 14 February 2014

It's a year since Netflix released the first season of House of Cards, and it was most people's first experience with their unique business model: simultaneous, instantaneous, global distribution of every episode to subscribers. It was a game-changer for lots of people, as the idea of an on-demand streaming service creating big-budget, award-winning drama would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. 2013 belonged to Netflix in many ways; at least in terms of their ability to become a talking point in media circles.

And that chatter continues into 2014, thank to blogs such as this one. However, this time it's a year later and we've had time to live with the model; seeing where it worked, failed, and cause issues. In terms of the actual content, most disliked Netflix's horror series Hemlock Grove, and Arrested Development's long-awaited revival got mixed reviews. Orange is the New Black was a surprise hit with Netflixers, but I don't hear anyone in "real life" talking about that prison drama. It seems to be more of an American thing.

Netflix have more big projects in the pipeline (including the Wachowski's Sense8 and some Marvel-produced superhero dramas), but as HoC season 2 launched today, what are your thoughts about Netflix's release strategy right now? Did it work for you last year? Will it work again, or has the novelty worn off?

Me? I'm totally behind the idea of TV shows being accessible globally and instantly, as that helps everyone avoid spoilers in this "global village" of ours, while dramatically curbing online piracy. But I'm still unsure about the way Netflix drops 13 hours of drama in your lap, instantly. It just doesn't work for me. I miss the days spent digesting something between episodes, and theorising with friends about the latest developments, or gossiping about amazing twists and turns. I also don't like how some people can wind up being hours ahead of you, if they have more spare time. This kills conversation and can result in accidental spoilers (as you forget other people aren't as committed or speedy in their viewing). In some ways Netflix have turned television into a book club, only without its "readers" agreeing to reach Chapter X by a certain day.

HoC did what it was designed to do last year, and then surpassed expectations by winning Emmy awards, but how did you watch it? In a weekend? A week? Over a month? Four months? Did you stop watching it halfway through? If so, was that because the background "buzz" that subconsciously prods you to keep watching a TV show disappeared a fortnight after its release? Let's face it: few people were talking about HoC in late-March on Twitter and Facebook, and things stayed that way until awards season dawned.

I'm just interested in what people genuinely think, having they've had a whole year with HoC at your fingertips. Maybe you gave it a whirl using their Free Trial?

Do you know people who only signed up with Netflix to watch its original content? Does a "communal experience" mean nothing for most subscribers, who are happiest watching something their own pace months after release?

Are the only people who care about this stuff all paid or passionate media commentators? Does the ordinary "man on the street" jump for joy at the prospect of a whole season of House of Cards becoming available on Valentine's Day, as their lives don't bring them into contact with online spoilers?

Your thoughts welcome in the comments below, and/or by voting in my embedded Poll (if it's working):