So, Netflix is moving into the content generation business with the news that it has picked up the Kevin Spacey/David Fincher series House of Cards. But… what does that actually mean?
In some ways, Netflix getting into making shows – or, really, purchasing first-use rights, as the show is actually being produced by Media Rights Capital – feels like it’s something that should have happened already. In terms of Video on Demand in the US, Netflix is untouchable, owning 60% of the market and with 20 million subscribers. Surely something of that size should’ve already branched out into original content by now, judging by the way these things generally go? That’s where the (greater sums of) money is, after all.
(It’s also a way to lure reluctant bodies to finally give in and subscribe. Sure, you could use Redbox and Hulu and other DVD or VoD platforms to get the same content as Netflix right now, but House of Cards, a new series from David Fincher and Kevin Spacey? Only one place will have that, and if you’re a fan of either gentleman, suddenly $10 a month doesn’t seem that bad, right? Win win, as I’m sure someone would argue.)
Content generation is clearly on a lot of minds in the VoD world recently, with AOL and YouTube both said to be making multi-million dollar deals for celebrity-produced and -curated content. It’s an odd, and overdue, shift, as if the novelty of watching things online has finally worn off to the point where what those things are becomes important again. It was always going to get to this point – content almost always comes out on top online – and the question now becomes who has the best content, and how easily it can become successful. All signs point to AOL and YouTube having a leg-up on that last part, with their focus going towards shorter video that’s embeddable in other locations, which raises an interesting question about House of Cards: How will Netflix promote the series?
Previously, Netflix hasn’t had to promote anything other than Netflix; it had no particular vested interest, for one thing, and no real reason to. Sure, other producers used the mailing envelopes to advertise things, but Netflix will have to go outside of that audience to market their new show, which will be a new experience for them. Something that’ll be interesting to watch will be the second life of the show. Will Netflix sell second-run television rights to a network, a la DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights deal with NBC? It’d make sense, both in terms of making some money out of the show – it’d not like Netflix will sell advertising in the middle of each episode – and promoting the show to non-Netlfix subscribers, but is that worth losing the exclusivity?
(Similarly: Will the series be released on DVD? Will the show be released on VoD from other sites if/when it is?)
That Netflix would eventually invest in and premiere content was almost inevitable; what is more open to question, and probably more interesting, is what it does with the content now that it owns it. Keeping things insular may seem like a smart move for the brand, but it also strikes me as short-term thinking. Netflix has spent years making smart deals for other people’s content; this is the time when it should start making equally smart deals for its own.
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