• All-you-can-eat, instant viewing: Netflix debuts HOUSE OF CARDS -


    With the debut of HOUSE OF CARDS, a new political drama directed by David Fincher and starring Kevin Spacey, Netflix has made life a whole lot easier for all those marathon TV viewers out there.

    No need to wait for a couple of episodes to air, or an entire series for that matter, before getting your friends together for a binge viewing party.   

    No. Thanks to Netflix, now all you need is the time it takes to watch the thirteen-hour (or so) series. That’s because Netflix has made all thirteen episodes available at the get go.

    With HOUSE OF CARDS you don’t have to wait for the season to unfold, week to week. And, you don’t have to tune into the networks or cable TV. All you have to do is sit back, fire up Netflix, anytime you want, anywhere you want, and get ready to feast on all-you-can-eat instant viewing from day one.

    The storyline, based on a BBC mini-series and considered perhaps a bit risque for the networks, or even for cable TV,  is described by Netflix as,

    Bad, for a greater good. Ruthless and cunning, Congressman Francis Underwood (Oscar® winner Kevin Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) stop at nothing to conquer everything. This wicked political drama penetrates the shadowy world of greed, sex, and corruption in modern D.C. Kate Mara (AMERICAN HORROR STORY) and Corey Stoll (MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) costar in the first original series from David Fincher (THE SOCIAL NETWORK) and Beau Willimon (THE IDES OF MARCH).

    Journalist Liz Shannon Miller assigned herself the challenge of watching the entire first season of HOUSE OF CARDS marathon style when Netflix first made the series available on February 1, 2013. Feeling the need to take a few breaks, it took her eighteen hours to watch all thirteen episodes.

    Miller soon discovered that this kind of all-you-can-eat viewing is not without its drawbacks. She writes,

    People have called the series a game-changer for Netflix, the subscription service’s equivalent to AMC’s Mad Men or HBO’s THE SOPRANOS. But I’m not convinced that substituting the buzz that those shows acquire over the course of a season for the buzz of binge-viewing will pay off. It’s hard to watch television this way. Especially a show as dark and serious as HOUSE OF CARDS is.

    If it wasn’t for the challenge of the assignment, to be honest, I don’t think I’d have gulped down HOUSE OF CARDS in a day. It’s heavy stuff, without much levity, and as mentioned above I think there are elements of it that I would have enjoyed more with a little distance and time.

    That said, as the credits rolled on Episode 13, this was my first thought: “When does Season 2 start?” (Liz Shannon Miller, paidContent, 2/1/13)

    So what’s going on?

    It’s been reported that Netflix has already invested over $100 million in original programming and plans to invest a lot more over the coming years. The resulting slate of new, original shows set to roll out in 2013 includes titles such as ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, HEMLOCK GROVE, and Ricky Gervais’s DEREK as well as a revived version of Arrested Development and a second season of LILYHAMMER.

    The price tag for taking the plunge into original programming has not been cheap. The first season of HOUSE OF CARDS alone cost about $50 million and Netflix guaranteed the producers at least two seasons upfront. That’s $100 million pledged for just one show. One can only hope for Netflix’s sake that the buzz for House of Cards is good.

    Joris Evers, a Netflix spokesman, described the company’s move into original programming,

    “Part of our goal is to become like HBO faster than HBO can become Netflix … Perhaps people saw us in the past as a distributor, or aggregator. We want to have an experience that cannot be replicated by our competitors.”  (Julianne Pepitone, CNN Money, 2/1/13)

    According to Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings,

    “We are on the cusp of something that will change television forever … Our view is that over the next couple of years as Internet TV really grows, people will look back and say that this was the turning point.”

    Hastings, 52, is placing big financial bets to secure Netflix’s future as the dominant player as more viewers move online. He says efforts like HOUSE OF CARDS and the revived ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT cement relationships in Hollywood and help fend off competitors like Amazon.com Inc. Netflix’s Silicon Valley roots analyzing viewer habits also give it an edge as cable channels like HBO move online, he said.

    “Relative to HBO, we’re much deeper on the tech side, and relative to Amazon, we’re much deeper on the creative side,” Hastings said. “We’re able to do more and more calculations and big-data statistics so that what we do is represent Netflix more and more as a place where you come for relaxation, escape.” (Cliff Edwards, Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/1/13)

    Clearly, Netflix is taking a lot of financial risks by experimenting with original content and trying new kinds of business arrangements with content developers–all to insure that the company beats out its competitors, not to mention the more traditional players, as the fight to stay on top of the rapidly evolving tastes and viewing habits of the TV/internet audience heats up. Only time will tell who survives intact.

    Beau Willimon, the showrunner behind HOUSE OF CARDS, sums up the reasoning behind Netflix’s decision to make the entire series available upfront,

    “We looked at all sorts of different models, but decided that was the best way to go … That’s what the Netflix experience is—putting the choice in the audience’s hands: how they want to watch it, when they want to watch it, and in what chunks they want to watch it. That was the best way to exploit what they have to offer that no one else does, which is your personalized viewing experience.” (Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, 2/1/13)

    Why not check it out?