I’ve started watching Netflix’s new original show, House of Cards. I’m only ~2 episodes in; it’s rough in some places, but I like it. It definitely has a unique feel and visual style. More deeply, it’s a $100m bet by Netflix they can “become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” (One of the clearest strategy articulations I’ve heard in a long time.)
I think they’ve got a decent shot. I’ve always felt television, in the limit, will be delivered over IP. Specialized, proprietary cable TV distribution is gradually giving way to big, fast, cheap IP pipes. Your phone, tablet, and TV screens will be iOS or Android-powered, and will stream video from anyone. Of course, HTML5 & native apps will enable the long-awaited vision of “interactive TV”.
I’ve written about this before (going back years):
What’s taking so long?!?
The problem isn’t technology; it’s the business model. The way our traditional television content is produced, financed, and distributed is balled up in a big legacy with a lot of inertia. Payments flow in various ways between advertisers, production companies, traditional TV networks, premium networks (e.g. HBO), and cable companies. This makes it hard for anything to change quickly; if HBO wanted to sell direct Internet subscriptions, they’d be shooting themselves in the foot.
It’s good to see Netflix getting enough critical mass to stir things up.