It’s been about a week since House of Cards debuted on Netflix and I’m already 6 episodes deep. Actually, it’s only been a couple of days since I began watching, and I’m only giving it a few more before I’m done. It’s called binge-watching. And it’s an addiction. It could also be the future of home media consumption.
Prior to the release of House of Cards, much was made about it’s release strategy. Was releasing every episode on the same day the right move? Or would it ultimately hurt viewership? Why was this being brought up in every write-up about the series? Keep in mind that this isn’t the first time Netflix or other streaming services have released an original show (Netflix acquired exclusive North American air rights to Lillyhammer in 2012 and Hulu has had 4 shows they’ve been producing originally since 2011 along with acquiring numerous foreign series). What makes this one stand out is that it’s the first time we’ve seen an original web series of this size and grandeur. With a $100m budget at a time when Netflix was making some pretty questionable PR decisions made it a risky investment that could make or break this as a viable option for the future of online media.
So what exactly could be bad about this release strategy? Surely, we’ve all have those days where we’ve binge-watched our favorite shows either on DVD or TBS marathon?
Spoilers are probably the least of the issue. It’s fairly easy to avoid spoilers when you’re not familiar with a show or characters. After all, I caught up on Season One of Homeland by purchasing it on iTunes and binge-watching it during an off-weekend over Christmas. And now that I’m caught up on Season One, I’m patiently awaiting Season Two’s release and a whole slew of new shows are out to keep my Facebook feed from getting clogged with “SPOILER ALERTS” to avoid. But then again we all have that one friend in a timezone ahead of us who will give away the Downton Abbey that just aired a couple hours ahead of us. GRRR! The thing is… Spoilers aren’t new and shows currently broadcast on television are not immune to them.
Truth be told, even before House of Cards release, as a TV nerd I would finding myself binge-watching many of my favorite shows on DVD or the streaming services I was subscribed. So what could be wrong with the model?
Promotion, mainly. Without a steady schedule, when are the networks going to have the time to promote these things and keep them at the forefront of the viewers’-or more importantly, the potential viewers’-minds?
House of Cards saw a lot of “hub-bub” and buzz leading up to it’s release. There have been ads and interviews, etc. But what will keep that going? The answer, of course, is viral sharing and word of mouth. We are living in a viral world now. And the viral sharing of this show could very well make this show into a long-lasting success or it could minimize it to the scale of a mere meme. If viewers don’t jump on the bandwagon before their friends stop discussing it, then what’s Netflix going to do to get the casual latecomer’s attention?
Until Netflix releases the official viewer analytics, we can’t say if it has been a successful release strategy for the show. But I can say that if I only had access to the 1st episode of the series, I would not have recommended it to so many of my friends by now. It’s yet to be determined whether or not the quality of the entertainment outlasts the quality of “Charlie Bit My Finger”.
Either way, we’re still getting Arrested Development in the Spring!