Anyone who’s been within five feet of me in the past few days has heard me talking about the new Netflix show, House of Cards. The show’s $50 million price tag and full season release has inspired new conversations about the future of digital content. The dialog about the ongoing tug of war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley is hotter than ever as execs note the need for new business models and pricing. Even Netflix’s CEO has been clear about his position by stating that Netflix wants to become HBO before HBO becomes Netflix. Indeed.
Setting all of the business stuff aside, the art is magnificent. The series is written by Beau Willimon who also wrote The Ides of March. Kevin Spacey stars alongside Robin Wright and Kate Mara. David Fincher does a fabulous job directing. There’s so much that could be said about this show, but I’m going to limit my thoughts to the 3 Reasons I Want House of Cards to Win.
1. Cable companies and networks will no longer be gate keepers of content.
Let me start by saying how much I love good television. I adore Breaking Bad. I still pine for The Wire. And watching Scandal requires the ritual of a dark room, vanilla candles burning, and Berryblossom white tea brewing in order for me to fully honor the viewing experience. Good TV is a good thing, and I have deep respect for the people who facilitate its delivery.
But the jig is up for the gatekeepers. If Netflix succeeds in creating an original scripted show, they will completely change the game for several industries. The implications are far reaching. What will this mean for producers and writers hoping to get their shows made? What will this mean for actors trying to get their breakout role? What will this mean for the viewers?
It means we all have to rethink how and why we consume content. It also means we have to completely rethink who’s paid and how, and it also means we have to think more about platform when developing content. It will no longer suffice to create something great and push it to every kind of device. As our content consumption becomes more nuanced, so will our taste for content that’s suited for our appetite and preferences.
2. Content is being democratized in a new way.
The most common complaint about cable is the perceived “waste” of paying for channels we don’t want or watch. For reasons I don’t understand, I’m sure cable companies have been unable to allow subscribers to handpick their channels and pay only for what they want. Still, the surge of new (well-produced) content on the web has many people wondering why they even still bother with cable. Until recently, it was assumed that entertainment on the web was sub-par to that of television. Well, House of Cards is the latest confirmation that content produced outside of the network system doesn’t have to be inferior. Not only could House of Cards easily appear on HBO or AMC, it would crush much of its competition if it appeared in a prime time slot. That means that amazing content doesn’t have to filter through television to our devices which means the viewer is empowered in new ways. A Netflix subscription is $7.99 while the average cable subscription is $50. As more and more content moves effortlessly between devices, the viewer can choose what, when, and how they consume content. And that is a beautiful thing.
3. New stories can find new audiences.
As an actress and writer turned producer, I believe in the power of a well-crafted story. As an entrepreneur, I understand the importance of story in capturing audiences and compelling them to take action. As I dance across a variety of industries and niches (I’m liable to watch Totally Biased, read a Daniel Kahneman book, and buy tickets to a tech conference all in the same night) I get how important it is for certain projects to find the right audience. Sometimes projects fail because they don’t get enough traction in their community to grow to a sustainable place. Shows like House of Cards will make it easier than ever to find and consume and share the content we love most because it’s right there – on our computers, iDevices, phones, and every other thing we use to watch the stuff we love. And because social media is such an integral part of the digital experience now, we have fun and interesting ways to tell everyone what we’re consuming and why. This means that we get to consume content more intelligently. Even as our lives become more busy and we become more distracted with shiny things on the web, we’ll continue to develop a loyalty to the core content that feeds us, entertains us, and inspires us most. That’s a remarkable thing for society.
With Kevin Spacey sitting on what could be a throne in the promotional poster for House of Cards, we’re reminded that content is still king.