Web streaming competes with TV as Netflix buys Kevin Spacey TV drama

Netflix is well known in the US for its DVD rental and streaming video service, but now it appears the company wants to get into the business of making TV shows too.

Ian Morris
2 min read

Web streaming has suddenly announced itself as a serious player in the TV world, with US service Netflix apparently outbidding two major cable networks to air David Fincher and Kevin Spacey's remake of classic British political thriller House of Cards.

While streaming is still in its infancy in the UK, Netflix has pretty ubiquitous gadget support, with US TVs, Blu-ray players and media streamers often providing access to the service. It dominates the US streaming-movie market, with 61 per cent of all online movie viewers choosing its service. Unlimited movie streaming costs just $8 (£5) per month, but it's unclear if this new exclusive show will require additional payment or not.

We have to say, this makes perfect sense to us. The traditional broadcast model isn't well suited to the modern world and, in particular, American broadcast TV networks have been struggling for a while. Their business model is based on free television for all, supported by advertising. Sadly -- for them -- the relentless march of technology has led to online viewing and PVRs becoming increasingly popular, and neither are well suited for ads.

As it's the 18- to 49-year-olds who are most likely to be technologically savvy and the most valuable to advertisers, the old broadcast model is falling apart. That's been proven to some extent with shows like Fringe, which is enormously popular with the PVR and online streaming crowds, but is ailing in a Friday night slot on Fox.

So Netflix is throwing its hat into a ring dominated by multi-billion dollar corporations -- including the one that owns the site you're reading this on: CBS. It's a bold move and financially risky too, with costs likely to approach tens of millions of dollars over the run. Netflix has reportedly committed to film 26 episodes over two seasons.

The original BBC version of the House of Cards trilogy consisted of about 12 hours of TV. It's not yet clear if Netflix might include advertising when it 'airs' the show, or if it will offer it on a pay per view model. This also gives hope to popular, but cancelled, TV shows that could get an investment from Netflix to produce extra episodes. We're still dying to know what happened next in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

The only thing that terrifies us now is what the broadcast networks will show when all the good drama ends up elsewhere. Look forward to a future of live sport and singing competitions, because that's just about all that makes any money for the old-school networks.