Netflix Original Programming: The Future of TV?

Landon Liboiron as Peter Rumancek and Bill Skarsgård as Roman Godfrey in HEMLOCK GROVE (Image Credit: Netflix)

Landon Liboiron as Peter Rumancek and Bill Skarsgård as Roman Godfrey in HEMLOCK GROVE (Image Credit: Netflix)

How many of you have chosen to give up cable in favor of a Netflix subscription? There are plenty of people who maintain both cable and Netflix subscriptions, but there’s an increasing trend toward customers eschewing traditional cable or satellite in favor of a reasonably priced (less than $10/month) subscription to Netflix’s streaming services. Given the wide range of television programming available on Netflix (with more being added regularly), some customers feel there’s no reason to shell out the cash for anything more.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Netflix has recently begun offering both Netflix original programming and programs otherwise unavailable on US network or cable television. Netflix’s first completely original show, the political drama House of Cards, debuted in February. Rather than following a standard week-to-week format for releasing new episodes, Netflix made the entire first season of the series available on the same day, enabling viewers to watch at their own pace.

Michael Kelly, Robin Wright and Kevin Space in HOUSE OF CARDS (Image Credit: Netflix)

Michael Kelly, Robin Wright and Kevin Space in HOUSE OF CARDS (Image Credit: Netflix)

The show, which is produced by David Fincher and stars big name actors including Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara, has received enthusiastic reviews. House of Cards proves that Netflix has the credibility and resources to put together a top quality show and is capable of producing legitimate original programming.

This spring, Netflix rolled out two original comedies from Fox Digital Studio, Bad Samaritans and Shotgun Wedding. Eli Roth’s horror series Hemlock Grove premiered in April, and comedy-drama Orange is the New Black, featuring a cast of movie & TV vets such as Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon, is also in the pipeline. And, of course, Netflix will be the only medium for Arrested Development fans to see the extremely belated 4th season of the series this May.

In addition to its original programming, Netflix has picked up several foreign shows, including Norway’s Lillyhammer and the UK’s  Derek, for distribution on their streaming services. Shows that would otherwise be incredibly difficult for US consumers to get their hands on are now being made readily available to anyone with a reasonably fast internet connection.

Because Netflix original programming does not have the same commercial backing as, say, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, you might think Netflix original programming would carry a low-budget feel, but that is certainly not the case. The budget for a single episode of House of Cards is estimated to exceed $4 million, and the other original shows have a similar budget range.

Arrested Development (Image Credit: FOX)

Arrested Development (Image Credit: FOX)

Netflix is able to focus spending on the actual programming because of their unique approach to marketing. Instead of spending millions of dollars creating large-scale advertising campaigns like the large networks, Netflix relies on “big data” to target marketing specifically to its intended audience. The money saved can then be used toward the shows themselves. And, of course, Netflix is able to draw funding from its paid subscriptions to help fund its shows, much like HBO.

Another benefit of Netflix programming is, at least for the time being, show runners are not being forced to tailor their content to suit a network’s needs. While broadcast networks are notorious for attempting to guide or alter its shows’ content, Netflix is taking a more hands-off approach, enabling writers and directors to work without worrying their vision may be stifled by network demands. It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue – if Netflix original programming gains enough traction, it would theoretically be an endorsement for this hands-off approach, but may also become enough of a financial boon that Netflix would feel the need to monitor programming more carefully to maintain that success.

Netflix’s formula has already been working so well that many other companies, including Redbox and Microsoft, are already trying to copy it. Netflix has the advantage of already having a core customer base, so it’s hard to guess how well this type of programming would take off in the context of other services.

What do you think about this new trend in television programming? Have you watched, or would you watch, any of Netflix’s original programming?

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