Willa Paskin of Wired dives into the business behind the resurrection of Arrested Development on Netflix:

Whatever our televisual drug of choice—Battle­star Galactica, The Wire, Homeland—we’ve all put off errands and bedtime to watch just one more, a thrilling, draining, dream-­influencing immersion experience that has become the standard way to consume certain TV programs. We’ve all had the hit of pleasure after an installment ends on some particularly insane cliff-hanger and we remember that we can watch the next episode right now. It’s a relatively recent addition to the pantheon of slightly illicit yet mostly harmless adult pleasures, residing next to eating ice cream for dinner, drinking a beer with lunch, and having sex with someone you probably shouldn’t.

Yep. Also interesting:

Yet traditional television networks still apportion their series in weekly episodes over four to eight months, allowing binge-­watching only in retrospect, even though, for an increasing number of viewers, binge-­watching isn’t just a way to catch up on a season that has already wrapped but a better viewing experience altogether. Why let networks and advertisers get in the way of that? Which may explain what Sarandos says, that the audience for Breaking Bad is bigger on Net­flix than it is on AMC. (One of the few hard numbers Net­flix has shared is that 50,000 of its subscribers watched all 13 episodes of Breaking Bad’s season four the day before the new season premiered on AMC.)

The audience for Breaking Bad is bigger on Netflix than it is on AMC. Think about that for a second.

Anthony Ha for TechCrunch:

Yet when I watched House of Cards, I really enjoyed the space between the episodes, when I could wonder about what happens next and anticipate the next time I’d have an hour or two to catch up. That’s not a new idea — in fact, it’s one of the main pleasures of television. But I think it’s something people lose sight of when they talk about bold new distribution models.

I agree, this topic is being lost in the larger debate. I believe I prefer the House of Cards model for the same reason I’ve long preferred watching shows on DVD rather than when they air — I like to binge.

But I do miss some of the “watercooler” effect of everyone talking about what just happened on Lost this week — something which the very existence of Twitter has essentially perfected. There’s still definitely a watercooler effect with House of Cards but it’s more about the show in general rather than specific plot points since we’re all likely at different parts of the show right now (unless we’re doing with season 1 already, of course).

Andrew Wallenstein of Variety reports on a panel featuring CAA TV literary agent Peter Micelli, who spoke about Netflix:

“The cheapest show is $3.8 million an episode,” Micelli told a crowd of more than 500 lawyers in the entertainment business. “‘House of Cards’ started at $4.5 million and (executive producer David) Fincher took it way above that.”

It ain’t cheap, but with Microsoft, Amazon, Redbox, Verizon, and others now getting into this game, there’s little question in my mind that this will be the future of television. 

David Carr for NYT:

Netflix, which has 27 million subscribers in the nation and 33 million worldwide, ran the numbers. It already knew that a healthy share had streamed the work of Mr. Fincher, the director of “The Social Network,” from beginning to end. And films featuring Mr. Spacey had always done well, as had the British version of “House of Cards.” With those three circles of interest, Netflix was able to find a Venn diagram intersection that suggested that buying the series would be a very good bet on original programming.

Doesn’t this just reek of Firefly also making a comeback? I alluded to all of this a couple of years ago. And now it’s playing out…

Austin Carr for Fast Company looks back at the project that started as “The Netflix Player” but was eventually spun out into the Roku box/company:

It was December 2007, and the device was just weeks away from launching. Yet after all the years and resources and talent invested in the project (a team of roughly 20 had been working on it around the clock, from ironing out the industrial design and user interface to taking trips to Foxconn to finalize production details), Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was having serious second thoughts. The problem? Hastings realized that if Netflix shipped its own hardware, it would complicate potential partnerships with other hardware makers. “Reed said to me one day, ‘I want to be able to call Steve Jobs and talk to him about putting Netflix on Apple TV,’” recalls one high-level source. “‘But if I’m making my own hardware, Steve’s not going to take my call.’”

In hindsight, good call.


But ultimately, Wood says, “It was totally the right decision. Licensing [digital content] has been hugely successful for Netflix. [The Netflix Player] would’ve created tension with partners, and increasingly decisions would come up where Netflix would have to decide, ‘Should we make decisions based on what’s best for licensing, or what’s best for our own hardware?’”

Sounds eerily similar to the dilemmas that both Google (with Motorola) and Microsoft (with Surface) now face, no?

The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, speaking to GQ for a profile of Netflix chief Reed Hastings.

This will go down as the year that HBO either made the right choice or the wrong choice not to go after the stand-alone Netflix model. Netflix is coming out swinging with House of Cards and then Arrested Development. HBO continues to hide behind big cable.

Netflix at first paid for 5 million customers and they got 25 million. But now people are saying, ‘OK, you’re going to get 30 million customers, so you’re going to pay for 30.’ If Netflix can get 40 or 50 million, they’ll be fine. But if they don’t get to 30, they’re probably going to go pfft.

Dish Network head Charlie Ergen predicting the future for Netflix.

Keep in mind this is the guy who bought Blockbuster and spends the entire interview with Bloomberg trying to rationalize the move, suggesting that what was clearly a mistake was not a mistake — just a waste of time, and money. Right.

Speaking of Netflix, Comcast is launching a Netflix competitor.

But wait — isn’t Comcast already a Netflix competitor with their On Demand service, their Xfinity service, and their stake in Hulu? Well yes, but this will have a new name and new fees! Joy!

Reports Andrew Wallenstein for Variety:

With a business model and catalog-oriented content mix similar to Netflix and other competing services like Amazon and a coming joint venture from Verizon and Redbox, Comcast is clearly attempting to supplement its existing digital presence, Xfinity, with a long-tail-oriented offering. But Streampix is not available to those who don’t already get Comcast cable.

Streampix will either be free to those who get Comcast’s triple-play package of video, broadband and phone or for an additional $4.99 fee on top of other varieties of Comcast offerings.

So, it will only be available to those people who already have Comcast cable. AND it will likely cost you an additional fee even if you’re already spending upwards of $100 a month on cable. What a fucking fantastic sounding service.

Update: While McDermott accurately quoted the Netflix rep (who herself apparently checked with two supervisors), Netflix is now saying the information is inaccurate. Actually, The Bodyguard vanished as a streaming option before Houston’s passing.

Earlier: When asked why The Bodyguard was pulled from Netflix streaming following Whitney Houston’s death, Dan McDermott got the following response from a Netflix rep:

I just went and talked to my main supervisor as to why the movie had been pulled and the reason it was pulled was the production company pulled the streaming rights from us because all the publicity after Whitney Houston’s passing there was an opportunity to make really a very large amount of money on the DVD sales of her movies. So they’re going to pull all the streaming titles we have of Whitney Houston so they can make more money off the DVD sales of her movies.

What fucking scumbags. Not Netflix, which sadly has no control over situations like this, but the movie studio. 

It seems like Hollywood is eyeing two business models in order to preserve their precious DVD sales (which are tanking more each day):

1) Make it basically impossible to rent a film. It used to be that you could rent a movie the day it came out for sale on DVD. Then it was 30 days later. Now it’s 56 days later. And you can’t even think about renting the films for 28 days.

As a reminder, torrents currently have no such window.

2) Hope and pray that big time stars die to temporarily boost sales. And instead of doing everything in you power to ensure that fans have easy access to remember the stars they cherished, pull all access except for the most expensive and limited variety in order to maximize profits.