House of Cards and The Next TV Frontier

Kevin Spacey as Majority House Whip Francis Underwood.

Kevin Spacey as Majority House Whip Francis Underwood.

The Golden Age of Television continues to evolve. What began in ernest fifteen years ago with classics such as OZ, The Sopranos and The Wire (on cable) as well as 24 and LOST (on broadcast TV) has reached a crescendo as TV continue to ascend beyond Film, as the home of cinema’s finest and most original stories, writing, acting and production techniques.

On-line web-series, pod-casting, YouTube and iTunes have long teased a new wave of television distribution channels. In spurts and sputters, the transition has been slow but steady with more and more high-profile production companies piggybacking on the model that NETFLIX helped commercialize. What’s clear is that while watching less TV, people are watching more and more “Television and Film content” on-line. Most of that content is produced for traditional formats.

With NETFLIX’s House of Cards, a production company committed completely to producing original TV content exclusively for distribution on-line. In essence appropriating the model pioneered by independent and student filmmakers — cutting out the middle men — and delivering content directly into the laps of its audience via an on-line distributor. The first season, produced for a reported $100m (putting the per-episode budget at whopping $7.7m), HOC represents another risky undertaking by Kevin Spacey, who has always been a bit of a maverick exploring new ways of reaching audience (see the talent finder Triggerstreet.com, as just one example).

On February 1st, NETFLIX made all 13 episodes of the first season of House of Cards available to its subscribers. Appointment viewing is dead. Planning a week ahead is archaic. Watching a disgusting deluge of commercials is a thing of the past. Tapping right into the pipeline and pump in original content at your leisure is the way forward. House of Cards has received great advanced buzz and critical raves, and if it proves successful, could be the final nail in the coffin for traditional TV formats. Produced by Media Rights Capital, a feature-film production company behind films like The Adjustment Bureau and Ted, HOC stars Hollywood Film A-listers Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright and involves film stalwarts such as director David Fincher, screenwriter Eric Roth and producer Joshua Donen. Film folks are getting the hint. Television, if you can call it that anymore, is where it’s at.

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