The Evolution of Video Entertainment

by Dave Schuler on September 23, 2013

Last night’s Emmy awards marked yet another step in the evolution of video entertainment. NetFlix’s re-tread of the British original, House of Cards won an award for best direction for a drama series. That marks the first time a straight-to-streaming production has won a major video award.

IMO it’s inevitable that an increasing proportion of new video entertainment will be produced by streaming servides. NetFlix isn’t alone. Hulu has produced a number of original series, Amazon isn’t far behind, and Acorn is just now releasing newly-produced episodes of Foyle’s War, with first showings concurrently on PBS and Acorn’s own streaming service (to which I’m a subscriber).

Nowadays the action in video entertainment is really on cable with the broadcast networks producing increasingly dreary and tired shows. There are exceptions; ABC’s Modern Family and CBS’s The Good Wife come to mind. I would estimate that straight-to-streaming today is about where straight-to-cable was roughly a decade ago. It will mature fast.

How successful these straight-to-cable productions are can only be measured by whether they favor the fortunes of their parents. For NetFlix it’s so far so good. House of Cards and Arrested Development have added some subscribers and they certainly boosted the stock price. We’ll see.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

michael reynolds September 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

Broadcast pays better but if you’re interested in doing good work you take it to cable.

Partly this is the FCC and its eternally stupid obsession with language and nudity. A lot of creatives just don’t want to have to deal with the bullshit. They want to write dialog that sounds like it was spoken by an actual human. Broadcast dramas tend to be those sickly old fart shows on CBS or done in the CBS style. They have the same demographics as Fox News: Ages 55 and up, IQ 100 and down.

Just as bad is that broadcast has literally (if unintentionally) trained audiences to ignore its shows. If you pull shows after three outings, and the audience knows this, the audience won’t commit until a show is established. A bit of a Catch 22. Any time I see something interesting on broadcast I assume it’ll be gone in a month, so I don’t bother. Cable gives space to the creatives, and it trusts its own judgment. Broadcast infantilizes creatives and runs so scared they destroy their own audience.

All of which points to Good Wife as such an exception. I bow to those writers. They are almost unfailingly excellent. But the show would be even better on cable.

I have a TV deal (emphasis on deal, not an actual show) and despite the fact that in some ways the money’s better in broadcast, I want cable.

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