What can Netflix do for you?

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Oh, the joys of social media!

A reader recently passed along a link to aTime piece asking the question of if the cost of streaming services is worth it to the average television consumer. And to think it all happened via Twitter!

From James Poniewozik …

“What makes a streaming-video subscription worth it?” he asked. “Netflix is betting that, like its sort-of-competitor HBO, the key could be original programming. Next year, it launches the original drama ‘House of Cards,’ with Kevin Spacey, and the revived ‘Arrested Development.’ (For the sake of completism, I also have to mention this year’s ‘Lillyhammer.’) HBO found that having ‘Sex and the City’ and ‘The Sopranos’ would keep people re-upping consistently, even if they weren’t using it for movies. Hulu has been expanding into programming also, but on a smaller scale, largely importing shows like the current run of ‘The Thick of It.'”

It’s an interesting question — the notion of what might make something like Netflix worth it for viewers. As The New York Times pointed out earlier this week, Netflix’s third-quarter revenue was up from the same quarter last year, though the company’s goal of having 28 million subscribers by the end of the year now seems like wishful thinking as its best-case scenario says the year will end with just over 27 million paid users. This all comes after The Big Red Envelope reported losses in the year’s first quarter.

My point is this: There’s still work to do. For as popular as Netflix has become over the last decade, the company is light-years away from achieving everything it hopes to achieve. More so, the idea of streaming content isn’t nearly as widespread as that company needs it to be in order to have the stranglehold it would like to have on the industry. Thus is must be asked … What could the company do to entice users?

Well, Poniewozik is on to something when he suggests the development of original content, though it must also be noted that such work will have utterly no impact on anything if that particular content isn’t any good. Or, in other words, if you want us to pay attention, give us something to love, not like.

That’s why the comparison with the HBOs of the world is a fairly bright observation. That network needed “The Sopranos” to happen in order to be a product that households considered a part of the typical cable package fabric beaming its way into televisions every hour of every day. The same thing can be said for Showtime, and, say “Dexter.” Heck — even AMC worked its way into the conversation once “Mad Men” peeked its head through the curtains. Since then, these networks have been the go-to places for all things hip in TV.

What could Netflix’s answer to this approach be, the disembodied voice asks? You guessed it … the series we first wrote about all the way back in June of 2011, the Kevin Spacey-led American adaptation of “House Of Cards.” And why does the company need this particular venture to garner more success than, say, its upcoming “Arrested Development” run?

Good question, body-less voice. Your input is always welcome.

“Arrested Development” is a proven entity. Yeah, it has an awfully passionate crowd of people who have become obsessed with the Bluth family (a crowd of which, I completely admit I am part, mind you), but that show is its own phenomenon. It doesn’t really matter to Netflix if it takes off in its second life because Netflix had nothing to do with the show’s origin, nor did it have anything to do with the cult following its gained in recent years.

“House Of Cards?” Now, that’s a different story.

If the series manages to accumulate some overtly glowing reviews and a few important taste-makers who continue to shove it down the public’s throats, the thing could very literally be the game-changing force the company needs to take it to the next level. Because as the old adage goes, if there’s one thing the current generation looooovvvvvesss to do, it’s write online recaps of shows nobody actually watches (hello, Mad Men Project!).

The most important aspect of the equation, of course, is going to be the “Netflix Original” element of all this. The same people who loved “Arrested Development” five years ago are going to love it no matter what happens. However, the jury on “House of Cards” will remain out until someone stands up and says something — anything — about it. The worst-case scenario is that it comes and goes without inspiring any type of emotion in its viewers whatsoever. Hate it or love it, Netflix is going to need it to make a headline — any headline — when it debuts in February of next year.

As for other approaches the company could take to get potential subscribers to care? How about giving up this split package thing that was such a hot button topic last year? I mean, the notion that people have to either pay one fee for envelopes, one fee for Internet access, or a bigger fee for both has largely been forgotten since the disaster that was Qwikster went under. But, let’s be honest — if the company could find a way to offer a happy medium in which the lines for the plans wouldn’t be nearly as divisive, maybe more people would be willing to give it a chance.

Then, of course, there’s always that difference between the streaming catalog and the DVD catalog that so many executives stupidly argue isn’t a factor. This is highlighted every month with the No. 1 blog feature in the universe(!), Netflix Pix, and its paltry selection from which I am to choose. Speaking selfishly, of course (because what’s a blog if it’s not selfish!), if I knew that even half the DVDs I get sent to my apartment were available to stream, I’d be far more inclined to make the leap to the streaming service sometime before “Arrested Development” hits the Web. As it stands now, though, why waste the eight bucks when the site still considers a movie like “Morning Glory” new?

Either way, if Netflix is going to be an honest contender in the race for Internet television domination, it’s still going to need an original series to take off. Only when something like that comes to fruition can we actually begin to creatively come up with answers to the question Poniewozik so elegantly asked …

“What makes a service like Netflix worth it to you?”

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