American television is currently going through a golden period, with dramas like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Game Of Thrones with as much pomp, style and quality as any TV production in living memory.
While the premium cable channels in America are reaping in the benefits, an entirely new avenue of TV is beginning to open up. Netflix is quickly becoming a major player in the world of premium TV, with the streaming service now putting its plans into action of launching its own bespoke content.
These aren’t low budget shows however, with House Of Cards and the upcoming Hemlock Grove both touting budgets that rival the biggest of mainstream TV productions. With names like Eli Roth and David Fincher attached too, it’s clear that it’s not just the small fry who have been drinking the Kool-Aid.
But why are these names putting their time and effort into crafting a Netflix series, and should the TV networks be starting to worry?
A massive factor in this is that Netflix have already done the legwork when it comes to finding out what their audience wants. With House Of Cards for example, they noticed that political dramas, David Fincher and Kevin Spacey were all very popular. So, naturally, all three together is just a licence to print money. The same can be said about horror and Eli Roth, why not hit both birds with one stone?
Therefore, this means that the shows themselves don’t need to cater to demographics, so that the creative minds behind the show are free to truly express themselves. This sort of creative freedom cannot have a price tag put onto it it’s so valuable.
Netflix can also offer it’s program makers security. They’re not going to just commission a pilot and then see what happens. If you’re getting one episode, you’re at least getting a series. If it does well critically or commercially, there’s a massive chance it will get a second very quickly. It’s the type of security that just can’t be offered by broadcasting channels and will make dealing with Netflix all the more appealing for many.
Also, there’s a lot to be said about Netflix putting out all the episodes at once. It means that the writers of the show don’t have to contend with getting hooks into the end of every episode. It might not sound like much, but not having to constantly come up with new and interesting cliff-hangers frees up different ways of telling the story.
Should all of these be worrying factors for TV companies in America? Yes, it should. While the premium cable channels are able to offer a large amount of the same creative freedom, some major networks have become infamous for their obsession with ratings, executive meddling and will to cancel shows in spite of their quality.
Not only does this have a nasty habit of annoying the makes of the shows (FOX cancelling Firefly famously ‘broke’ Joss Whedon) but also rubbing fans very much up the wrong way.
Netflix can easily become a fan favourite too if it wants to. Having already brought Arrested Development back to life, Netflix can win over countless fans if they strategically pick popular yet cancelled shows as their next resuscitation project.
With Community sure to not get a fifth series commissioned, Netflix could instantly become the heroes of the internet by bringing back the show and reinstalling it’s showrunner Dan Harmon to his previous position of power.
That in such a short length of time Netflix has gone from being a curiosity for many to being able to craft original programming to the same standard as HBO and the other premium cable networks in America is incredible.With the success of House Of Cards, it looks like a gamble that’s going to pay off for them in a big way and a signal of intent that really should have the American giants looking over their shoulders and stepping up their game.