First, a little background:
There’s a crucially important cold war being waged in the entertainment business: Netflix versus everyone else. And we should all be rooting for Netflix. Boiled to its essence, what we have is a battle between the inexpensive and endless freedom of watching what you want when you want, and the fascism of monopolistic cable packages.
In this corner: For $7.99 a month, Netflix Streaming delivers more programming than anyone could possibly watch. No, it doesn’t host everything, especially not what’s “hot,” but there’s no question this service is the best bargain in the history of home entertainment.
One of the great joys of Netflix Streaming, though, is discovering television shows you might not have otherwise. Believe me, there’s a lot of great stuff you could be watching instead of wasting away your life away flipping through those 150 cable channels looking for something to watch.
In the other corner: The evil known as bundled cable where you can easily pay as much as ten-times $7.99 for dozens of channels you never watch. This is the biggest con in the history of show business. Against your will you’re subsidizing a bucketful of channels that would never survive without subscriber fees received from ridiculously expensive packages.
If you hate MSNBC but your cable or satellite provider forces you to include MSNBC in any package that includes a channel you do watch, you’re subsidizing MSNBC and all those channels you’re paying for that you don’t watch.
The money Hollywood and the media make off of the bundled cable racket is mind-blowing. For decades now, because there was no other option, the American people have been roped into this con. But now we have a choice, and it’s Netflix and other forms of streaming.
There are few things the media and Hollywood fear more than cord-cutter; those who dump their expensive cable packages and opt instead to somehow struggle through life with the news and entertainment available through much cheaper providers, such as Netflix, Redbox, and the Internet.
For this reason, channels that thrive on subscriber fees hate Netflix and refuse to do business with it in the hopes of strangling the upstart in the crib. HBO, for instance, refuses to license any programming to stream on Netflix. Even 25-year-old shows collecting dust, like the 80’s football sitcom “1st & Ten.”
So what’s an upstart to do in a position where even under the best of circumstance they’re a season behind the hottest television shows in America and everyone hates them with same passion Big Auto hated Tucker and his dream?
Simple: Create your own hottest show in America.
Ah, but part of generating the water cooler effect is generating media coverage, which can be a problem, unless… You appeal to the media’s impossibly large ego by creating a show about them.
Besides snagging the combined talent of Kevin Spacey and David Fincher, the genius of Netflix acquiring “House of Cards” is that so many in the political media are so self-involved. Netflix just had to know the media would give its new show a ton of free buzz, because talking about “House of Cards” is a way for the DC media to talk about itself.
How do you think “30 Rock” stayed on the air for seven seasons despite being at the bottom of the ratings pile? The media loved “30 Rock” because it was about the television business — it was about them — and so a show nobody watched became a national phenom.
Netflix throwing in cameo appearances for George Stephanopoulos, Soledad O’Brien and others sure doesn’t hurt.
It wasn’t always this way, but the media is now so hive-minded and narcissistic–populated with the same kind of people who come from the same kind of place and went to the same kind of school and think the same way and want desperately to fit in–that a company as savvy as Netflix can use the hopelessly provincial media to its advantage.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC