Expect great things from streaming TV in the next year.
This looks to be the year the Internet gains true legitimacy for its original programming, as we forecast in one of our 100 Things to Watch for 2013 (“Prime Time for Second Screen”). So far this month, Netflix launched its House of Cards series, and subscribers tuned in en masse; Amazon signed actors John Goodman, Bebe Neuwirth and Jeffrey Tambor (fresh off filming Netflix’s resurrected Arrested Development, coming in May) to star in pilots for its Instant Video service; and YouTube was said to be considering paid subscriptions for some of its proprietary programming.
Not only is serious money in play (signing well-known players can’t come cheap), but the established models for small-screen entertainment are being upended. Netflix’s decision to unveil House of Cards’ 13 episodes all at once had reviewers, recappers and viewers wondering how they could opine or read about the show without spoilers. Others wondered how to determine whether the show, which won’t get ratings, is a hit. Amazon, meanwhile, will rely on viewer response to determine which pilots to extend into series.
Though innovative, some of the strategies aren’t altogether new. For instance, HBO built its reputation on edgy programming that proudly could get away with things advertiser-driven shows could not. These Internet shows will be generating a lot of buzz over the coming year. (Just wait until 14-episode Arrested Development breaks the Internet.) The question now is, how will traditional TV respond? One possibility: streaming shows online before they air on TV, as the BBC is considering. Or signing deals with these services for repeat rights, as CBS recently did with Amazon.