Yet the pressure to provide consumers with more choices — and lower-priced options for individual shows or channels — is likely to grow as a generation of viewers accustomed to getting video over the Internet comes of age.
“The more easily consumers can control their own choices and pick winners through broadband video, the less power the traditional cable operators have,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department official now with the New America Foundation. “This is a threat to the traditional cable dominance.”
Netflix reportedly spent $100 million on “House of Cards,” hiring high-profile stars such as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright to lend artistic credibility to the tense political drama. Its 13 episodes were released together in February — allowing the most devoted fans to binge their way through the entire series in a weekend. Both Spacey and Wright won nominations on Thursday, among the nine for the show.
“Arrested Development,” an offbeat comedy originally made for Fox and revived by Netflix after Fox dropped it, received three nominations. “Hemlock Grove,” a horror series, got two nominations.
For a company that first rose to prominence by mailing movie DVDs to subscribers, Netflix’s decision to create its own series was designed to distinguish the company amid the increasingly busy market for streaming video, with Amazon Prime, Apple’s iTunes and Google’s YouTube becoming major players as well.
Less than two years ago, Netflix’s future seemed in doubt. Chief executive Reed Hastings wound up apologizing for a botched effort to get customers to pay separately for the mail and streaming versions of Netflix. The company’s stock price has more than doubled since then.
In an interview with The Washington Post in February, Hastings said making original series was intended to create “subscriber enjoyment and the buzz.”
“If there is more buzz, more people join,” he said.
Netflix’s overall subscriptions for streaming video continued their long-term upward climb this year, topping 29 million viewers in the United States — surpassing HBO’s subscriber base — according to data from SNL Kagan, a research firm.
Cable television remains a staple in many homes, in part because there are few other ways to get live sports and local television news, though the Aereo service, which uses antennas to deliver such programming through the Internet, has begun to challenge that hold in some markets.
The overall trend, analysts said, is toward breaking apart the model in which a single conglomerate produces a show, markets it and delivers it directly into living rooms through cable wires. More companies increasingly will be involved, allowing for more creativity — and possibly lower prices for those who want only certain shows.
Someday, even individuals without production companies might be able to deliver a high-quality series and distribute it over the Internet, said analyst Whit Andrews of Gartner, a research firm.
“The big question,” he said, “is when does a YouTuber get nominated for an Emmy?”