No pressure or anything.
Netflix, which has 27 million streaming subscribers in the United States who can use its service to watch TV shows or movies whenever they want, is taking the idea of personalized viewing even further with “House of Cards,” which is produced by independent studio Media Rights Capital. Instead of doling out one episode per week, broadcast and cable television-style, all 13 episodes of the show’s first season will be available on the day it premieres. (The company will try the same strategy with “Arrested Development,” the cult-favorite sitcom that Netflix is bringing back to life in May.)
Netflix stealthily tried the same trick in early 2012 with “Lilyhammer,” a quirky Norwegian crime drama that had been available only in Norway. Netflix acquired the rights and aired the show in America for the first time. Though there was minimal buzz, it showed there were viewers who had an appetite for gobbling up an entire season of a series at once.
So, networks making viewers wait for episodes, with endless repeats or month-long hiatuses? That’s becoming increasingly “out of step” with the way people watch television, theorized Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.
“I feel like what we’re seeing is a huge generational shift toward on-demand,” Sarandos said. “And Netflix is a pure on-demand product.”
Thus, the stage is set for “House of Cards.” Several unusual factors give the show an advantage, Sarandos said: Things as small as not having to waste time catching viewers up on what happened last week can add up to extra minutes of storytelling.
On a larger scale, Netflix was able to devote enough money to order two seasons — 26 episodes — at once. With a guaranteed number of episodes, the show could invest in such things as elaborate, realistic sets. In addition, with clear story lines mapped out, the writers don’t have to invent artificial cliffhangers to lure viewers back week to week.
“When you’re writing for your life on weekly television, you write every episode as if it may be the first or last one ever on television. . . . I don’t think that’s conducive to great writing,” Sarandos said. “This is a long-form commitment.”