Netflix may begin airing exclusive original programming for the Web and Internet, including a new TV series starring actor Kevin Spacey from Kevin Fincher, director of The Social Network.
According to The Wall Street Journal and Deadline Hollywood, the film rental and online movie streaming service could be looking to become the next HBO, potentially placing it in direct contention with the television and cable industries. The aforementioned political drama, titled House of Cards, is reportedly just one element of Netflix’s growing strategy to secure distribution rights to original shows and films for its streaming Internet service, according to unnamed sources. Deadline.com reports that Netflix may pay upward of $100 million for the right to display 26 episodes of the series online in advance of its competitors, though experts say the rumored price is inflated. Nonetheless, spokespeople for Kevin Spacey have confirmed that talks are in progress.
Given Netflix’s booming online subscription base, and growing interest from Amazon, Redbox and other rivals in Internet video streaming, such actions may be a play to undercut current cable providers. With Netflix changing just $7.99/month to stream movies and TV shows to television sets, connected home theater devices, smartphone and video game consoles, its growing ubiquity has primarily been hampered only by its limited online video catalog.
With more than 20 million subscribers, a 61 percent share of digital movie watching per the NPD Group, and an audience that grew 63 percent from Q4 2009 to 2010, television studios are watching with increasing trepidation. It's a chancy tactic for Netflix, whose specialty lies in mass distribution of widespread shows and films, not with investing in premium, exclusive first-run viewings, albeit one that may ultimately pay off. As smartphones, tablets and streaming devices increasingly begin to dominate viewers’ lives, services like Starz and Showtime, in just a few years hence, may find themselves under the gun on both the portable and living room fronts.