Sarah and I have recently been enjoying The Killing; Danish crime-noir with some very compelling knitwear! We started when we saw BBC4 was showing season three a few months ago so we set the PVR to record them. We thought we should probably start at season one and so we watched them on LoveFilm. They didn't have season two, but iTunes did (for around a tenner). My point is that here is a show that contains brilliant story-telling and we watch it when and where we want - on the TV, the iPad (in bed) etc, without commercials. It is what television was made for. I don't need to be loyal to whoever delivered it to me; LoveFilm is part of my ISP's package, iTunes charged me a bit and the BBC is paid for by my TV license.
House of cards on Netflix is unique in that it hasn't (and won't) be available on any over-the-air television platforms. It is big-budget TV drama with the following differences;
- They aren't tied to 26 or 48 minute episode lengths to cope with the requirements of the network and the advertisers; the writer and director get to decide if this is a 35 minute or 1 hour and 15 min story,
- All episodes are available at launch time and forever; how's that for giving users the choice of how they want to watch?!
- The story needn't be cut with cliffhangers or with ad-breaks in mind.
I think in years to come this will be considered the seminal moment when all the old-media platforms who merely exist to provide a conduit to consumers were disinter-mediated. If you think about a commercial broadcaster, what is their business model? Advert sales - and in that you have to realise that the programmes really are the loss-leader on the adverts. They don't really care if you watch Downton Abbey, well, only in that it drives you to watch the advert breaks. The BBC is of course different in that they have no commercial interest in anything other than retaining their charter which means they have to make good programmes.
Until the last few years you had to be a big media organisation to deliver adverts into people's homes before you could afford to deliver programmes, but now that's not the case. Have you ever wondered why ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five's on demand services are so hopeless next to the BBC iPlayer? It's because the new model scares them silly.
I think that increasingly LoveFilm, Netflix, iPlayer etc etc will be the method people choose to consume tele with only a bit of live watching for sports and news. The few pounds a month all of those on-demand services cost is tiny next to what Sky charge you directly and what ITV charge you indirectly (remember, the average family pays around £600 per anum on top of the goods they buy to pay for commercially funded television - and you have no choice over it; it's more of a tax than the TV license).
FrameRate on the TWiT network had a good discussion on the matter;