I’m hooked on yet another shiny American TV drama, except this time it isn’t available on any TV channels. It’s House of Cards and can only be viewed on the streaming service Netflix. For the uninitiated, Netflix is an American service that, for a monthly fee, streams films and TV programmes on demand to your PC, Mac, Wii, Xbox and other devices. Up until recently, its content had been previously available in the cinema or on traditional TV and produced by established networks and film companies. However, Netflix is now changing the model and investing in its own programming.
House of Cards is the first major series funded and streamed entirely by Netflix. This is an entirely new business model that bypasses traditional networks and indicates a huge shift in the making and watching of TV. Netflix launched the entire series at the same time, meaning that it was possible to watch the whole series in one go. This type of viewing is often known as 'binge viewing', something which first came to prominence when people got their hands on box sets (24 was one that hooked people in for serious viewing sessions). Gone are the days when we had to wait all week for the next instalment! Another area being affected is when traditional broadcasters decide not to invest in a programme but there is still demand. Arrested Development was cancelled by Fox in 2006 but has been resurrected by Netflix who invested in a new series. This investment is creating a whole new distribution platform and business model. It isn’t just affecting American TV, the BBC announced last week that it is gong to make some shows available for download on its iPlayer service before being available on TV. It’s initially a 12 month trial but could indicate a real change in the way they broadcast. Sky is getting involved with the launch of Sky Go Extra that allows customers to stream programmes for a monthly fee.
But what does this mean for advertisers? Traditionally big ticket shows were launched at very specific, key viewing times eg on a Friday night. With streaming it can be harder to define the audience but other demographics can be used such as age and socioeconomic group. Product integration or product placement is increasing and becoming very sophisticated with some product placement being placed digitally in old shows. This new broadcasting doesn't spell the end for traditional TV advertising, it just means that media buyers have to get wiser and understand an increasingly fragmented market.