The third season of “House of Cards,” premiered last week. Well, premiere may not be the right term – the whole season downloaded in one fell swoop.
I’m a fan of “binge watching” – you know, get a few friends together and watch Frank Underwood give a few asides, then you want to see more. No longer do you have to wait a week to see the next episode. No longer do you have to deal with 30-second messages about E.D.-fighting drugs or insurance. Today, it’s about content delivered where, when and how you want it and as much as you want it.
Go ahead, watch all 13 Netflix episodes in a two-day binge. You will undergo the same endless sensory overload experienced by Johnny Depp in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
While TV still has a big audience, The New York Times noted that, “Prime-time ratings for the Big Four broadcasters are dropping more precipitously than ever.” Part of the problem might be demographics: Business Insider recently reported on a “generational shift in which younger viewers don’t want cable or satellite service, just wireless Internet that allows them to view video on their tablets and laptops.”
Just as we’ve seen the tanking of newspaper readership and subscription rates, there’s more on the horizon. Most likely, there will continue to be an assault on traditional television viewership as we move to a converged communication platform where the tablet, cellphone and laptop are all things to all people. Sure, we’ll sit in front of the 50-inch for an HD version of the Super Bowl, but that’s more of a social function than functionality.
Let’s not forget about where a lot of good “television” is coming from: HBO, Showtime and Netflix. Looking at the list of Emmy nominations each year, it’s hard to tell that network television exists. “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” are landing huge market shares, even though they are accessible through subscription-based services.
It appears to me, more and more people want high quality entertainment that’s smart, entertaining and uninterrupted. Sure, many watch “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol,” but things are changing fast. Reality TV may have been a big hit for the broadcast industry, but there are only so many New Jersey housewives out there. Thank God.
As traditional broadcasters feel the hot breath of competition, fueled by technology, they may want to turn to the inspirational wisdom of Frank Underwood: “There is but one rule: Hunt or be hunted.”