Netflix made a big big bet on original programming this year as well as the power of its everpresent service and the potential of a totally new episodic TV distribution model. The political thriller and remake of a UK classic "House of Cards" is not only a Netflix original, but the streaming media service dumped all 13 Season One episodes online at once.
But how many of Netflix’s subscriber base took the bait? According to an extrapolation from network traffic tracked by Procera Networks and the number crunchers at Television Business International, an estimated 5% to 10% of Netflix members have watched at least one episode of "HoC," which TBI says amounts to about 1.35 to 2.71 million.
The metrics are rough partly because Procera, which monitors traffic across the major broadband service, used only one network for the analysis but insists that it tends to be representative of general digital media patterns of use. But if at all accurate, they provide an interesting look at how people consume episodic long-form new content when it is available in one lump across all screens. I can’t even count accurately the number of devices I own that carry Netflix, including my Nintendo 3DS.
According to Procera numbers, about 32% of U.S. subs watched the first episode during the first weekend of its release, and a remarkable 1% had already gone to episode 13.
Netflix tried an original series last year, “Lillyhammer,” that seemed to founder in the library. It was atrociously promoted. I was astonished at how little Netflix did at the time to leverage its own ubiquity to promote the series. I actually had to hunt for it in the various apps across screens.
This time, they seem to have learned a lesson. First, they had significant promotion online, including home screen takeovers on some sites. They also used their own apps. You couldn’t load Netflix on any device a week ago without seeing Kevin Spacey’s signature smirk. But the full library release was especially inspired. They must have learned something from the very usage patterns in their own TV archive. When people discover a series they love, they tend to binge.
Rather than risk the radical audience dropoff that Webisodic programming historically has suffered (come on, how many have you really watched to the end?) Netflix dispensed with decades of TV precedent -- and wisely so. After all, who needs appointment television when you have your queue…and availability on pretty much every screen your subscribers own?