'House of Cards' One Month Later: How Many Have Seen It?
The Guardian in Great Britain asks this provocative question: How long will it be before the online video audience viewing surpasses traditional linear TV? The question is not so far fetched, or easy to answer, in that country or this one.
Getting content from other than “television” even if you end up watching it on a television set is so old hat, it’s kind of happening without much notice out in the real world.
But events make you wonder. One month ago, give or take a few days, Netflix began making lots of headlines with the apparent success of its “House of Cards” series starring Kevin Spacey.
I say apparent because, in a data mad world, Netflix hasn’t released much information about how many millions have seen it and it seems content to keep it that way.
Hey, why not? Purely anecdotally, and taking their word for it, the audience seems to be as big as anything that movie service has ever seen.
If press clips are money, it’s an event near that has lots of TV business writers and TV critics going pretty crazy. Says Forbes.com, “It’s hard to watch Netflix’s 'House of Cards' and not get the feeling that it’s not only great programming, but also a seminal event in the history of TV.”
Taking a more analytic view, Vulture.com notes: “Netflix's indifference to when you watch its programming is rooted in the fact that, unlike traditional TV networks, it's a subscription-based service. Ratings, and the ad revenue that results from increased ratings, aren't part of its equation for success.
“As long as a home viewer keeps paying his or her $8 per month, [Netflix CEO] Reed Hastings is a happy man,” Vulture continued. “Netfix's business model isn't unique in TV, of course: HBO has become a billion-dollar business by taking a similar watch-when-you-want approach to its content ...When you don't have to worry about advertisers, and subscribers keep shelling out for your service, a show doesn't have to be declared a "hit" by the entertainment press to be considered a success. What matters for HBO, Showtime, and Netflix is that consumers like you think there's a reason to keep (or start) paying that monthly subscriber fee.”
HBO got famous with a slogan, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO,” and it has lots of adoring stars, screenwriters and directors who say about the same thing every year at the Emmy Awards which that pay network began to dominate even before “Sopranos” reigned. Word of mouth—particularly if the mouths belong to Hollywood stars—tends to be mighty helpful. Netflix is reaping the benefits of that, too, and basking in adulation after some notable missteps in its relatively short life.
So who watched? Who knows? The Telegraph in the United Kingdom, reported that the third party Internet traffic monitoring firm, Procera Networks, says, “On one [U.S.] broadband network, 11 per cent of Netflix subscribers watched at least one episode of the series.”
Granted, that’s not very definitive, not knowing what that broadband network. Netflix has somewhere between 29-33 million subscribers. Procera says its data suggests a “significant portion of fans ‘binged’ on the entire series in the first weekend it was available” and that on broadband, “half of one per cent of Netflix subscribers” watched the 13th and final episode on February, when it had only been available for one day. But the fact is, we’ll probably never know.
On the other hand, the alarmingly low ratings for NBC’s “Smash” are readily available. How strangely big media has become made little.