Worried about Netflix taking on advertising? Don't worry. The company says it's not in the cards. Still, think about the forerunner to Netflix — HBO — and ask the same question.
All this comes as Netflix removed a graphic suicide scene from a episode of “13 Reasons Why.”
This, of course, has nothing to do with advertising. But it does relate to what modern TV consumers expect from a vigorous TV production business bursting with content and programs looking for attention.
How can a show break through? With so much content out there, do companies need to push the wow factor on new original programs?
If you are having a hard time answering this question, consider how many deaths there were in HBO “Game of Thrones.” By one count, it tallied 185. Maybe a decade or so ago, you may have considered how many deaths there were on HBO’s “The Sopranos.” Or, consider sexual situations with a bit of nudity in other high-end cable TV network shows.
Generally, what Netflix and HBO have in common, in terms of a business model, is no advertising support for their shows.
That's meant incredible freedom from the restrictions and constraints of edgy content, which includes language, sexual situations, violence and other factors.
Much of the discussion around new D2C (direct-to-consumers platform) has revolved around the melding of content. Take the new AT&T HBO Max platform just announced -- which could include some Turner TV and The CW shows. The company has said there will be ad-supported option for consumers.
Let me repeat that: HBO and advertising support.
When HBO started in the late 1970s, this was not in its business plans. For many, HBO gave lots of freedom to producers to create the TV series, movies and documentaries they wanted.
It also witnessed failures. My favorite flop was “John of Cincinnati,” which came on in 2008, debuting right after “The Sopranos” ended its run.
In the real old days of cable, many TV traditionalists may have looked at HBO a bit knowingly. Some late-night weekend programming content on some of its networks was not for the innocent. We speak of porn, of course.
All this was marketing, for existing and potential consumers, with a compelling HBO tagline: “It's not TV. It’s HBO.”
Now, it’s all about content. Advertising support? To many consumers, that just means a way to keep subscription prices down.
Veteran HBO actors know the bottom line -- and believe consumers do, as well.
Ian McShane, who played a “Game of Thrones” character, once suggested in an 2016 The Daily Telegraph interview, that consumers might have really focused on just a few key elements. “I was accused of giving the plot away,” he said. “But I just think, get a fucking life. It’s only tits and dragons.”