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House of Cards is a definitive step, but Netflix has much more work to do

Netflix is close, but not there yet.

Back in 2011 the king of streaming video outbid both HBO and Showtime to claim the series House Of Cards, which aired last week. The show is a gritty and well-cast drama about the nuances of politics. Produced by and starring Kevin Spacey, it’s flavored with greed, sex and betrayal and is instantly entertaining.

House of Cards would fit snugly into an HBO or Showtime lineup, which is exactly what Netflix wanted. Says Ted Sarandos, the chief content director of Netflix: “[this is the] next chapter of TV/Internet content.”

Sarandos’ goal: to make Netflix “the next HBO.”

While Netflix is smart to broaden its horizons, the desire to be the next HBO is misplaced.

Why?

The user experience on Netflix continues to be underwhelming.

Instead of looking hungrily at HBO, Netflix would be better off focusing on what makes it different and better — such as being able to offer an entirely new series all at once. These innovations should be celebrated, and they aren’t. Currently, House of Cards lacks any preview or commercial exposure to entice viewers and isn’t even highlighted on the site. Instead, it’s lumped in the “New TV” scroll along with 150 different options.

Is this how to hype a new $100 million show?

What’s more, Netflix would be wise to call its content something other than an “original series.” This banal term connotes weekly, episodic programming. But Netflix isn’t playing that kind of viewing game. Ars Technica, for example, defined House of Cards as a “thirteen-hour movie”, a description that is much more distinctive and empowering.

Little changes would make a big difference. Instead, Netflix is overly worried about its status and hanging with HBO.

Come on Netflix, if you truly want to revamp your reputation, make the necessary changes to succeed.




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