We've known for some time that Netflix intends to air all thirteen episodes of the new season of Arrested Development at once in the spring, offering a marathon of "I made a huge mistake"s and imprecise chicken noises to fans of the once-canceled comedy. But today the company announced that they plan to use the same model when airing their new original series House of Cards, a political drama from David Fincher starring Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright and Kate Mara. The entire thirteen-episode first season run will be made available at once for subscribers on February 1.
It's an interesting gamble, but Netflix is in the perfect position to take that risk. The streaming content provider and DVD distributor is in uncharted territory with the creation of new content. They kicked it off with the mafia series Lilyhammer, and while Netflix hasn't released any numbers about the success of Lilyhammer, they've shown faith in the series by renewing it for a second season. They must be somewhat satisfied with its success.
Of course, simultaneously airing all episodes of the new season of Arrested Development isn't all that chancy - I personally know several people who intend to call into work that day, and I plan to live-blog the show for BAD - but for a brand new original series like House of Cards without an established audience, I'm curious how this model will pay off.
What I like best about Netflix's position is that the company is creating its own model rather than adhering to any previously established television practices. How easy for them to fall into the traditional 22- or 13-episode season template, releasing a new episode every week - but why should they? They have the means to release every episode at once, and as that's how most people use the Netflix Instant Watch service for shows from other networks, why not foster that practice with their own original content?
I've written about it plenty here on BAD, but I fully support a less rigid U.S. television landscape for the future. With the advent of streaming and web series, viewers have already shown that they're ready to shake things up in the way they watch television. The Big Four networks are just now catching on, with network sources marveling on an article on Variety only yesterday that DVR numbers are a factor to consider when looking at ratings. Guys, how long has DVR been around? A while, right?
So while the Big Four Networks are struggling to catch up to what cable has known for some time - that a show's intrinsic financial worth, much less its creative value, cannot be ascertained by a Nielsen box - Netflix is forging boldly ahead, making its own rules and creating its own system. Whether that system works remains to be seen, but I dig that they're trying.