House of Cards and the evolution of TV
By Adarsh Matham
17th February 2013 12:00 AM
The guy who came up with ‘Ati Sarvatra Varjayet’ would have a heart attack, if he were alive today. We all binge on everything. Particularly me. I binge eat, binge read, and binge watch. My most recent binge watching session was on February 1, when I pulled an all nighter and watched all the 13, one-hour episodes of House of Cards. Of course this was not the first TV series that I have binge-watched. The Wire, Breaking Bad, British Office, The Thick of It, Homeland, Borgen, the list of TV series I have watched in a go is big. But House of Cards was different. This American political drama with David Fincher of The Social Network fame behind it was the most exciting thing I have watched in years. Not because it was great TV, but because it debuted on February 1, all 13 episodes of it, not on a TV channel but on the on-demand Internet streaming service Netflix. And by doing that it has brought TV into the modern world of digital distribution and consumption.
We all know how traditional TV shows are. You watch an episode this week, and wait another week to watch the next episode. And slowly, and sometimes painfully over 12, 13 weeks you watch one season. Another way is to wait for the season to finish airing on TV, wait for the show to come on DVD, buy it and then watch it at your leisure. Often this would mean watching a show many months after it has aired on TV. Or you can use streaming services like BBC’s iPlayer where an episode can be watched within one week of broadcast, or streaming services like Netflix and Lovefilm where you can watch whenever and wherever you want albeit a few months after the show aired.
By commissioning an original TV show, with good production values, and by putting it all up for streaming on the first day, Netflix has showed that TV is evolving. Even as 4K TVs and smart TVs are coming in to the market every day, TV entertainment is no more tied to a television set or a set top box. The future of television that Netflix has shown with House of Cards can be viewed anywhere with an Internet connection, and on any device. It could be a laptop, a tablet or even a smartphone. And it also liberates us viewers from being tied to archaic time schedules.
The impact House of Cards is going to have on future entertainment is not easy to fathom at the first glance. Liberated from archaic broadcasting rules, and audience ratings, show makers can make more edgy shows. And streaming all the episodes from day one gives the show makers a unique perspective that they would never have gotten while broadcasting on cable or dish. Freed from TRP ratings, show makers can track users reactions in real-time while streaming the show. They can see at which point users are getting bored and are signing off. Are users complaining on social networks that the ending is bad? No problem. Change the ending. All it takes is a quick reshoot and from tomorrow the users can watch the new ending. Don’t be surprised if in the future this leads to every one of us seeing a different ending. You can choose the happy ending while your partner chooses a tragic ending. Would that make art a product of user feedback and thereby demean it? That is a question that only future will answer.
The writer is a tech geek.
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