Netflix is trying to present an alternative to the TV production model, and now it's working on an alternative to the TV scheduling model, as well.
Netflix today announced that "House of Cards," its new political drama series produced by David Fincher, adapted from the U.K. series of the same name, and starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as the House Majority Whip and his wife, will debut on February 1, 2013 — and that all 13 episodes of the first season will be available to watch at the same time.
This isn't the first time Netflix has done this. "Lilyhammer," its original drama starring Steve Van Zandt as a wiseguy who relocates to Norway, also launched all of its episodes at once, and there have been reports that this is how Netflix intends to premiere the new "Arrested Development" episodes when they're ready.
But "House of Cards" (from the Media Rights Capital studio) is a bigger investment, and higher priority, for Netflix than "Lilyhammer" was, and doing it this way suggests this is how the company intends to launch its shows going forward.
As a critic who tries to review every episode of the shows he likes, I'm not sure how I'm going to be handling this. But as a fan of complex "television" who can cite many, many series ("The Wire," most famously) where viewers ideally need to see a handful of episodes at once to figure out whether it's for them, I think this is a great idea. It's going to mute the overall conversation, because people will be watching "House of Cards," "Arrested," and whatever else Netflix tries, on their own schedules, rather than us all coming together at a certain time each week, but I think a lot of new shows benefit from an increased initial sampler.
Fienberg and I have talked on the podcast about how, ideally, HBO or Showtime would make at least the first month's worth of episodes of their new shows available On Demand at the start of the season. (More than that would defeat the purpose of getting someone to subscribe for at least three months to watch, say, "Game of Thrones.") There have already been experiments along these lines, like ABC putting multiple episodes of "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" up online before it premiered. If Netflix winds up being successful with this approach, I'll be curious to see if their TV competitors follow.
What does everybody else think? Are you happy that, if you like these shows, you'll get to watch as much as you want immediately, or will you miss the experience of doing it a week at a time with everyone else?