How We’ll Watch TV In The Future (Probably)

March 16, 2011

| Posted in: Technology,Television

Photo by Lambert/Getty Images

Netflix, the video rental and streaming behemoth, is getting into the original content game.  According to Deadline Hollywood’s Nellie Andreeva, Netflix is reportedly in talks to buy 26 episodes of a remake of the British political drama “House of Cards” for $100 million.  The remake will star Kevin Spacey and be directed by David Fincher.  While the deal is significant in terms of the players, the size of the order and the dollar amount, it also represents a broader change in the way people will consume television and movies, as Andreeva notes.

Netflix isn’t the only non-traditional player with its sights set on territory traditionally controlled by Hollywood.  To help determine what the future may hold in terms of distribution and content production, we enlisted veteran tech/media reporter Peter Kafka of All Thing’s Digital to assess the five candidates most likely to challenge Netflix:

“While streaming video is currently being used in a limited way as an incentive to get people to join Amazon Prime, there is no reason they can’t assemble the same catalog as Netflix.  They have the money and most of that content is not exclusive.   They are also one of only a handful of companies who have a credit card billing relationship with literally hundreds of millions of existing customers, so the payment infrastructure is already in place.”

“They clearly want in, but their model hasn’t really taken off.  According to Jobs the content guys are pricing their stuff to high, but the studios and networks have shown no inclination to offer anything for cheaper.  But Apple has one huge advantage:  they have credit relationships with something like 200 million people.  These users already buy content from Apple in some form, and they are used to the experience.  That said, I can’t see Steve Jobs wanting to get into the television production business.”

“The official party line is that they are platform, but it doesn’t take much to imagine them being a more active participant in online video.  The most obvious model would be an iTunes-like set up.  This has tremendous appeal to the distributors of content, who are all working hard to have their content involved in social interaction.  This would cut out the middleman.  They’ve only just dipped a toe in this area, but I’m bullish on Facebook in terms of video distribution.  As for original content, they’ve shown know inclination to want to do this and probably would draw a bright line so as not to compete with distributors.”

“Google has the resources to buy their way into whatever business they want but they seem to have made a conscious decision not to enter the distribution and content production race in the United States.  You can rent movies now on YouTue, which most people don’t realize.  And they are now talking about getting a handful of famous people to create content for their own YouTube Channels, but neither of these are part of a major focus. It’s probably very disappointing for Hollywood because people thought Google would just show up with a truckful of cash to buy a studio or an output deal.”

“Microsoft has spent years trying to get into the living room, and now with Xbox they’ve succeeded.  Now that they have an internet connection going to people’s TVs they are playing around with the idea of turning the game console into a cable box, as evidenced by their recent deal with ESPN to make 3,5000 live broadcasts available through the Xbox. The tech press tends to discount Microsoft because of other struggles but this is one area where they could become a big deal.” 

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