If you have seen a movie, watched television, or even spoken of the two, then you’ve probably heard of Kevin Spacey. Our main man is attributed to being the degree by which people are separated in the film world, the “Six Degrees of Kevin Spacey”. Indeed Kevin Spacey’s prolific career that began in 1986 spans television, film, and music. He has had unparalleled success in pretty much everything he has done. Spacey’s most recent notable work includes his new hit series “House of Cards” on Netflix. Speaking in Edinburgh, Kevin Spacey, describes the process he and his team went through trying to get “House of Cards” greenlit, and in the process, ever so eloquently explains how the current model of delivering media content to the consumer in the United States is not only broken, but will disappear in the near future.
The fundamental success to the current, outdated model of delivering content relied on two things the distributor had total authority over, two things that Kevin Spacey touches on: cost and control. The companies that controlled media content over the course of the last fifteen years, through their inability to adapt to change in their industry has ultimately led to alternatives like Netflix becoming huge successes.
The technology, the innovation, and the ability to even dream of a mode where content is delivered instantaneously to your electronic device, would have never been achieved had it not been for the development and subsequent wildfire like growth of internet piracy over the last decade or so. Internet piracy was delivering content media in a way that was like the opening of Pandora’s Box. Once people were immersed with the notion that content could be delivered so easily, via P2P programs, Torrent, etc, there is no way the old model of content delivery could ever be satisfactory.
This is not an essay praising internet piracy, it has created many problems. Internet piracy allowed for the development of underground groups of people who were intentionally destroying people’s way of life. The destruction of the old model of business was not because of piracy, but the failure to innovate and adapt to the technology the internet provides. Companies that were seeing their intellectual property being distributed all over the internet were furious and turned to costly legal battles that often painted them in a horrible fashion when all was said and done. These companies of course had every right to defend their profits via legal means but actively chose to do nothing with the media content industry that internet pirates had developed. Effectively if you do nothing to stop the demand of a product, supply will find a way to continue. We still read articles of media companies defending IP rights in the courts today, but internet piracy is still very relevant.
Our economic system ensures that someone will eventually begin (or try) to make money supplying a demand. The internet has seen a prolific increase in legal, direct sale delivery of streaming and downloadable media content. Netflix, Spotify, the Apple iTunes Store, Amazon Prime Instant Video, have all adapted either directly downloadable content or reliable, often unlimited streaming of media content. These companies have seen success in the form of record profits, all by adapting to a model invented by pirates; they have provided a reliable, convenient way to stream or download media content directly to your computer, tablet, or phone for a small fee. It really will not be absurd to think within ten years there will be a content distributor that is able to stream entire libraries of music, television, movies, and books directly to your phone, tablet, PC/Mac/Linux, for a reasonable fee of 20 dollars a month. And once these distributors are able to secure the means that allow them to offer specific pay-per-channel options, such as ESPN or HBO? It will mean the end of the absurd model of bundling content that consumers do not want. Remember, Spacey’s points: cost and control – in this case the freedom to pay for specific content.
Netflix has taken this model a step further, using their initial success as being a premiere content streaming media provider and has begun to produce original content. “House of Cards” and the fourth season of “Arrested Development” are just some of that caliber material that Netflix is trying to produce. They are creating content using data directly from their own users’ watching habits and generating original content based on that. Recently in an interview with GQ, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer said this, “The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” [http://www.gq.com/entertainment/movies-and-tv/201302/netflix-founder-reed-hastings-house-of-cards-arrested-development] Given that they have had promising success with their programming it will be interesting to see how other companies use Netflix’s model to distribute as well as provide original and new content.
What this all means to the individual is, and what Kevin Spacey begins to really bring home at the end of that five minutes, is that we are experiencing a shift, in how we experience media. When we begin to merge all these technologies – television, film, music, literature, we’re beginning to see a distinct lack of definition, and a whole lot more fluidity and flexibility with media as a more conscious form of art. Youtube has allowed for an entire industry of people to make money off their own media content, their own art. The variety of submissions that Youtube has generated is a testament to just how difficult and rather silly it is to try and define what we’re experiencing. What do we call those clips? Surely they aren’t television episodes, are the webispodes, or short films? Most are content with just calling them YouTube clips. Surely, it is irrelevant.
Anyway, “House of Cards”. Check it out I’m four episodes in and I am hooked.