HBO And Netflix Are Engaged In An ‘Arms Race’ For Top-Notch Programming And The Winner Might Be All Of Us

02.17.14 21 Comments


HBO’s True Detective and Netflix’s House of Cards are two of the most buzzed about dramas on television right now, and if HBO and Netflix have anything to say about it, we can expect this sort of thing for a long time. According to a report in the New York Times, the two providers — one a long-time giant in premium television programming, the other an upstart with a few notable hits under its belt — are the big swinging phalluses in an industry-wide “arms race for programming,” with both of them currently “seeing the best pitches from the best people.”

Sayeth the Times:

If there is a rivalry between the two companies, it is by many measures a mismatch — certainly in terms of creative achievement (HBO has also won 463 Emmys, to three for Netflix). But that hasn’t stopped Wall Street and the entertainment media from salivating at the story line: Netflix, the brash Silicon Valley interloper, driven by metrics and technology, not to mention a checkbook that makes seasoned Hollywood players blush like teenagers, taking on HBO, the East Coast establishment player, in the rarefied and profitable world of quality television.

The competition is energizing the medium. Cable networks like HBO and Showtime, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, are spending lavishly on programming and embracing new technologies, giving producers incentives to take creative and financial risks and generating an upward spiral in quality.

An upward spiral in quality! That’s a good thing! Now tell me more about this rivalry!

“The truth of it is they are a real guiding light,” [Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer] said, adding, “They’ve shown the world that they can grow a premium subscription content service to 130 million subscribers, and so we’re looking at that saying that that’s a number that we’re striving for.” The consumer wins in the end, he said.

Time Warner executives do not share Netflix’s view of a friendly rivalry, and privately express frustration at a comparison they believe is spurious and fueled by Netflix, which they say is more like Amazon or Hulu than HBO.

It sounds like some real Big Brother-Little Brother stuff is developing between the two companies, with Netflix trying to position itself as a grown-up who should TOTALLY be allowed to hang out and shoot pool with HBO, Starz, and Showtime at Shakey’s after the big game, and HBO still viewing it as a little kid who uses training wheels and has mom cut its food LIKE A BABY. I hope this is the case. Mostly because it is a funny visual.

But anyway, the article goes on to lay out some of the financial information for the two companies, mostly to compare and contrast their respective business models, and you are certainly welcome to read through all of that if you like. I, however, am going to point out how cool it is that all of this is resulting in a run on high-quality programming that is luring some of the biggest names in the industry to television (McConaughey, Spacey, Fincher, Soderbergh, etc.) This is excellent news for you and me. I mean, it could all go to high-priced hell in a heartbeat (there are bound to be notable swings-and-misses along the way, and that could scare people), but it’s certainly better than reading a million stories about networks buying up “less sophisticated” shows to appeal to “a broader audience.” That trend can go take a flying leap into Sh*thole Lake.

Source: New York Times

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