On February 1, Netflix aired its first original television series, House of Cards. House of Cards is a political drama, not a scifi show, but it heralds great things for the science fiction community. Here are seven reasons why House of Cards is good for sci-fi television.

1. Netflix is the Biggest Name in On-Demand Streaming - Netflix is the highest-profile streaming service for television and movies. While other streaming services like Crackle have created their own shows, Netflix has given online shows more legitimacy. With over three million subscribers, Netflix has a huge audience with a voracious appetite for content. Now that Netflix has become essentially a new TV station, they've embraced a new paradigm for other streaming providers to follow.

2. Netflix Can Bring Back Canceled Shows - There was a time when the Scifi Channel was the savior of canceled sci-fi TV shows with new seasons of shows like Sliders. Netflix has already shown a willingness to bring back canceled shows with their deal to air a new season of Arrested Development. Imagine if Netflix revived beloved sci-fi shows like Firefly.

3. Sci-Fi is a Perfect Fit for Streaming - Most of the early adopters of streaming TV shows are tech-minded, so it makes sense that streaming services would target them with scifi shows. Crackle's original series Chosen and The Unknown are sci-fi oriented. I would expect Netflix to follow suit.

4. The Networks Have Abandoned Sci-fi - The network TV stations have pretty much abandoned the sci-fi format. With the impending cancellation of Fringe, there are almost no straight sci-fi shows left on network television. The Sci-fi Channel rebranded itself Syfy and has been quietly moving away from science fiction for years, focusing on wrestling and "reality" shows. The demand for sci-fi has to go somewhere, and I believe Netflix and other streaming services will be the place to go.

5. On-Demand is the Future of Television
- The new model is being adopted by Crackle, Hulu, and YouTube. What we're witnessing is the dawn of a new model for television. We've moved beyond the days when a show would air on a TV network, and then end up streaming on one of the on-demand stations. Now, TV shows are going straight to on-demand. I think this is the future of television. The days when we ran to our TV sets at a certain place and time to watch our favorite shows are long gone. Network ratings have been dropping for years. One day, I believe all TV shows will be run as streaming content, and Netflix and other providers are leading the way.

6. NetFlix Doesn't Care About Ratings - I think this is the best part and the biggest reasons why scifi could thrive on Netflix. Scifi is typically not a highly rated show. Most scifi shows get canceled because of low ratings. NetFlix has publicly stated that they won't publish any ratings for House of Cards, and that they don't even care about ratings. What they care about is subscribers. That means as long as the show helps add subscribers, Netflix will continue to support it. With this new model, sci-fi has a better chance of staying in production.

7. NetFlix Airs All the Episodes at Once - One of the most exciting parts to me about Netflix's model for House of Cards is that it's not being released in a weekly format. All thirteen episodes of House of Cards were released at once. Right now, I'm catching up on Doctor Who by watching all the previous seasons. Imagine being able to sit down to watch a marathon of the new season of Doctor Who or your other favorite scifi show, all at once instead of week after week.

Even if Netflix doesn't take science fiction, it's setting the bar for on-demand original television. With the model in place, other streaming services are sure to jump on the bandwagon. We're heading for a golden age of scifi.

Do you think House of Cards means good things for scifi? Or do you think it doesn't matter?

[Image Source: Netflix]

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Pat Dilloway said...

I'll be curious to see how well Arrested Development actually does. I don't think shows that get picked up on the waiver wire by another network typically last long. But this is the future for airing shows. Especially since nowadays most people use DVRs or watch online anyway. Clearly the old system is outmoded.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And House of Cards is an excellent show! Hopefully there are more soon, and ones with a science fiction angle would be a bonus. Shame it's too late for Firefly and MST3K.

Tony Laplume said...

JAG originally aired on NBC, but it lasted years on CBS, and has a series of spinoffs that continue to this day (the expanding NCIS franchise). Given the right circumstances, moving homes can absolutely work.

Tony Laplume said...

It'll be interesting to see if sci-fi does benefit from this latest platform. Although I wouldn't say Syfy doesn't do sci-fi. It just hasn't produced a cult favorite series in a few years, which is understandable, given that Farscape and Battlestar Galactica were both popular cult successes that did not actually produce big ratings for them, certainly not like The Walking Dead for AMC. But I wouldn't bet against that happening at some point.


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