Are we heading for a Golden Age of Television?
With Netflix’s stated goal of becoming:
…HBO faster than HBO can become us.
Is that going to lead to a Golden Age of Television?
TV is replacing movies as elite entertainment, because players like Netflix, HBO, and AMC are in an arms race for lush, high-quality shows
Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic in Netflix, ‘House of Cards,’ and the Golden Age of Television seems to think so. A rare positive thought for our production future.
Derek Thompson takes a slow careful look that the focus for quality production – such as it still exists – has shifted away from Film toward Television. Hollywood builds franchises, he argues, and they’re mostly catering to the lowest common denominator, where sequels are the easy path forward.
In 2010, when Netflix streaming was still in its infancy, Edward Jay Epstein, the excellent chronicler of the business of Hollywood, wrote a little column answering a big question: Why is TV replacing movies as elite entertainment?
Thompson draws a lot on Epstein’s explanation of the rise of HBO (Showtime & Starz as well) via it’s slate of original, high quality, censorship free entertainment. He argues that AMC have used a similar play to make sure they’re carried on every cable system (and get 40c a subscriber) with Breaking Bad and Mad Men. He uses this to argue that Netflix is making the right decision to invest in original programming.
He pulls this all together in what must be the most positive outlook on the future of Television. Positive because most prognosticators I know predict that budgets and available time are pushing quality down. His conclusion:
And it means there’s even more money in the market for lavish television. For every “House of Cards” auction, there is another bidder. For every auteur, there is another hand shaking money in her face. Yes,programming costs will continue to rise, and yes, you might have to get used to paying a little bit more for Netflix as it turns into an independently-owned HBO. But the good news is that the golden age of television was built by a group of niche networks chasing TV fanatics with programming that was better than we knew to expect from TV. And that group is getting bigger.