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Pay TV as we know it will be dead by 2025, and this is how it will happen

Mark Sullivan | Oct. 9, 2013
The pay TV industry is in transition, retooling itself to produce and distribute content that is streamed, not broadcast.

Nerds in Hollywood
Netflix's Emmy recognition notwithstanding, the streaming media services still face challenges on their way to becoming visible, viable players in the Hollywood content pipeline. Anton considers it likely that Netflix has been holding meetings with various agents, managers, and production companies around town to make its intentions known, and to appear on the radar of writers, producers, and actors. Judging by the shows and talent Netflix has already been able to attract, it must be doing something right. (TechHive reached out to Netflix for comment, but received no reply.)

Netflix became interested in the women's prison comedy/drama Orange is the New Black mainly because the series showrunner, Jenji Kohan, had a very hot name in Hollywood as the writer/producer of the hit series Weeds, which ran for eight seasons on Showtime. Kohan, who says she loved Piper Kermit's novel Orange is the New Black, called Lionsgate contacts immediately after finishing the book, and asked them to "get it for her." They did, and Kohan began adapting the book for TV.

When Kohan was done writing, she went shopping for a buyer. "I took it to HBO and Showtime and Netflix," Kohan told Terry Gross of NPR during a Fresh Air interview. "And the greatest thing about going to Netflix was that I pitched it in the room, and they ordered 13 episodes without a pilot. That's miraculous. That is every showrunner's dream, to just 'go to series' and have that faith put in your work. They paid full freight. They were new; they were streamlined; they were lovely; they were enthusiastic about it."

And then there's House of Cards, produced by an independent studio called Media Rights Capital (Elysium, Babel), which had bought the rights to the source material for the show—a 1990 BBC miniseries set in Parliament—on the advice of an intern who worked there. The studio then pulled in director David Fincher and writer Beau Willimon to work on creating a new series.

Though it originally expected to sell the show to a cable network, Media Rights Capital put out feelers to Netflix's Sarandos to see if he was interested in a licensing deal. Indeed he was, and the Netflix boss made a move that surprised everyone. The production house thought Netflix might be interested in streaming House of Cards episodes after they had run on cable TV, but Sarandos offered $100 million for exclusive rights to 26 episodes.

Given the company's reputation for deep pockets and a hands-off approach toward content creation, a meeting with Netflix has become a highly desirable get in Hollywood.

Why we're witnessing the beginning of the end
Have the streaming content companies proved anything other than that they can outbid traditional networks for hot shows? Is there something about Internet TV that both consumers and the Hollywood establishment prefer over the scheduled TV we're used to getting from broadcast and cable networks? The numbers seems to suggest so.

 

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