The cable television model is dying, and it seems like everyone knows it except the cable companies themselves. Take one look at Netflix, which is breaking the traditional model by selling its subscription streaming service and letting users enjoy content at their own pace, including movies and TV shows, which are released entire seasons at a time.
Kevin Spacey, the Academy Award-winning actor and star of the first Netflix original series “House of Cards,” has become a proponent for this new model of television, citing how it’s easier to produce and more effective at attracting and engaging viewership. At the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival on Aug. 22, Spacey delivered an emphatic speech about the Netflix model, and how giving consumers what they want is the key to success in the new age of television and entertainment. Read the full transcript from Spacey’s speech here, and watch the video of the speech below, courtesy of The Telegraph.
"House of Cards creatively, actually, follows the model more often employed here in Great Britain. The television industry here has never really embraced the pilot season looked to by the networks in the United States as a worthwhile effort. And now look, of course, we went out to all the major networks with House of Cards, and every single one was interested in the idea, but every single one wanted us to do a pilot first. And look it wasn’t out of arrogance that David Fincher and Bo Willem and I were not interested in having to audition the idea, it was that we wanted to start to tell a story that was going to take a long time to tell. We were creating a sophisticated multi-layer story with complex characters who would reveal themselves over time, and relationships that would need space to play out. And the obligation of course of doing a pilot from the writing perspective is that you have to spend about45 minutes establishing all the characters and creating arbitrary cliffhangers and basically generally prove that what your’e going to do is going to work.
"Netflix was the only company that said, ‘We believe in you. We’ve run our data, and it tells us our audience would watch this series.’
"By comparison, last year, 113 pilots were made. 35 of those were chosen to go to air, 13 of those were renewed, but most of those are gone now. And this year, 146 pilots were shot, 56 have gone to series but we don’t know the outcome of those yet, but the cost of these pilots was somewhere between $300 and $400 million a year. That makes our House of Cards deal for two seasons look really cost effective.
"Clearly the success of the Netflix model, releasing the entire season of House of Cards at once, proved one thing: The audience wants the control. They want the freedom. If they want to binge as they’ve been doing on House of Cards and lots of other shows, we should let them binge. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped me on the street and said, ‘Thank you, you sucked three days out of my life.’
"And through this new form of distribution, we have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn: Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they’ll more likely pay for it rather than steal it. Well, some will still steal it, but I think we can take a bite out of piracy.
"So I predict in the next decade or two, any differentiation between these platforms will fall away. Is 13 hours watched as one cinematic whole really any different from a film? Do we define film as something being two hours or less? Surely it goes deeper than that. If you’re watching a film on your television, is it no longer a film because you’re not watching it in a theatre? If you watch a TV show on your iPad, is it no longer a TV show? The device and the length are irrelevant; the labels are useless, except perhaps to agents and managers and lawyers, who use these labels to conduct business deals. But for kids growing up now, there’s no difference watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on TV or watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It’s all content. It’s just story.
"And the audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them .They’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly GIFs, and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them. The prized fruit is right there, shinier and juicier than it’s ever been before. So it’ll be all the more shame on each and every one of us if we don’t reach out and seize it.
"And I want to leave you with the words of a man as good as any to address the nexus of commerce and art, Mr. Orson Welles, who once said, ‘I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.’”