An imperious Kevin Spacey as Francis Underwood stares down at the pedestrians in Times Square from this billboard for House of Cards.
I like this poster in several ways.
Immediately, of course, it reminds me of the series, which I watched with Mrs M a couple of weeks ago. A lot of fun – I’m looking forward to the second season.
If you read it closely, however, this advertising hoarding is marking a little moment of media history. There are ads for TV shows everywhere in this part of mid-town Manhattan, but they are all different to this one in one crucial, industry-shaking detail – as well the date, it says “ALL EPISODES”.
It’s not a series you would have to follow week after week. It’s a complete series available all at once, to be consumed at your own pace, in bursts or a binge if you want, habits we’ve grown from watching box-sets.
This was a show I watched in the UK at the same time as everyone here in the States. Often when I visit New York the ads are for things I won’t watch for months yet – Mad Men, for instance. House of Cards, as I’ve already said, I’ve already seen. The whole thing.
The series (which is worth a couple of months of Netflix subscription fees alone, was the first show that the company commissioned as original content.
Which brings me to the last reason that this poster made me smile. It reminded me the most powerful articulation of strategy I have heard recently – when Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos said:
The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us.
That punchy statement is not on the poster, but it is a kind of silent strap-line, an implicit message every bit as loud as “Only on Netflix”.
It’s a brilliant strategy because it is active, immediate, clear and gives not only direction but an imperative.
HBO will be coming after online on demand audiences with their catalogue of amazing content – Netflix’s best chance of success is to learn the trick of building loyal, slightly addicted audiences for original content of their own.