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By 2013, Netflix had already fundamentally changed the way Americans consumed movies and television. The service offered unlimited DVD rentals—and, starting in 2007, direct streaming of many of its titles—for a flat monthly fee, a wildly popular model that almost single-handedly drove Blockbuster and other video rental stores out of business. In February of 2013, Netflix introduced House of Cards, the first major TV show that ran exclusively on a streaming service. It was another Netflix innovation that would alter the media landscape.
Director and producer David Fincher began developing an American version of the British political drama House of Cards in 2011. Cable and premium channels like HBO and AMC, which had experience with “prestige TV” programming, were in talks to pick up the show, but Netflix outbid them, hoping to begin its foray into original content with a bang. Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey was announced in the lead role the same year, and buzz built around the show.
House of Cards’ first season was released all at once rather than episode-by-episode, another first. The show was a hit, garnering nine Emmy nominations, a first for a streaming-only program. House of Cards ran for five more seasons and received a total of seven Emmys and 56 nominations, ending with a final season that focused on Spacey’s character’s wife, played by Robin Wright, after a series of sexual misconduct allegations against Spacey became public.
Netflix had another major hit with Orange is the New Black, which premiered a few months later, and its original shows have numbered among the most popular in the country ever since. Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and other streaming services have made a concerted effort to produce original content in the years since House of Cards debuted, and 60 percent of Americans now subscribe to at least one streaming service. In 2018, Icarus became the first Netflix production to win an Oscar, taking home the award for Best Documentary Feature, and the following year Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma won three Academy Awards.
Why you've never heard of the first Netflix Original, 'Lilyhammer.' And why it's still my favorite.
Last year, Netflix debuted more original content than the entire TV industry did in 2005. They had a shocking 160 Emmy nominations in 2020 on original productions, and currently have almost 300 more projects in development.
The one-time DVD rental giant has become a streaming content behemoth in just eight short years, dating all the way back to their first (and probably still most iconic) Netflix Original: &ldquoHouse of Cards.&rdquo
Except, well, &ldquoHouse of Cards&rdquo wasn&rsquot the first Netflix Original.
That distinction actually belongs to &ldquoLilyhammer,&rdquo a 2012 co-production with a Norwegian broadcasting company that stars Steven Van Zandt as a New York mobster who goes into witness protection in a small, morally uncorrupted Norwegian town (you&rsquoll never guess how that turns out). It feels sort of like a funnier version of &ldquoBreaking Bad,&rdquo but plus Norway, and minus the meth.
The show largely gets buried on the internet, it&rsquos a five-minute scroll down Wikipedia&rsquos listing of every Netflix Original before you find &ldquoLilyhammer&rdquo in the co-production category. Even on Netflix&rsquos own platform, it won&rsquot come up in any sort of recommendation engine outside of &ldquoBecause you watch Norwegian dramas that are also pretty funny and also also star the guy who played Silvio in &lsquoThe Sopranos.&rsquo&rdquo
"Lilyhammer," starring Steven Van Zandt, debuted in 2012 -- a full year prior to "House of Cards."
Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix
&ldquoIt was Steven Van Zandt&rsquos idea to approach American broadcasters with the show,&rdquo co-creator Anne Bjornstad writes to me from her Rubicon TV office in Norway. &ldquoHe insisted the series would work on TV in the States. This seemed extremely unlikely to us, as no Norwegian drama series had been aired in the US before. So our response was basically: &lsquoDream on.&rsquo
&ldquoAt the time, nobody in Norway had heard about Netflix. We had to explain, &lsquoIt&rsquos like iTunes, only with TV series and movies,&rsquo&rdquo she writes.
But, air it did, complete with a hokey series-opening animation where the old Netflix logo peels away to reveal, &ldquoA Netflix Original Series.&rdquo
I first discovered &ldquoLilyhammer&rdquo after an exhaustive Google search five years ago when I started to wonder if I&rsquod even seen all of the Netflix Originals.
I&rsquove watched it in its entirety twice since then for three reasons:
1) I have a Norwegian cousin who moved to the United States when I was in high school. He was the Best Man at my wedding and never really told me a whole lot about his Norwegian upbringing (outside of how to say all of the curse words), so I was curious about the culture.
2) The plot is so refreshingly original, Bjornstad describes it perfectly: &ldquoThe idea works on different levels. On a superficial level, you have the &lsquomobster on ice&rsquo element of slapstick-y comedy. Then there is the more profound clash between the mindset of a New York mobster, who is a social Darwinistic predator, used to taking what he wants, when he wants it &ndash who suddenly finds himself stuck in the social security net of the Norwegian welfare system, labeled as a helpless immigrant.&rdquo
And 3) Because I think it might be my favorite Netflix Original.
I saw a great take on Twitter recently from Harron Walker that basically pointed out that a lot of Netflix Originals are made to be watched secondarily. Something I thoroughly love about &ldquoLilyhammer&rdquo is that you can&rsquot watch it secondarily because maybe a third of the dialogue is in Norwegian (as someone who has had to rewatch more than one episode, I can confidently say that if you aren&rsquot reading subtitles, you&rsquore so, so, so lost). The show requires your full attention in the same way that Prestige TV does.
"Lilyhammer," starring Steven Van Zandt, debuted in 2012 -- a full year prior to "House of Cards."
Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix
Which means you don&rsquot miss things like Van Zandt, who plays Johnny Henriksen (a.k.a. Frank "The Fixer" Tagliano), hilariously learning how to say, &ldquoI have new mittens,&rdquo in Norwegian while listening to a &ldquoHow to speak Norwegian&rdquo tape on his Walkman.
It means you don&rsquot miss things like Johnny driving a comically tiny electric vehicle through town, or myriad &ldquobad guy&rdquo archetypes that are laughably Norwegian (like kind old farmers who owe him money and offer to pay him in reindeer, or Montessori-type school administrators who don&rsquot have room for his twins, or the head of an HOA who wants Johnny to participate in communal gardening). And Johnny is also surrounded by an all-star cast that includes his right hand man, and perpetual aloof underdog Torgeir (Trond Fausa Aurvåg) who went on to star in sleeper Netflix hit Norsemen.
"Lilyhammer," starring Steven Van Zandt, debuted in 2012 -- a full year prior to "House of Cards."
Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix
And maybe best of all, you get to hear a bunch of Norwegian guys try to talk like mobsters alongside actual mobsters, like in this all-time great exchange:
Mobster: &ldquoWho the f&ndashk are you?&rdquo
Torgeir's brother Roar: &ldquoWho the f&ndashk am I? Who the f&ndashk are you?&rdquo
Mobster: &ldquoWho the f&ndashk am I? I&rsquom security at this place, so who the f&ndashk are you?&rdquo
Torgeir: &ldquoWell, who the f&ndashk are you. &rdquo
Mobster: "Who the f&ndashk am I?"
Torgeir's brother Roar: "Who the f&ndashk are you?"
Torgeir: "Yeah, who the f&ndashk are you?"
Mobster: "Who the f&ndashk are you?"
Torgeir&rsquos brother Roar: &ldquoWhat&rsquos the line on the Knicks?&rdquo
Torgeir's brother Roar: "What's the f&ndashking line on the Knicks?"
Mobster: &ldquo6 ½&rdquo
Torgeir: &ldquoF&ndashking OK.&rdquo
&ldquoThere seems to be a huge appetite for Scandinavian drama series these days, a development we are very happy about, obviously,&rdquo Bjonstad writes. &ldquoI&rsquom not sure 'Lilyhammer' can take credit for that development, but it was interesting to be a part of the first wave.&rdquo
That&rsquos another piece that is undeniably enjoyable: the contrast of polite, reserved Norway with the brash Americanism of Johnny, who is exceedingly Trumpian, something I point out to Bjornstad that makes her laugh.
&ldquoHaha, I hadn&rsquot thought of that. We never expected anything like that to happen when we worked on the series. The Johnny character is a typical gangster, but behind his questionable morals, there is a heart of gold that shines through from time to time,&rdquo she writes. &ldquoI suspect President (Donald) Trump would have a harder time adapting to the Norwegian way of life than Johnny.&rdquo
'House of Cards' premiere review: Netflix's first series skims expectations
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Congressman from South Carolina and house majority whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) fully expects the new president will reward him with the job of secretary of state -- except the new president has other ideas. Underwood has been spurned and now has revenge on his mind -- he has an able Lady Macbeth in his corner, Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), who runs a charity and is even more ruthless than her spouse. He begins to set his plan in motion, and it involves a drunken congressman from Pennsylvania, Russo (Corey Stoll), an ambitious newspaper reporter, Zoey Barnes (Kate Mara), and a few other pawns. Based on an old BBC series of the same name, the first two hours were written by Beau Willimon ("Ides of March") and directed by David Fincher all 13 first-season episodes will start streaming today and will be available for viewing anytime.
MY SAY "A Netflix Original Series. " Those words -- those historic words -- open "House of Cards," and you suddenly, abruptly, even happily realize that a brand-new player with deep pockets has entered this fun fray we call television. But what follows isn't really history at all.
In fact, it's surprisingly mundane. Not that "Cards" is lousy, but it can be dull, plodding, remote, unengaging and often chilly. Partly the problem is one of expectations. For "House of Cards," they've been enormous.
Fincher ("The Social Network") doesn't direct TV all that often, and except for a brief PBS tour of duty on 2003's "Freedom: A History of US," Spacey hasn't done a TV series in nearly 20 years. Add these other names -- Wright, Mara, Stoll -- and you fully expect magic, and instead get just another good TV drama. As the craven, wanton narcissist who thinks the solar system revolves around him, Spacey is excellent (he always is). But the series' depiction of Washington seems all too obvious, in a What-Hollywood-Thinks-D.C.-is-like sort of way. Meanwhile, the newsroom here is almost laughably wrong. Most movies and TV series don't get newspaper work right ("The Wire" is the only exception that comes to mind). Example from "Cards": Barnes refuses to divulge her source to her paper's top editor. If this were to happen in real life, that reporter -- to mangle a phrase coined by Barney Kilgore, the great former editor of the Wall Street Journal -- would be quickly outgoing instead of upcoming.
BOTTOM LINE Above-average newcomer with a great actor in the leading role and frosty grace notes throughout.
“House of Cards” and Our Future of Algorithmic Programming
Plenty is being made about how Netflix made its first original TV series, House of Cards, available all at once online, and what that portends for the future of television consumption. But this is nothing new. People now expect to fit TV into their own schedules. It seems inevitable that on-demand entertainment will eventually eclipse weekly scheduled broadcasts.
The bigger, possibly darker omen for the future of TV is found in several articles about why Netflix decided to make its original programming bet on House of Cards, specifically, as opposed to some other series about, say, zombies or teenagers. It bought House of Cards based on what it knows about the viewing habits of its 33 million users—it knew which and how many users watch movies starring Kevin Spacey and the director David Fincher, and, through its tagging and recommendation system, how many sat through other similar political dramas. It has shown different trailers to people depending on their particular viewing habits, too.
David Carr in the New York Times tells the story of how Netflix felt confident it would be a hit:
Jonathan Friedland, the company’s chief communications officer, said, “Because we have a direct relationship with consumers, we know what people like to watch and that helps us understand how big the interest is going to be for a given show. It gave us some confidence that we could find an audience for a show like ‘House of Cards.’ ”
The larger implications are apparent, as Carr goes onto explore. Netflix’s data about consumers has exploded at least 10 times as it has moved from DVD rental to a Web streaming model (see “Why There Won’t Be Another Netflix Prize”). As companies like Netflix, Google, and Amazon, which know more about our detailed watching habits, start to become forces in the creation of original programming, they could start also shaping creative decisions of directors and writers as well.
Will screenplays some day be written to meet the whims of data-driven media streaming companies? Will an algorithm direct writers to produce content to appeal to niche audience profiles on Netflix?
Probably it won’t be that drastic—in the news media world, Google search optimization and algorithmic editorial decisions about what to cover have shaped some news articles at some publications, but the computers haven’t taken over yet. But we’ve already covered how algorithms have started to write news stories, compose music, and pick hits in a broader range of creative industries (see “Can Creativity Be Automated?”). Given the backstory of House of Cards, I’m pretty sure we’ll start to see at least segments of the TV and movie industry get swept up in this trend.
House of Cards (season 1)
The first season of the American television drama series House of Cards premiered exclusively via Netflix's web streaming service on February 1, 2013.  The season was produced by Media Rights Capital, and the executive producers are David Fincher, Kevin Spacey, Eric Roth, Joshua Donen, Dana Brunetti, Andrew Davies, Michael Dobbs, John Melfi, and Beau Willimon.
House of Cards was created for television by Beau Willimon. It is an adaptation of a previous BBC miniseries of the same name by Andrew Davies, which was based on the novel by Michael Dobbs. Set in present-day Washington, D.C., House of Cards is the story of Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a Democrat from South Carolina's 5th congressional district and the House Majority Whip, who, after getting passed over for appointment as Secretary of State, decides to exact his revenge on those who betrayed him. The series also stars Robin Wright, Kate Mara, and Corey Stoll in lead roles.
The fifth and sixth episodes of this season marked the final directing work of Joel Schumacher.
NBC's venture into the streaming isn't technically available everywhere just yet. Some Comcast subscribers have early access, but it launches in earnest on July 15th. When it does, you'll notice a great many familiar titles. Peacock promises reboots of Battlestar Galactica, Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell, plus a MacGruber series. It'll also be the exclusive home of the popular novel adaptations Brave New World and One of Us Is Lying.
Netflix's Original Series House of Cards -- From David Fincher and Kevin Spacey -- May be the New Face of Television
Netflix released Lillyhammer last year in the same manner, but the high-profile nature of the talent attached to House of Cards marks a significant moment in the grand online content experiment. Indeed, these next few months may be the beginning of a new phase in the ever-evolving way that we perceive, consume and produce “television.” (We’ll have to come up with a new way to say “serialized long-form scripted-programming.”)
House of Cards follows ruthless Congressman Francis Underwood (Spacey) and his wife Claire (Robin Wright) who will stop at nothing to conquer everything. Kate Mara (American Horror Story) and Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris) costar in the first original series from Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network), Beau Willimon (The Ides of March) and Eric Roth (Forest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), with Fincher directing the first two episodes.
Have you watched Hemlock Grove?
An adaptation of Michael Dobbs' novel, which was already a British mini-series, about politics and blackmail, the series takes an at-once artful and scathing look at the unsavory underbelly of Washington, capitalism, politics, and perhaps most-fascinatingly, a non-profit/charitable organization. In a recent interview with GQ, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos threw down the metaphorical gauntlet to both cable and network television when he said that the outlet’s goal was, "to become HBO faster than HBO can become us."
I’ve seen the first two episodes in the adapted series, and can report that House of Cards goes a long way to achieving that goal aesthetically speaking. How audiences ultimately respond to the material, though, is part of what makes the show’s release so fascinating to watch unfold. I spoke with writer/showrrunner Beau Willimon earlier today in fact, and he said that one of the things that made this project so attractive was that the creative team was liberated from the need to “play the ratings game.” They were instead able to look at the series as if it were a 13-hour film they were producing, one which they had a remarkable amount of creative freedom on. “It’s good to shake up the paradigm every once in awhile," he said. "Because when you start having 'tried and true' measures of success and you start quantifying art in that way you start to get into a mode of stagnation."
[Stay tuned for more from that interview next week.]
The original BBC series was very much a reflection of and response to Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister and a pervading feeling of cynicism that was present in Britain at the time. This version of the tale is less interested in making direct correlations to specific political figures (though parallels can be found if one is looking for them). The show takes a more archetypal approach to the story’s exploration of the many faces of power, ambition and greed. There is an inherently Shakespearean feel to the material, as the British adaptation of Dobb’s novel drew on the Bard’s Royal/political dramas. In fact, Spacey toured the world as Richard the III in the seven months prior to shooting the series and Willimon, Fincher and the actor spoke quite openly about that role leading directly into his portrayal of ruthless majority whip Francis Underwood. As in the BBC version, Spacey will often break the fourth wall and speak directly to camera, as if he is delivering a soliloquy.
It’s a device that may take viewers a moment or two to get accustomed to, but it lends itself beautifully to the tone of the show. It invites the viewer to go on this journey with a man who is unquestionably morally compromised, but ultimately able to move through the sludge of political gridlock and get things done. The complex nature of our experience of this character, and the humor that Spacey brings to it, is what engages us in this series as something delicious and fun to watch, rather than a depressing indictment of the American powers that be. Spacey’s Francis Underwood ultimately feels universal. We can imagine him thriving in Westeros as easily as Washington. There is a distinctly Lady MacBeth quality to his wife, Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood. For her part, Wright gives as nuanced and compelling a performance in just these first two episodes as I have ever seen from her (this from a great fan of her work).
There is a contemporary feel to the material, as there always is with a Fincher offering. The show brings a particularly modern element to the show with Mara’s character, a young, highly ambitious journalist who represents the failure of the fourth estate (the media).
The bottom line: This series is well worth watching, and will likely reveal a great deal about how television is done in the years to come.
'House of Cards' review: Netflix original series still holds a strong hand
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) is the new president, and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), first lady. There are big challenges ahead, bigger challenges behind. And what of old friends, like former chief of staff Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly), left for dead last season?
MY SAY After two seasons, we think we know everything we need to know about one Francis Underwood, and perhaps all we want to know, too.
That, to paraphrase Mary McCarthy, every word he says -- including "the" and "and" -- is a lie. He has no loyalties, no beliefs, no scruples, no honor, and no love, with the possible exception of self-love. He's single-minded and brilliant -- and a cold-blooded murderer.
A lesser talent than Spacey would have curdled this Dorian Gray portrait long ago. Nevertheless, a very real challenge lies ahead, for Spacey, the show and fans.
The first two seasons were the story of a rise but -- gravity being gravity, or karma being karma, or a house of cards being made of cards -- we would now appear to be at the outset of the story of a fall.
In that sense, the third season absolutely is a reset season, except that Spacey and creator Beau Willimon clearly have other ideas to explore first before they head into the downfall phase. The framework is obvious: Underwood has a past that constantly threatens to overwhelm his present, and he's always checking over his shoulder because he has to.
But -- and here's where the new season gets potentially interesting -- he also has to run the country, and worry about a forthcoming election in 2016. We saw what Frank was like as a majority whip and vice president and (above all) as an Iago. What will he be like as POTUS? There's terrorism to confront, the Russians to navigate, Supreme Court nominations to make, drones to launch, and above all, his wife's ambitions to address. Meanwhile, the economy is a horror show. His approval numbers are in the single digits.
Willimon also seems to be toying with this intriguing question: Can a bad person become a good president? The answer may be self-evident -- or maybe not. Nevertheless, therein lies a compelling new season. We may still have a lot more to learn about Frank Underwood after all.
Netflix Series 'House Of Cards' Makes Emmy HistoryThis article is more than 7 years old. This image released by Netflix shows Kevin Spacey, left, and Kate Mara, center, listening to director David Fincher during the filming of the Netflix original series, "House of Cards." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix via AP)
Netflix's "House of Cards" made Emmy history Thursday with a top drama series nomination, the first time that television's leading awards have recognized a program delivered online as equal in quality to the best that TV has to offer.
The nomination, one of nine nods earned by the political thriller, is a marker in the unfolding revolution in how we receive and watch video entertainment.
"It's really groundbreaking," said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. "It's beyond our most bold expectations. We were thinking a single nomination would be a win. It's as much a win for Internet television as it is for the content creators."
The most Emmy nominations, 17, went to "American Horror Story: Asylum." Close behind was "Game of Thrones" with 16 nods, while "Saturday Night Live" and the Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra" earned 15 nominations each, including nods for stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
The bonanza of nominations for "Game of Thrones" is the swords-and-fantasy show's most-ever and includes a best drama series nod and three acting bids, including a supporting nod for Peter Dinklage.
"House of Cards" stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright received acting bids, along with a number of other primarily big-screen actors who have migrated to TV for powerhouse projects, with Douglas and Damon among them.
Joining "House of Cards" and "Game of Thrones" in the best drama series category are "Breaking Bad," `'Downton Abbey," `'Mad Men" and last year's winner, "Homeland."
"Mad Men," which last year missed out on the best drama trophy that would have been its record-setting fifth, eclipsing fellow four-time winners "Hill Street Blues," `'L.A. Law" and The West Wing," gets another shot this year.
The major broadcast networks were shut out of the prestigious category, a repeat of last year and a particular blow with the entry of Netflix's streamed drama. "Boardwalk Empire" was the only show not to return in the category, its spot claimed by "House of Cards."
In the comedy series category, nominees are "The Big Bang Theory," `'Girls," `'Louie," `'Modern Family," `'Veep" and "30 Rock," recognized for its final season. Another outgoing comedy, "The Office," didn't receive a best series nod.
Another Netflix series, "Arrested Development," didn't earn a best comedy series but scored three nominations, including one for star Jason Bateman. Some pundits thought it might earn online's first best comedy series nod, given that it won a trophy in the category for Fox before the network canceled it.
A 6-year-old TV academy rules change allows online entries to compete with cable and broadcast programs, although so far Internet shows have popped up only in lower-profile categories. That changed with the 65th Primetime Emmys.
"It certainly is a marker of the new era. . It will send shock waves through the industry," said Tim Brooks, a TV historian and former network executive, predicted on the eve of the nominations.
They were announced by Aaron Paul, a previous winner for "Breaking Bad" and nominated again this year, and, in a surprise, Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris. He filled in for "House of Cards" actress Kate Mara, kept in Santa Fe, N.M., by a plane's mechanical malfunction.
"Special thanks to Kate Mara for getting me out of the house before my kids start screaming and crying," Harris said.
An in-demand emcee, the "How I Met Your Mother" star earned a bid for hosting Broadway's Tony Awards.
Joining Spacey in the contest for best drama series actor are Hugh Bonneville of "Downton Abbey" Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" Jeff Daniels of "The Newsroom" and Damian Lewis of "Homeland," last year's winner.
Kevin Bacon, one of the big-screen stars trying their hand at TV, was not recognized in the category for "The Following."
"Breaking Bad," now in its final episodes on AMC, goes out with a best drama Emmy nomination. "What's so great about this thing is it's going to bring us all back together. A little family reunion. So we get to come back together and celebrate the time we had together and the work that we did. It's very exciting," said Paul.
Actresses nominated for their drama series work besides Wright include Vera Farmiga of "Bates Hotel" Michelle Dockery of "Downtown Abbey" Elisabeth Moss of "Mad Men" Connie Britton of "Nashville" and Kerry Washington of "Scandal." Claire Danes, last year's winner for "Homeland," got a nod.
Besides Bateman, the nominees for best actor in a comedy are Jim Parsons for "The Big Bang Theory": Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes" Don Cheadle for "House of Lies" Louis C.K. for "Louie" and Alec Baldwin for "30 Rock."
Jon Cryer, last year's surprise winner for "Two and a Half Men," didn't make the cut this year.
Actresses competing for top comedy acting honors are Laura Dern for "Enlightened" Lena Dunham for "Girls" Edie Falco for "Nurse Jackie" Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation" and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who claimed the trophy last year for "Veep."
Most of the 2012 trophy holders have a chance to repeat.
Maggie Smith was nominated again as best supporting actress in a drama for "Downton Abbey," which has brought her two trophies. Julie Bowen is up for supporting actress in a comedy for "Modern Family."
However, Eric Stonestreet, who claimed the supporting actor award last year for the show, was snubbed while castmates Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ed O'Neill and Ty Burrell got nods.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Emmy ceremony will air Sept. 22 on CBS.
This article was originally published on July 18, 2013.
This program aired on July 18, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.
House of Cards brings Netflix its first major Emmy award
Video streaming service Netflix made history Sunday night when it became the first company of its kind to score an Emmy in a major category at the annual TV awards show.
David Fincher won the best director prize for his work on Netflix’s political drama House of Cards, beating off competition from Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire), Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad), Jeremy Webb (Downton Abbey), and Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland).
The Web-only show had received nine nominations in total, picking up two further Creative Arts Emmy wins at an event last week prior to the main ceremony Sunday night.
While Netflix will be disappointed to have walked away with only one high profile award on the night – House of Cards actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, for example, both missed out in their respective categories – the best director prize is a big deal and further cements the reputation of a company making its presence increasingly felt in the entertainment business.
The fact that House of Cards was Netflix’s first attempt at original programming makes Sunday night’s win all the more impressive. The California-based company had taken a risk with its entry into original programming, committing around $100 million for two seasons of the show, but positive reviews, nine Emmy nominations, and three awards indicate it was a wise investment.
Also, Netflix dared to be different by rolling out all 13 episodes of its brand new show at once, a move designed to please so-called ‘binge’ viewers who enjoy more control over precisely when they watch their favorite shows. The on-demand approach for a new show has proved so successful for Netflix that some major pay-TV operators are now following suit.
Despite the awards and praise, however, it’s not clear precisely how popular Netflix shows like House of Cards are with audiences as the company doesn’t release viewing figures. But given that it has some 37 million subscribers around the world, including more than 28 million in the US, we have to assume it’s doing something right.
Industry watchers will be interested to see if and how Netflix builds on the success of its original programming strategy, which also includes shows such as Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove.
In July, the Internet TV service said it hoped to appeal to a wider audience and further expand its user base with brand new shows to include feature documentaries and stand-up comedy specials.