On Feb. 1, the political drama "House of Cards" premiered exclusively on Netflix to overwhelmingly positive reviews, a sudden explosion of social media exposure and rapid viewership.
The program's popularity goes a bit further than planting some credibility in Netflix's original content; "House of Cards" signals the future of television.
Netflix has already asserted its dominance in the realm of television, but only when it comes to programs a season or two behind. Nothing beats cruising through old seasons of once-popular television shows on Netflix, but watching what was broadcast a year ago robs viewers of the water cooler talk that comes with watching the newest episodes offered week by week.
"House of Cards" turns this model upside down by offering new, original content in one fell swoop; an entire season offered immediately, 13 episodes of content instantly accessible that no one has seen before.
Not only does this take advantage of Nexflix's best attribute — being able to watch programming at your convenience — it does it while keeping the social aspects of viewing current television intact. It removes the agony of waiting another week to see what Barney will do next on "How I Met Your Mother," while keeping us up to date with what is popular on television right now.
Raw numbers suggest the model can be effective as well. A survey conducted by investment firm Cowen and Co. showed that 86 percent of Netflix subscribers are more likely to keep their subscription now that "House of Cards" is available for streaming. A more impressive 90 percent of subscribers said they prefer all episodes be released simultaneously as opposed to the model traditional networks use — releasing one weekly episode.
These are the kind of numbers competitors are going to look at that will make them evaluate their own programming practices.
Television has already made successful transitions to the web with services like Hulu Plus and HBO Go offering up-to-date programs online. Smart TVs are also bridging the gap between television and the Internet; Hulu Plus and Netflix apps are built right into the television, making streaming programs incredibly efficient.
Another strength attached to streaming television comes with cost. A $10 Hulu Plus subscription and an $8 Netflix subscription are cheaper alternatives to paying for traditional cable, which is bloated with loads of channels that go virtually unwatched.
"House of Cards" is already one of Netflix's most impressive success stories, and its success can go much further. The program's popularity may inspire a shift in television programming across the board, with star-studded casts and instant availability becoming a model that networks will be desperate to emulate.