Earlier this month, Netflix launched an original program starring Steven Van Zandt (of The E Street Band and “The Sopranos” fame), called “Lilyhammer.” The show details Van Zandt’s character’s life in Lilyhammer after he was forced to turn on the mob.
There are some who say that the show is fun and worth watching, while other critics say it’s a disappointment. As for me? Well, I’m not here to evaluate a new show. Instead, I’m here to tell you that Netflix’s decision to produce its own original programming is its best idea yet.
If you’ve been watching Netflix news over the last several months, you know that the company has faced some trouble inking deals with content creators. Starz has not wanted to play nice, HBO is doing all it can to take Netflix down, and countless film studios are trying to get every last dime out of the streaming provider before they hand over their movies.
The only logical step, then, is for Netflix to supplement its content with original programming of its own. And by lining up some major talent, including Steven Van Zandt and Kevin Spacey, the company is making it abundantly clear that it doesn’t plan on holding any punches.
Of course, there are some that might wonder why Netflix is getting into original programming. After all, they say, the company is a DVD-by-mail and streaming provider. Historically, it has relied upon other content to fuel its business, and creating programming on its own is expensive.
However, what those folks fail to see is that Netflix is simply following in the footsteps of HBO and Showtime. Both of those networks previously only took content from other companies and played it on their channels. Now, they’re airing some of the best programming on television, and they’re doing it without help from any other providers.
The real question now is whether Netflix will be able to get its customers to watch its new programming. Producing new programs is one thing, but with the amount of competition they have on Netflix’s streaming service, getting folks to watch the shows is another.
To attract viewers, Netflix is doing something I think is an absolutely genius idea: offering all the episodes of its shows at launch. So, if you’re really into the show and you don’t want to wait to watch the next episode, you don’t have to.
It’s brilliant. And it makes me wonder why we’re forced into arbitrary waiting games today. Granted, Netflix doesn’t have to keep a schedule, but with so many networks realizing streaming is the future, why haven’t they followed Netflix’s lead, taken a chance, and offered an entire series (or at least a big chunk of episodes) at one time?
For the past year, I’ve been criticizing Netflix for not doing something unique to attract customers to its streaming services. For too long, it’s been easy for customers to drop Netflix, head over to a competing streaming service, and never miss it. But original programming changes that. And it supports the idea that maybe, just maybe, Netflix isn’t dead yet.
Don Reisinger is a technology and video game columnist. You can see what he's up to each day on Twitter by following him @donreisinger.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SlashGear