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Netflix – second screen now second fiddle?

Netflix recently launched the first of its programmes available exclusively on the online streaming platform in a bid to drive new sign ups to its subscription-based service. House of Cards, which features Kevin Spacey as a driven politician, will be followed by another hotly-anticipated exclusive; Arrested Development.

Both programmes are great coups for Netflix in a hugely competitive area, featuring consumer and technology giants, such as Tesco and Amazon, battling it out for supremacy in a growing market.

Brilliantly, the competition has pushed each of the major players in different directions and the choice is incredible. Amazon’s LoveFilm service offers better films, Netflix the better T.V. series and a host of others are scrabbling around for the middle ground, but interestingly Netflix has chosen to make all episodes of House Of Cards available immediately and this could shift the way in which we consume brand new series and how we discuss them forever.

While TV catch up, streaming services and boxsets have always allowed us to binge-view series (I’ll admit to watching 8 episodes of 24 in one sitting), never have we been able to watch an entire brand new series at our own pace.

Hype

While twitter has generated headaches of its own in the sphere of television series, namely spoilers, it does generate a hugely important buzz that I think Netflix is likely to miss out on.

Netflix has now (at least) two high-profile programmes to batter us with in its advertising that will unquestionably drive sign ups, but what this approach will lack is organic, weekly twitter chatter about the latest installment.

Homeland and Great British Bake Off are two great examples of unavoidable (depending on how you’ve compiled your twitter follows) chatter that compel me to tune in, or at least, create a mental note to get round to watching them soon.

While Netflix has, for the moment, caught media attention- really I can’t pick up a paper or drive through a city without absorbing some Netflix promotion- by allowing people to speed through the boxset at their own rate will dissipate chatter throughout the first fortnight and therefore less likely to trend. It was twitter hashtags and chatter that drove the hits to Docyou, our Hollyoaks project.

Now, for me, if they had continued to roll out the programming in a more traditional format there would have been opportunities to build more hype; countdown clocks on the UI building up to the weekly screening, or teasers with featured hashtags, sandwiched between adverts.

What this shift also means for the second-screen experience is fascinating too. Zeebox, twitter and companion apps and sites often work well when an audience is watching together, but with some viewers completing the series within a few days, others a week or months the second screen becomes less a zeitgeist and more a ‘who else is watching at the minute’.

I think this is a shift for the worse, but it could be saved if Zeebox, twitter and similar apps innovate to cater for this; hashtag ‘replay’ would be great for catch up television. I wouldn’t want to watch BBC Question Time without having access to the genius tweets simultaneously and I’d love a feature that allows me to filter and hide tweets for a limited time on my twitter timeline to safely avoid spoilers about say, Match Of The Day.

But I’m not a programmer, just a keen boxset-binger hoping to hold on to the good old days of following a twitter stream alongside a live broadcast that was all we needed when i was a lad.

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