Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who Would Win - Netflix v HBO

It's one of those schoolboy things - Godzilla v Batman, who would win ? Of course you're comparing different things, but in a world where three generations have been brought up on Top Trumps, what do you expect.

So it's not surprising to see grown up journalists take this approach to the TV sector. The latest imaginary head-to-head is Netflix v HBO. But is it so far fetched ? After all, one is a (mostly) US cable TV channel and the other a global IPTV service.

Google, Amazon and Netflix are all commissioning original content these days (it makes you wonder about Apple and their cash pile), so they're in the market. But what a different market. HBO steadily builds its programming from a very small base (average audiences for hits such as Curb You Enthusiasm are around the 2m mark, which would be a low figure for a UK network, let alone an American one), but then build a cult following and by the third series of The Sopranos was getting ratings of 12 million - which is pretty amazing considering the restricted reach of the paid-for channel. Then comes the international sales, which rack up vast revenues. But it doesn't always work out and series like Deadwood, with its foul frontier language lost domestic audiences and was shelved.

Now, take this three to five year process and condense it by using the magic of the internet. Deliver that global, aggregated audience immediately and you're onto a very good thing, and if it's popular enough it will have a very long tail (music has shown that in the online era the same songs (Don't Stop Believing) can be in the charts for years).

All of a sudden the showdown makes sense. Netflix and HBO will be competing for the same creating ideas. But so will other channels (think AMC and Mad Men) and other online services (Lovefilm, YouTube).

Welcome to the great TV mashup!