Netflix Making Major Moves: HTML5 Support + Original Programming

By Phill Powell

What a difference a couple of years can make. It was only Summer 2011 that Netflix, riding high as the nation’s premier video-streaming service and DVD rental provider, made a colossal marketing error. The company decided to split its subscription service into two separate plans—a move that would cost most Netflix users extra fees each month. The resulting backlash from angry consumers was immediate and severe, with many users dropping their Netflix subscriptions in protest. Within a few months, Netflix bowed to the intense consumer pressure and returned to its original subscription plans.

Whether serving up original programming or existing entertainment, Netflix has seen amazing growth, recently surpassing HBO’s total subscribers.

It wasn’t Netflix’s greatest moment. However, since that time, Netflix has been racking up one savvy financial move after another, and now finds itself in prime strategic position. As of March 2013, Netflix had total numbers of 33 million subscribers, and its leaders have spoken of growing the Netflix audience to two or three times that number of subscribers. Here are some of Netflix’s latest moves:

The Move to HTML5
Netflix recently announced its plans to eventually change its Web-based video playback from Microsoft’s Silverlight plug-in to HTML5. Prompted in part by Microsoft’s announcement that it would no longer support Silverlight after 2021, Netflix has been looking for a new playback strategy. It’s time for a change anyway, say many industry observers, who note that Silverlight has some reputation for providing choppy playback. The move to HTML5 will likely happen slowly and be implemented carefully.

Double Your Pleasure
Netflix has announced another plan designed to improve the video-streaming experience, especially for families with many members. Netflix’s new $12 monthly plan takes the existing arrangement—with each account being able to run two video streams independently—and doubles the number of video streams to four. So for 50 percent more in monthly fees, subscribers can get twice the amount of streaming video.

Netflix Original Programming
Not content to simply handle film and television content made by other creators, Netflix announced in March 2011 its intention to produce original content for use on Netflix. So far, six Netflix productions have begun or been announced:

  • House of Cards – This hour-long political drama stars Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey as a congressman gone rogue. Winning rave reviews, House of Cards is now in its second 13-episode season.
  • Lillyhammer – Actually the first of Netflix’s original series, this comedy/crime drama stars Steven Van Zandt (The Sopranos) as a NYC gangster on the lam in a quaint Norwegian village.
  • Arrested Development – Netflix signed on to resurrect this former ABC comedy, which was a six-time Emmy winner (with one win for Outstanding Comedy Series). This year the highly dysfunctional Bluth family has been back on Netflix, to the delight of the show’s many longtime fans.
  • Orange is the New Black – A comedy/drama set in a women’s prison? That’s the word on Orange is the New Black, which began shooting in March. The show will star Jason Biggs (the “American Pie” series), Laura Prepon (That ‘70s Show) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).
  • Hemlock Grove – What bizarre goings-on are taking place in the small town of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania? That’s what viewers of this horror/thriller series want to find out. Stars Famke Janssen (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters).
  • Turbo: F.A.S.T. (Fast Action Stunt Team) – Based on an upcoming DreamWorks movie about a racing-obsessed snail and his pals, and the centerpiece of Netflix’s new partnering relationship with DreamWorks.

Viewing the Big Picture
Netflix’s push into original programming is already making money. The company estimates that it has attracted 2 million new subscribers because it’s now making content that can’t be seen anywhere else.

Although it only debuted this month, Netflix says its horror series Hemlock Grove is outdrawing its other original series, House of Cards.

Netflix now finds itself in a commanding position. Individual shares of Netflix stock have soared past the $200 mark. In fact, if you had purchased Netflix stock on January 23rd of this year (at $103 per share), your stock value would have now doubled because of Netflix’s dramatic climb. In another statistic that shows how fortunes change in the entertainment industry, Netflix now has more subscribers than premium channel HBO.

Digital Filmmaking for a Video-Streaming World
Netflix’s business model works because of one thing: the American public’s healthy appetite for entertainment. The entertainment industry—particularly the world of movies—will remain a viable source for employment opportunities, especially for creative professionals who can bring a strong skill set and genuine enthusiasm to their work.

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