Some time from now, we may remember February 1, 2013 as opening day of a new TV era – and not for the reason immediately coming to mind right now. For some, Netflix's premiere of House Of Cards last Friday is memorable as the first major scripted TV series commissioned by a Web site to gain superlative reviews, even immediate buzz as an Emmy contender this fall. More than one critic declared Cards and star/executive producer Kevin Spacey the favorite in their respective Emmy categories. Others see Cards as the official curtain-raiser of the binge viewing era, where you feast on multiple episodes of an original series at one time.
In the end, House of Cards – and the 13 episodes making up its first season – may be heralded as the turning point for people turning to smart TVs, making them their go-to place for watching and using the Internet, and applications originally made for smartphones and tablets. All smart TV set makers out there, whether Samsung, Vizio, LG or Panasonic, have featured Web applications and original interactive apps as features for some time. House of Cards stands as the jump point for viewers to see and use them regularly.
Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings gets this. A day after his company reported a huge turnaround in quarterly profits last month (leading to a huge jump in stock price), Hastings told CNBC media correspondent Julia Boorstin that more people are watching his content over the TV than the personal computer.
Moreover, there's evidence piling up, from last fall's NPD Group study to various anecdotes, that people are determined to see Web content through the smart TV, not the PC.
There's more original Netflix series ahead this year, along with the first made-for-service efforts from Hulu and Amazon. As for capacity and capability, the only road these TV sets are going are up... including more ways the viewer controls what they watch, by face, gestures, touch-screen, smartphone/tablet remote and download features.
Every Web site, from eHarmony to Priceline.com to Wikipedia and Groupon, along with every smartphone and tablet application, must conclude that if their services aren't TV-friendly, as in workable on that set, they must be soon. And every television or Web industry conference from here on should devote a considerable portion of time to getting this community grounded on smart TV adaption.
You enter this house of smart TV at risk if you're not.
Now, time for an observation or two from the passing parade:
***Can we believe it? Upfront event season is here again, with Oxygen leading off with its The Face-themed presentation. Style goes second next week, timed with NY Fashion Week activity.
What to watch for: how many new networks get into the scene, from the growing bunch of multicast nets getting combo broadcast/cable clearance (Bounce TV, LiveWell, all those rerun services, etc.) to upcoming ventures as Sean Combs' Revolt, Robert Rodriguez' El Rey and the Participant Media network formed out of The Documentary Channel and Halogen. Also, will WGN America make a move under new Tribune CEO Peter Ligouri?
***Cartoon Network had one of 2012's best upfront presentations with its 20th anniversary celebration, capped off by an inventive 15-minute inside look at the animation process (complete with orchestra playing top toon themes). Too bad Cartoon will drop off the scene this winter in favor of one-on-one agency meetings. Understand the rationale. However, Cartoon should consider a press breakfast or lunch in NY and LA, so the channel's new programs don't fly off anyone's radar screen.
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned!