Globe Editorial

Netflix: Taking risks for better entertainment

March 21, 2011

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Netflix’s announcement that it is buying the rights to “House of Cards,’’ a dramatic series starring Kevin Spacey as an ambitious politician, marks an important transition point in how entertainment is delivered — one that should only improve the breadth and quality of content available to consumers.

When the show premieres late next year, it will be available only on Netflix. This is no short-term gamble or gimmick — the company committed to two full seasons of hour-long episodes. “House of Cards’’ will, in every sense but how it is delivered, be a traditional TV drama.

While it may sound strange for a company like Netflix to host such an offering, the rise of broadband has rendered the traditional TV model outdated. In the past, TV networks just happened to be the only game in town for delivering entertainment to consumers. Now that this is no longer the case and anyone who can afford the bandwidth can broadcast video content, there has already been a great flowering of creativity, from short YouTube videos to so-called “webisodes’’ of Internet-only miniseries.

But Netflix, by bringing on board a major Hollywood figure who will star in a full-blown TV drama, is taking this trend to the next level. By diving headfirst into the concept that a TV show will thrive or falter based on its quality and popularity — not on the name of the network behind it — Netflix’s move should embolden other companies to take the sort of creative risks that lead to compelling entertainment.