Will ‘House of Cards’ forge new frontier for Emmys?

“House of Cards” debuted on Netflix over the weekend. This broadband streaming service has smartly positioned itself as an alternative to HBO, Showtime, FX and AMC. Those cablecasters have stolen the spotlight from the once-dominant broadcast networks at the Emmys. Is it now their turn to  cede these kudos to the newest form of home entertainment? 

“House of Cards” is an American remake of the 1990 British hit miniseries. This marks the first foray into television for producer/director David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”). The Oscar-nominated screenwriter Beau Willimon (“The Ides of March”) updated the story to present day Washington. And two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects,””American Beauty”) stars as a ruthless politico who will stop at nothing to advance his ambitions.

Shaking up the traditional TV model, all 13 episodes of “House of Cards” are available at once. Viewers need not wait for each weekly installment. This paradigm shift in the way in which viewers consume television could have huge implications for the upcoming awards season. 

Last November, GoldDerby chatted with TV academy exec John Leverence about Emmys, past, present and future. We revisit our in-depth discussion with the true Guru of Gold — whose formal title is Senior Vice President, Awards — to gauge his views about this new frontier for the Emmys.

Gold Derby: The debut of “House of Cards” and the emergence of broadband television is not a completely new phenomenon for the Emmys, as Netflix tried to gain traction last year with “Lilyhammer,” its first foray in original programming, and the TV Academy has had special class categories in place for short-form broadband programming to meet the growing popularity of webisodes and the like. Yet, the hype and pedigree behind “House of Cards” makes it appear like more of a game-changer. How do you say ATAS has responded?

It’s important to realise that there are a number of eligible platforms: broadcast, basic cable, premium cable, internet-based programming and satellite-based programming. In terms of Emmy eligibility, streaming programming has been around for a number of years. In 2012 we had 11 broadband nominations. In past years we have had broadband wins. We are not reinventing the wheel here.

“House of Cards” is indeed different because for the first time it is going to be made available in one fell swoop. I guess you could call it binge viewing. Perhaps clustered viewing might be a little bit more civilised way of referring to it rather than binge viewing, which is not really new at all, as TV consumers these days tend to save up episodes of their favourite shows.

Gold Derby: “House of Cards” will be eligible to submit in the drama series categories alongside broadcast and cable programming this year. Will Netflix’s strategy of delivering a whole season on one day make any difference to its Emmy chances?

Whether or not this is going to make any difference to making the program more Emmy viable? I don’t think so, because it’s not unique even now. Showtime, HBO, with its HBO Go service, are already doing this to some extent, although they do post them in sequence rather than dump them all ready for viewing all on one day.

Gold Derby: What is driving the move by outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iTunes and others to provide premium original programming that might go on compete with traditional TV outlets for Emmys?

What is driving this, in my opinion, is the home theatre trend and the mobile “on the go” trend. The tablet is one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century. I watch programming on HBO Go all the time. It’s a completely reasonable way of watching TV.

It’s kind of an irony, I think in which you’ve got a situation in which there is a huge demand for bigger and bigger and bigger and flatter and more luminous screens and then on the other hand, you’ve got these much smaller mobile devices.

You know, you’re standing in line at the bank, and the bank has Wi-Fi, I’ve got my tablet or I’ve got my iPhone. What am I going to do? I’m going to watch “Law & Order”!

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