National / International News
Lessons from a handful of the most viewed papers from the American Education Research Association last year.
A lot of secrecy goes into the making of House of Cards. The Netflix Original Series tells the story of Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Specy), a South Carolina Democrat and House majority whip turned President, caught up in power and politics in Washington.
The show premiered in February 2013 to wide critical acclaim. The online show became the first of its kind to receive Emmy awards, and attracted new subscribers to Netflix. House of Cards became part of the model of success for subscription-based streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Other series followed, and original streaming content changed the market for television, upending traditional weekly broadcasts and inspiring binge watching trends.
House of Cards' third season is set to premiere on February 27, 2015 — only one small hiccup got in the way...a 30 minute leak of the entire season. Netflix quickly pulled the leaked version of the show, but not before some users were able to load the entire first episode, and see short descriptions of the rest of the season.
I don’t mean to alarm you… BUT SERIES THREE OF HOUSE OF CARDS IS NOW ON NETFLIX FOR SOME REASON. pic.twitter.com/DoQKBK4d9X— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) February 11, 2015
But if he was concerned about the leak, Beau Willimon, creator and showrunner of House of Cards, isn't saying so. The writer, executive producer, and creator himself says that the leak was almost like a teaser.Click the media player above to hear Beau Willimon in conversation with Marketplace Weekend host Lizzie O'Leary.
"I take great pains to make sure that I don't reveal anything about an upcoming season, and that sort of undid some of the work," he said, "but I don't think there was a lot of harm done, and in fact, more than anything, it showed us how excited people were about season three...I wish we could take credit for it."
This is Washington. There's always a leak. All 13 episodes will launch February 27.— House of Cards (@HouseofCards) February 11, 2015
Protecting the secrets surrounding a television show is an increasingly difficult task at a time when a small technical glitch can launch material to the front page of the most popular streaming site in the world. Still, shows guard scripts, conceal episode information to people auditioning, and keep filming locations quiet, preserving plot information until the moment of release.
But secrecy is complicated for streaming shows. House of Cards releases all of its episodes at once, so eager viewers could, if they wanted to, sit for hours in front of all 13 of them. And some do. According to a report from the networking company Procera, 2 percent of Netflix subscribers binge-watched season two in one weekend. Once the season launches, the internet becomes a breeding ground for spoilers, and viewers are on their own when it comes to protecting show secrets.
"We don't want to spoil anything for anyone," Willimon says, "but when you release a show in its entirety in one day, within hours you have the potential for a smorgasbord of spoilers, and there's nothing we can do to control that, but what we can control is prior to that launch, not giving too much away."
Still, Willimon says he's not writing for a binge-watching audience, and that when it comes to writing and producing the show, the mode of delivery doesn't matter much to him. "I don't really pay much attention or think much about that stuff too much," he said, "my goal is only to tell the best story possible and if it brings in subscribers, great. I think that's a tension that really anyone working in television faces, no matter what type of network they're writing for."Selling ads on network and cable TV is fairly clear cut — it's easier to tell when a show is doing well and when it's floundering than it is when viewers enter through a streaming portal like Netflix. Netflix is secretive about its users and how and what they consume on the site. In the two months after House of Cards first premiered on the site in 2013, Netflix reported 3 million new users. But because Netflix doesn't share what its subscribers are watching.
"I think that the metric for success have been changing in television," Willimon said, "it's not necessarily just the objective number, how many people watched. For a lot of places, it's about creating a brand, it's about offering something to certain niches within your subscribership that they're not getting anywhere else. When it used to be just about how much you could sell your ad time for, then that number really mattered."
Willimon says that not even he knows how many people tune in to House of Cards, and can't comment on rumored information about production costs for the show, which some reports say start at $4.5 million per episode.
"You'd have to ask Netflix that," he said, "but if I were to speculate, I would say, what incentive do they have? What is the advantage of telling people how many folks are watching your show, or the shows that you're producing. It gives information to your competitors that you don't necessarily need them to have and since you're not selling advertising, it doesn't play into any meaningful equation in terms of how much revenue you're going to get."
Transparency clearly isn't necessary for success, in the Netflix business model or in Underwood's Washington D.C., where secrets and manipulations are a crucial part of power.
"In terms of secrecy as a theme, or a subject, I think it's a fascinating one," Willimon said, "and that really comes down to information as a form of power. Those that have information have a certain power over those that don't. In the fog of war, that person or entity that can look farthest into the fog has an advantage."
Withholding information, for Netflix and for Willimon's fictional politicians, has helped pave the way to success. "When you're writing a show about power, that's one of the tactics for maintaining or acquiring it," Willimon said, "to have more information than the next person, and to be secretive about the information that you have."
That being said, Willimon isn't giving much away about what's ahead in season three. "What happens when you've achieved the highest office in the land?" he asked, "Many presidents have had to contend with that very question: Is the only way to go down? Do you have to fight to maintain your place on the summit? These are precisely the questions that we want the audience to be asking as they click into season three."
First up, we'll talk about the news that last month consumer prices fell the most since the beginning of the Great Recession. More on that. Plus, we'll talk about an unusual fiscal tradition in India -- Today, the government has released a budget specifically for the railroads. And we'll talk about a memo to pilots of United Airlines that says, in a nutshell, "Let's focus, people."