Netflix has long been thought of as a minor threat to traditional television, and a little bit bigger danger to DVD sales. Launched in 1998, its streaming service is super convenient, available on a wide variety of platforms such as game consoles, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and, my favorite, TiVo. It also offers a disc service, delivering movies and TV shows straight to your door. It may not have the latest offerings, but it's far cheaper than cable, and its content library is large enough to keep fans happy for a long time.
With this model, Netflix makes a dent in the entertainment industry, but it doesn't throw it on its head. After all, many people still turn to services offering fresh content, something usually not available with Netflix.
When the subscription provider almost doubled its prices two years ago, splitting its disc and streaming services, it angered users, sending them packing. This was a terrible business move, and I admit, I was among those who fled. Honestly, I suspected an end to the company. How wrong I was; Netflix recently has bounced back, stronger than ever, mostly as a streaming service.
And now Netflix has expanded its operation to be a content maker, not just a content provider. Last year's first Netflix original series, Lilyhammer, was well regarded, but posted to little fanfare, and was not widely watched. Now, with the launch of House of Cards last weekend, Netflix has put itself on the map as a destination for great new television.
For those who haven't yet tuned in, House of Cards is an exciting political thriller starring the great Kevin Spacey as a manipulative Congressmen who has a beef with the president. The outstanding supporting cast includes Robin Wright and Kate Mara.
If House of Cards were to air on television, it would be on HBO. It's dark and gritty, but not really violent. It features A-list movie stars and incredibly intelligent writing. The engrossing plot keeps one guessing, and the characters are both deeply flawed and highly intelligent, with their power struggles and influence games having far-reaching effects. It's a character study in power, and also a great way to spend a few hours.