Netflix and Amazon Challenge Hollywood with Original Online Series

Kristin Houser Writer & Editor, LA Music Blog

With nearly all of my favorite network and cable television shows currently on midseason hiatus, online outlets that allow for the when-I-want-it watching of series are looking more and more appealing. Really, why should I have to wait until after the holidays to find out what happens to Rick and the gang on “The Walking Dead” or to see how my favorite coven of witches fares on the latest installment of “American Horror Story”?

Indeed, I’m not the only viewer whose idea of how series should be consumed is changing, thanks in large part to the success of Netflix’s foray into the realm of original programming.

In 2013, the on-demand Internet streaming media platform earned the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original online-only web television, nine of which were bestowed upon the Kevin Spacey-starring political drama “House of Cards,” which went on to win three awards.

Two more nominations went to Netflix’s horror series, “Hemlock Grove,” and another three to the fourth season of the much-beloved “Arrested Development,” which premiered on the platform over seven years after being canceled by Fox due to low ratings. With 15 new episodes available on the day of the premiere, fans gathered at viewing parties around the country to binge on their favorite cancelled comedy with no fear that a lack of viewership might lead to an abbreviated season.

With this summer’s new Netflix series, the Jenji Kohan-created black comedy/drama “Orange Is The New Black,” earning acclaim from both critics and fans as well as a 2014 Golden Globe nomination for its star, Taylor Schilling, clearly the success of original online programming is no fluke, and now one behemoth of the online marketplace is ready to give Netflix a run for its money in the new medium: Amazon.

In 2012, e-book sales in the United States surpassed hardcover book sales for the first time ever, with over half of those sales taking place via Amazon.com. Clearly the online retailer knows a little something about altering the landscape of media consumption, and it’s now ready to tackle video streaming with a slate of original programming that launched in 2013.

Like Netflix’s tentpole series “House of Cards,” the first series in Amazon’s queue is political in nature and boasts a household name as its star. However, “Alpha House” leaves the drama at the door while taking a comedic look inside a Washington D.C. home shared by four fictional U.S. Senators.

Starring John Goodman and created by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau, the series premiered online in April 2013 for viewer feedback along with thirteen other pilots produced via Amazon Studios. Five of those pilots were picked up for series, with the Silicon Valley comedy “Betas” and three children’s series rounding out the initial slate for production.

The first three episodes of both “Alpha House” and “Betas” are currently available online for free, but as is the case with Netflix, viewers will need to purchase a subscription in order to view the entire series.

With an Amazon Prime subscription costing just $79 per year, roughly $15 less annually than a Netflix subscription, this is a highly competitive price point and one with added bonuses for viewers, including free 2-day shipping on millions of Amazon.com purchases, unlimited streaming of more than 40,000 movies and TV shows, and access to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

However, binge viewers like myself will need to have patience when it comes to Amazon’s original programming as the company is opting for a more traditional weekly release of episodes over unleashing an entire series online at once.

Whether this delayed gratification approach will help or hurt the platform’s chances at engaging critics and viewers (and snagging a few coveted award nominations in the process) remains to be seen, but as I keep telling myself while counting down the days until the January and February returns of my favorite television series, good things come to those who wait, and for now at least, it looks like Amazon’s original online programming could be a very good thing.


As the Co-Founder and Lead Writer/Editor for LA Music Blog, a Los Angeles-based music news and review website, Kristin Houser’s life revolves around music and technology. She has been an avid fan of music ever since discovering her parents’ vinyl collection while still in elementary school, and she is fascinated by all the ways technology allows her to discover new music and share it with the world. She currently manages a staff of fifteen writers and contributors at LA Music Blog, and when she isn’t scouring the internet for her latest musical obsession, Kristin frequents Los Angeles’ many music venues where she can usually be found hovering near the front of house engineer while jotting down set lists in her smart phone. She is very pleased to share her latest music obsessions and all the ways technology allows her to discover and enjoy music with iQ by Intel’s audience.



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