Anyone remember Lilyhammer?

Posted 5 years ago by Michael Estrin

MediaPost has a quick story about the relative merits of streaming versus shows broadcast on a traditional network. The story is a writeup of comments made by Time Warner boss Jeff Bewkes. Big surprise: Bewkes says shows have a better chance for marketing, promo, and discovery if they’re launched on traditional television channels.

“We don’t think it’s the best way to launch a series,” says Bewkes. He says shows need the “water cooler” effect that comes with a network.

And later:

“It’s hard if you envision a world five years from now with all on-demand: How are you going to find everything? You have to use your network to launch things in a way people can understand what it is.”

To make his point, Bewkes talked about the buzz that helps promote a show like HBO’s Game of Thrones. And while his comments are an obvious jab at the success Netflix has enjoyed with House of Cards, the fact of the matter is that Bewkes just as easily could have pointed to Lilyhammer, a Netflix show that didn’t attract much attention at all.

While it’s easy to see the bias in Bewkes’ comments — he is, after all, about as traditional as you can get in the TV world — the fact of the matter is that you need a platform to launch a show. The traditional network is such a platform, and in-house promo is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to spread the word. Netflix didn’t have that. They spent a lot on House of Cards, but we don’t know how much the spent to market the show.

What we do know, anecdotally at least, is that Netflix spent more to promote House of Cards than its first original show, Lilyhammer.

Netflix and other streaming platforms will disrupt TV for sure, but it’s not clear that the TV network is irrelevant, because spending more isn’t an effective long-term promo strategy when TV networks already excel at doing promo for less.

As for that water cooler stuff, that’s a bunch of baloney. People are talking about House of Cards. It’s just that networks do a better job of getting people to find and talk about new content than anyone else out there.