The most talked about show on American television this year isn’t on television. House of Cards, a $100-million political thriller (based on the British show of the same name) does not appear in any network’s schedule, has never been broadcast, yet has been seen by millions of people — streamed over the Internet to Netflix’s 30 million U.S. subscribers, at any time and in any configuration (one, some, or all 13 episodes at once) that suits them.
Netflix is hardly alone in this space. Hulu, Amazon, AOL, Crackle, plus dozens of smaller startups are all busily ramping up the range and quality of online content they provide, hoping to emulate Netflix’s success. There is, indeed, something of a gold rush on for content online. Yahoo has just bought Saturday Night Live’s entire back catalogue. YouTube now offers full-length feature films alongside its traditional repertoire of skateboarding dogs.
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