TCA Press Tour: Netflix v. HBO
House Stark or ‘House of Cards’?
During the 2015 Television Critics Association press tour, both Netflix and HBO took bold stances on the entertainment industry. Both had something to say about the other, be it subtle or direct, but the way the two operate fires shots at everyone else who falls short. Netflix v. HBO: it’s a battle that continues to rage on. Whether you play for House Stark or House of Cards, everyone’s a winner when it comes to quality content. But peace treaties aside, let’s dive deep into who brought it the hardest on this year’s TCA press tour.
Netflix and HBO have a great catalogue to boast about, but at the end of the day, quality will rule all. Sure it’s impressive at the amount of programming Netflix is able to produce, but if those shows are critical flops, what precedence do you hold? They have proven themselves worthy with Daredevil, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, but even the latter two aren’t what they used to be when they first debuted in 2013. With HBO, quality is of focus, but with a smaller pool to choose from, they have to pick carefully and pick correctly. Given that they are sticking with tradition, they have to pick shows that can hit great heights on a weekly basis.
When you take into account shows like Daredevil, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, as well as upcoming shows like Narcos, Jessica Jones and Master of None, at year’s end, Netflix will have made 475 hours of original content available for subscribers this year alone. Netflix has been on a steady track of releasing original content. On July 17, the streaming giant released the second season of BoJack Horseman, and two weeks later Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp was released to the masses. Both currently sit at 90 and 74 on Metacritic, respectively. Netflix refuses to talk numbers, however, the Big Red’s CCO Ted Sarandos said, “These shows have been successful at addressing the audience segment they’re chasing.”
HBO’s President of Programming, Michael Lombardo, didn’t expect True Detective to have the big audience that it has. Despite what the critics are saying about Season 2, which continues to receive mixed reviews, the show still brings in 12 million viewers a week (ratings status: revealed). Lombardo also mentioned how the show started the trend of the limited series. We now have the likes of Tom Hardy’s Taboo coming to FX in 2016, and albeit premiering close after True Detective, FX’s Fargo is another series that follows the anthology format.
While getting actual ratings, and high ones at that, from HBO is great, it’s very impressive at how much content Netflix is able to conjure up in 2015 alone. These are shows that will continue and live alongside new ones in the coming years. While kickstarting a genre is impressive, you can’t ignore a rapidly rising star.
When it comes to originals, Netflix and HBO couldn’t be more different in their subject matter. This content is what creates these trademarks for these companies. You know Game of Thrones is a product from HBO just as you know Orange is the New Black is tied to Netflix. Both are working to expand their library, and at the TCA press tour we got a preview of what’s to come.
Netflix announced its partnership with Aziz Ansari with his new comedy, Master of None, set to stream Nov. 6 of this year. It is believed that Daredevil is Netflix’s most-watched original, and Marvel still has four series (maybe more) coming in Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders, but Jessica Jones is of focus currently. Ted Sarandos said that there will be a new season or series (series or programs for my UK readers) from Marvel every six months. If the pattern is followed, we might not get a Luke Cage series until fall of 2016, as a second season a Daredevil is currently in the works. Chelsea Handler is still cozy with Netflix, as she will host the streaming service’s first late night talk show. The format of the show is still shrouded in mystery, but it is confirmed that there will be at least two episodes per week. Handler is also working on four documentaries for Netflix which she says is the best work she’s ever done.
While HBO isn’t stacked with new originals, they do have interesting content coming soon. Westworld, which was ordered to series back in October, “is very much told from the POV of the robots and the corporate world as dimensionalized as the park,” says Michael Lombardo. The series was originally slated for 2015, but we won’t be able to watch the Jonathan Nolan directed, penned and produced series until 2016. Sex and the City alum Sarah Jessica Parker will return to Home Box Office with a new half-hour program titled Divorce. Not much is known about the show, but it will premiere sometime in the summer or fall of 2016. Rounding out the three new HBO originals is Vinyl, a rock ‘n’ roll show from Mick Jagger. The show follows a rock group but isn’t about the Rolling Stones, although the series does star Jagger’s son. If 2016 is too long of a wait, HBO did announce that Amy Schumer’s comedy special will air Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, directed by Chris Rock.
For the same reason above, Netflix takes this category over HBO. Obviously these are all new series and quality can’t be determined. Westworld could no doubt be a huge hit for HBO, but when you pit Divorce and Vinyl against four other Marvel series, a new comedy and new talk show, you’re going to get devoured.
Renewals and Revivals
Sure, new shows are great, but also exciting is having your favorite shows come back or at least know a continuation is in production. Netflix and HBO talked about the future of their already established series. In addition, the two have something of a savior complex, with Netflix praised for bringing dead or canceled shows back to life and HBO praised for giving its shows a proper send-off for those dedicated fans.
BoJack Horseman Season 3 will happen. 12 more episodes of the animated dramedy will hit in 2016. What’s not for certain is the Wachowski Brothers’ sci-fi drama, Sense8, although producers are cautiously optimistic about Netflix allowing them another season. After being canceled on A&E, Season 4 of Longmire will premiere on Netflix Sept. 10. If cowboys aren’t your thing (I think that’s what that show is about), maybe Full House is, or as it’s currently known, Fuller House. The revival of the of the ‘80s/’90s sitcom is about two weeks into production at this point, and there’s still a chance the Olsen twins can make an appearance. Another Netflix comedy to start production soon is the critically-acclaimed, Emmy-nominated, Tina Fey-created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which will begin shooting August 17.
Michael Lombardo said canceling Looking was “painful.” HBO has been really good about giving shows with loyal fanbases but low ratings one final breath. Looking will get a 2-hour send-off movie in the first half of 2016, which will wrap up the stories of Patrick, Agustín and Dom. There was also some talk of a ninth Curb Your Enthusiasm season, with Larry David said to have a notebook full of ideas. Season 8 of the series ended Sept. 11 of 2011, so a return would be huge and much anticipated. Finally, HBO’s juggernaut Game of Thrones was a big topic, specifically in how many seasons the show will go for. In short, there will be at least seven, but ideally eight. Lombardo will be begging for more; it’s all up to the creators. Also up to the creators (+ George R.R. Martin) is whether they’ll do a prequel series or a spin-off post-Game of Thrones.
When you have one network bringing back Full House and the other (possibly) bringing back Curb Your Enthusiasm, one does not simply put one over the other. Once again, these are two networks with already established series and what not, and for them to revive and continue iconic series is a golden star in all columns.
In short, Netflix wins this year. In closing, both Netflix and HBO are doing great things for the world of television. Hell, HBO received a record breaking 126 Emmy nominations. You don’t get that by picking programming for the sake of a number. “How people consume entertainment is changing,” Lombardo says, but “quality content will succeed.” Netflix has proved to be a great platform for creators as well. Grace and Frankie’s Marta Kauffman expressed her comfort in knowing that there are going to be 13 episodes and not going through the work of a pilot. Tina Fey also talked about how Netflix encourages them to go over the broadcast time limit of 21 minutes and 15 seconds with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. While I pitted Netflix and HBO against one another in this piece, the two are distributing innovative, quality programs that tower over their competition in basic cable and broadcast television.
Via: Variety (2) *** Edited by April Soller
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