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Netflix: The Red Menace | Fast Company


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JUST WHEN HOLLYWOOD THOUGHT IT HAD NETFLIX FIGURED OUT, THAT "RED ENVELOPE" COMPANY FLIPPED THE SCRIPT, CREATING A PLAYBOOK FOR ANY BUSINESS THAT ASPIRES TO UPEND AN INDUSTRY. IT'S ABOUT TO DO IT AGAIN.

It's not TV -- it's the fight to be the new HBO:

To hear Hollywood types rave about Netflix these days, you'd half expect to hear that the new phrase is "It's not TV. It's Netflix." Everything that makes Netflix's programming distinctive--surrendering control to creators, releasing all episodes of a season at once, keeping its viewership data private rather than participate in the ratings game--is a modern twist on the original, universally admired HBO game plan. Netflix even has more U.S. subscribersthan HBO, surpassing the venerable network last fall when it reached 31 million, versus HBO's 29 million.

But Netflix is doing more than threatening HBO--what really has Hollywood worried is that the company seems in a hurry to redefine the very rules of the entertainment industry. Its willingness to sign up shows for entire seasons without first ordering a pilot (the one-shot episodes that TV honchos have for decades demanded before backing a show) has forced network executives to rethink a system that has defined television since its inception. And as the company has rolled out House of Cards, season four of Arrested Development, and Orange Is the New Black, Netflix's stock has soared--it almost quadrupled between January and Thanksgiving 2013. "There have only been a half-dozen shows," gripes one media executive, "and yet to read the press and hear the comments, you would think Netflix had found the cure for cancer."

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