Orange Is The New Black & House Of Cards: The Original Netflix Originals
The year is 2013. Netflix, the global on-demand Internet streaming service, has just released it’s very first “original” content. House of Cards, a political thriller, becomes Netflix’s first original television show. The ability to binge-watch an entire season of a new show at once became possible, and suddenly all the buzz was around Netflix’s newest innovation. Jump to July of that same year, and another Netflix Original, Orange is the New Black, immediately earns critical acclaim by both critics and viewers. Netflix suddenly was catapulted into success, and it became difficult to find a person that didn’t have a Netflix subscription.
Today in 2018, there are about 700 original series on Netflix worldwide. The landscape of television has been changed forever, as the ability to binge-watch and no longer have to wait a week to watch a new episode became a reality. As an impatient society that constantly likes to have new things, the binge-watching Netflix created has revolutionized television, and the tradition of watching your favorite show each week is slowly dying off. Netflix is to credit for this impeccable change, but the success comes from the very beginning of Netflix’s originals. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were the original Netflix Originals, and despite both reaching the end of their road, they should be recognized as the catalysts for change in television that Netflix created.
When Netflix released their own content, this was certainly a risk. Unlike their other shows, this relied on them doing all the work. They had to create, promote, and advertise this content, and they did not have the benefit of a pre-established fan base coming to watch the show like non-Netflix originals have. However, it was a risk that paid off. It was immediately clear that the binge-watching was something we as TV viewers craved, and Netflix was now giving us exactly what we wanted. The concept of the very first Netflix Original, House of Cards, captivated viewers, particularly for its dramatic moments and cliffhangers. Now with the ability to binge-watch, viewers did not have to wait another week to keep tuning in, and thus were even more entranced by the show, jumping episode to episode consecutively. By the end of the first season, viewers were finishing their binge by wanting more, despite more not yet being available. However, this was the precise decision that Netflix made that paid off big time. They knew when it was time for another season to be released at once, viewers would revert back to their binge, and it kept consistency alive where it is hard to maintain in the world of traditional television.
In contrast to the political drama of House of Cards, the next mega-popular Netflix Original, Orange is the New Black, garnered popularity for very different reasons. The series focused on a combination of both drama and comedy following women locked up in a federal prison. The exploration of friendship, redemption, twists, and the influx of both good and evil captured the attention of Netflix binge-watchers. Just like House of Cards, they played right into Netflix’s hand, taking advantage of the binge-watching to become obsessed quickly, creating a fanbase of a show that simply came from a streaming service. The risks that Netflix was taking were clearly paying off, and as a result, Netflix was gaining more attention and subscribers from the success of these two shows. It is fair to say that had Netflix released less than popular shows, the experiment of binge-watching may have failed miserably, and Netflix would not be the empire it is today.
With the release of these two shows, it became clear Netflix was on track to use their original content as a catapult for success. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black quickly became two of the most popular television shows, even against all the Primetime favorites. In fact, in 2014 even President Barack Obama tweeted a reference to House of Cards. It was evident Netflix had struck gold, and not only did these two shows have long futures ahead of them, but creating original content was going to be the true money-maker for Netflix. They had successfully normalized the concept of binge-watching, and across the world, more and more people were joining in on this new enhancement to the television viewing experience.
In 2017, after sexual misconduct allegations involving lead role Kevin Spacey emerged, House of Cards was confirmed to end after a short sixth season without Spacey. This final season, which bumped up Robin Wright to lead role, was released on November 2, 2018. Meanwhile, Orange is the New Black was announced to be concluding with its seventh and final season in 2019. Alas, six years after both these juggernauts made their debut, both would officially be put to rest. However, the conclusion of these impactful shows should not take away from the evolution of television they created. Now, we have hundreds of Netflix Originals, including favorites such as Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Ozark. They even broke into the teen TV sphere with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. These award-winning shows would not be a reality if not for the risk Netflix took on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. While these two shows have reached the end of their stories, they opened the gates for so many more stories to be told, specifically in the form of binge-watching that has taken over the experience of television viewing. So as an avid binge-watcher and Netflix subscriber, I say to you, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, thank you.