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Netflix's $100m Digital Marketing Experiment- House of Cards

Inbound Marketing

This last Friday, February 1st, Netflix released their first syndicated show. House of Cards (8.9 on IMBD) is an hour-long political drama centered around the ruthless and brilliant Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey). Netflix brought in all the Hollywood heavy-hitters they could find to ensure that this series was a success. Spacey is a 2-time Oscar winner, Kate Mara is a rising actress, David Fincher has multiple production and directing nominations under his belt (he directed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). At a production cost of nearly 100 million dollars, Netflix is showing their dedication to developing original content.

Frankly (pun intended), I'm obsessed with this show. I finished all 13 episodes by Sunday evening (Super Bowl be damned!) and continue to reflect on the Machiavellian brilliance of Underwood and the host of other amazing acting talent. Looking at internet trends, I'm not the only one either. In the 20 hours prior to this blog post's creation, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Forbes all posted content regaling the series. It's not only the plot that stands out as engaging and novel. The principle behind the show's development is equally important to the content released, and this is something that the large newspapers are also commenting on.

Why is This a Big Deal for Digital Marketing?

I'll try to stop being a fan-boy for the rest of this post and explain why the creation of this series is so significant.

1. It challenges the conventional

An online, video streaming service used 100 million dollars to make its own TV show. Just let that sink in for a second. 4 years ago, Netflix was announcing its billionth DVD delivery. They had become the most significant player in DVD rentals, crippling box competitors like Blockbuster. Today, they're pioneering the creation of a television series which airs only on Netflix- for now. No more ad breaks. No anxious waiting for the next episode. The entire season is there for you to stream instantly. If you hate humanity and want to make me cry, you can even watch the 13th episode first if you want to. How could Netflix have issued a challenge to conventional television production more clearly?

2. It clearly has sway

Netflix didn't only create a series. They paid 100 million dollars for 26 episodes. I hope you're not tired of hearing 100 million dollars yet, because I think repetition is the best way to emphasize its importance. So, Netflix created the series. Netflix paid a lot of money to create a good series and now as a result, Netflix is receiving outrageous attention. It's funny how these principles seem to reflect the chief content-strategy here at Mojo Media Labs- "Content is King".

3. It shows that Netflix is evolving their image

Netflix is taking the plunge and re-branding itself as more than just a video host for studios. They went from being a content-hosting agency to content-creation powerhouse overnight. While this expansion by Netflix could be good for the bottom line, it could also lead to some strife with major production studios. As Maureen Allen asks in her article "Won't this lead to a lot of studios taking their shows and movies off Netflix at some point?" While this question won't be answered for months to come, it presents a classic issue in business growth. Netflix recognizes the importance of challenging their original position within the video-streaming market. While it comes with costs (of course) it also shows that the company heads recognize the importance of evolving their company. What makes this awesome from my perspective is that the company's entire shift hinges on the content they created in House of Cards.

Now, Read Those 3 Titles Again

If you want an amazing example showing the power of quality content, take a look at Netflix's strategy. When they went about designing this series, they didn't set up an email drip campaign or post billboards in all the major metropolitan areas. They sent out one email when the series officially released, and had it show up in the various queue spots.

Netflix understands that quality content runs itself. Of course they push it on social media and other conventional digital marketing channels, I'm not saying they don't. What I mean is that Netflix didn't beg their customers to watch the show. They just said "Hey, we made a series. It has Kevin Spacey. It's a political thriller. Oh, and you can watch the whole series today if you want".

At the end of Friday, Feb. 1st, Netflix's stock price was sitting at a nice $160.80. As of noon on February 6th, they are at $182.24. Huh. A 10% increase in Netflix's stock over the course of a 5 days. If that doesn't show you how quality content generates quality ROI, then I'm not sure how else I can convince you.

Contrary to their program's name, this House of Cards isn't falling over any time soon.


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