Kevin Spacey, the star of breakthrough Netflix hit House of Cards, wrapped up the Edinburgh International Television Festival by delivering the prestigious James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture. He used the platform to deliver a glowing endorsement for the online TV industry in which he strongly advised all producers to get their programs on the Internet ASAP.
Spacey argued that, for an increasing number of young viewers, platform is irrelevant. “There’s no difference…watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer,” Spacey said. “It’s all content. It’s all story.” It’s a valid point; viewers are flocking to Netflix because of Spacey, Jenji Kohan, and Mitchell Hurwitz–not because of Ted Sarandos (or, at least, not because of him directly).
Spacey then compared the rise of online TV to that of online music, noting how successful platforms must offer their products online for a competitive price, lest consumers decide to damn ethics and get what they want for free. “Studios and networks who ignore either shift — whether the increasing sophistication of storytelling, or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement — will be left behind,” he predicted.
While we would love for the Internet to rule TV as it does with music, many critics think the Academy Award-winning actor’s bullishness is a tad overblown. A Guardian article about the speech notes that 90% of British views still come from TV, but there is also the more fundamental problem of Netflix refusing to release its viewership numbers. Without knowing exactly how many people are engaging with the most popular online shows, it is impossible to know for sure if online TV in its current form truly represents the future. Therefore, while Spacey’s speech was on the ball, rumors of the traditional TV industry’s death are–for now–an exaggeration.