Netflix versus The World

So, who spent Valentine’s Day in the dark embrace of politics, back stabbing and murder?

I really hope you know I’m talking about watching season 2 of “House of Cards;” otherwise that might be the creepiest column intro since The Ghost of Andy Rooney kicked off 700 words with “I’ve always thought I?looked good in a speedo.”

Yes, the venerable holiday commemorating the execution of two martyrs with candy hearts and your first experience with rejection as a child was observed by myself and roughly one billion other people by delving into the seamy underworld of American politics with Kevin Spacey’s Vice President Frank Underwood as our tour guide.

Allow me to soothe the uninitiated by vowing that I will not sully these column inches with any spoilers about this newest season.

While I, and many others, were simply overjoyed to have the second season of “The West Wing’s” evil twin there may be no other viewer happier than Reed Hastings.

Hastings, former Peace Corps member and Stanford graduate, created Netflix after being charged a $40 late fee for a copy of “Apollo 13.” No, I’m not kidding.

So as the second season of “House of Cards” came online we regular viewers were too busy watching the machinations of a brilliant and terrible political mind to notice what had caught Mr. Hasting’s eye; the barbarians at the gate.

“House of Cards” is a symbol for the evolution of Netflix. First a company that rented DVDs, then a streaming service, and now a creator of award-winning original content Netflix is no longer just red envelopes filled with partially scratched copies of “The Dukes of Hazard,” they’ve become a threat.

But a threat to who, you might ask? Simple answer: Everyone.

Netflix vs HBO: The popular question right now is whether Netflix will overtake HBO as the premiere destination for television programs that reminds you not everything on TV has to be “Two and a Half Men.” Without bogging down the argument with talk of operating capital and subscription rates HBO and Netflix make about the same amount of money, but HBO keeps more of the money they make. This is what allows them make a show like “Game of Thrones” that costs enough per episode to buy a small island.

As much as HBO would like you to think they’re “not TV,” and that their original programming has won over 100 television awards they always fail to mention, when they first started making original content, they offered such TV classics as “First and Ten,” a comedy about a professional football team owned by Delta Burke, and “Philip Marlowe, Private Eye,” starring Powers Boothe, which was taken off the air due to excessive levels of both moxie and spunk.

Winner: Netflix. I got all 13 episodes of “House of Cards” in one day yet HBO sees fit to give me one episode of “Game of Thrones” per week. For shame!

Netflix vs Amazon: Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, continues his “Hey, me too!” business model by expanding Amazon into the original content, digitally delivered model created by Hastings. Amazon has a lot of money and just ask Borders or Barnes and Noble what happens when they decide they want a chunk of your business.

Winner: Netflix. As frightening of a behemoth as Amazon is, Bezos just bought the Washington Post and is attempting to perfect his drone army to deliver every consumer product known to man, right at your doorstep. I’m sure he’s too busy developing underwater delivery and buying Arbys to pose a serious threat to Netflix.

Netflix vs The FCC: Last month the FCC lost a case in Federal Court that says that Internet service providers (ISPs) can start to charge websites more money to be hosted or slow their speed at the discretion of the ISP. The chief complaint of the ISPs? Netflix streaming uses too much bandwidth, and should therefore be either limited (which would reduce image quality) or be forced to pay more for equal access (which would increase subscription fees).

Winner: Netflix. Yeah, that’s a lot to face down, but Netflix still has the DVDs! Streaming is great, but still doesn’t offer the selection the DVD service provides. And remember, Netflix was built on the DVD rental service.

Netflix vs Comcast: Comcast cable, the monolithic cable company that owns … most things … has no love for Netflix. Comcast owns, amongst a multitude of entertainment businesses, NBC/Universal. And when a cable company/ISP wants to start digitally streaming their entire back catalog of TV shows and movies, they don’t really need a third party like Netflix to get the job done. In fact, Comcast just recently bought Time Warner Cable, which in 2009 was spun off from Time Warner, the company that owns HBO, Netflix’s greatest competitor in content.

Well, at least Netflix would be able to petition the FCC if they thought Comcast was being given an unfair advantage in the digital streaming business? No, the FCC lost the case that allowed them that authority.

Then they could always go over the FCC’s head and go straight to the President … who they just denied early copies of “House of Cards.”

Winner: Comcast.

So, Netflix, it looks like your options are buy Comcast, buy your own ISP, or slip an advanced copy of “House of Cards” season 3 to the next president. I’d go for the third option; unless you’ve got some Machiavellian mastermind working behind the scenes to secure your interests … but wherever would you find someone like that?