Online services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Youtube are increasing their efforts to produce original content as Netflix receives new customers and media attention.
Original content is increasingly becoming more of an attractive option for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu due to the expense of licensing movies from studios. According to Felix Salmon, the finance blogger at Reuters, Netflix had to pay $1.355 billion in licensing costs just in the first quarter of 2013; in contrast it spent only $150 million on original content.
Another reason for the rise of original programming is to attract new customers. Salmon, in a blog entry discussing the reasons for Netflix’s endeavor, says that “the thing that Netflix aspires to be…. is… something people feel that they have to subscribe to, on the grounds that it’s the only place where they can find shows A, B, C, and D.”
The company is finding success, adding almost three million subscribers worldwide in the third quarter and quadrupling profit over 2012’s third quarter. Netflix also earned 14 Primetime Emmy nominations and won three, including an Outstanding Directing award for its political drama “House of Cards.”
Hulu, which has a reputation for bringing popular shows from the UK and elsewhere to domestic audiences, debuted four new shows this year including “The Wrong Mans,” a co-production with BBC that follows two ordinary men finding themselves stuck in a web of danger and conspiracy. As with “House of Cards” and Netflix’s “Arrested Development” reboot, the entire season of “the Wrong Mans” was made available at once.
In its efforts to catch up, Amazon has taken a different approach. It reached out to users in April and asked them in April to vote on 14 pilots, with the most popular being commissioned for a 13-episode season. The winning show, Garry Trudeau’s political comedy “Alpha House,” began its run last month with three free teaser episodes. To watch the rest of the season, fans must subscribe to Amazon Prime for $79 per year.
Google, instead of creating hour-long television, is aiming to create professionally-made minutes-long videos. It poured $100 million into Youtube in 2011 to jumpstart 100 channels about anything from cooking tips to sports talk to create about 25 hours of new, original programming a day. Participants have ranged from Shaquille O’Neal to Madonna. After a year, Youtube reported that the top 25 original channels were averaging over a million views every week and 800 million people were watching four billion hours every month.