Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

How Do You Market a TV Show Without a TV Network? Ask Netflix.

arrested developmentTV networks may have plenty of flaws, but one thing they’re really good at is promoting other TV shows.

But here comes Netflix, which is getting into the TV show business and doesn’t have any experience promoting TV shows. Plus, it doesn’t have its own TV network to do the heavy lifting.

So how is it going to tell people about new shows like “House of Cards,” which comes out in a week, or “Arrested Development,” which comes out in May?

Reed Hastings and company have long argued that not being tied to a traditional TV network gives them a ton of freedom, since they don’t have to convince an audience to watch a certain show at a certain time. In theory, they won’t care if lots of people watch “House of Cards” on February 1, or if lots of people watch the show over the next couple years.

And they say they’ll primarily rely on Netflix.com to do the bulk of their promotion, by telling some subscribers — but not all subscribers — about the new shows. We saw a taste of this last year, when the company trotted out “Lilyhammer,” a kind of trial run for its original programming plans.

Still, depending on where you live or what you do online, you may bump into some Netflix promotions in the next few months.

During his earnings call this week, Hastings noted that he’ll be trying to attract “a lot of attention in certain cities doing a highly concentrated, large scale promotion to … stimulate the creative community awareness and generally build a lot of buzz around those shows.”

Translation: If you’re in New York or Los Angeles, there’s a good chance you’ll see billboards like the one Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein spotted this week. These are presumably supposed to hit both “influentials” — perhaps you’re one of them! — as well as current and future Netflix creative partners, who like to see their work promoted just like a “real” TV show.

Meanwhile, if you’re a hard-core “Arrested Development” fan who has been looking forward to the show’s reboot since last year, Netflix is offering some treats to whet your appetite. Digiday notes that Netflix has inserted some easter eggs onto the site, which will end up leading you to the service’s archive of old “Arrested Development” episodes, like the excellent “The One Where Michael Leaves.”

We’ll hear more about the Netflix marketing strategy in a couple weeks, when content boss Ted Sarandos stops by our D: Dive Into Media conference, along with at least one principal from “Arrested Development.” And yes, that counts as marketing, too. See you there.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik