How Netflix channeled Frank Underwood to build an empire

The season 3 premiere of Netflix's buzziest series finds the company at a crossroads

Hail to the chief.
(Image credit: Facebook.com/HouseofCards)

It's easy to forget that there was a time when Netflix was perceived as a savior, and not a threat, to the networks and studios that now consider it a top rival. As the lucrative DVD market began to dry up in the late 2000s, Netflix's eagerness to license movies and TV shows for its streaming service provided a valuable and much-needed source of extra revenue. In some cases, the licensees got as much out of the deal as Netflix did; it's hard to imagine Breaking Bad's final season would have become such a cultural phenomenon without the legions of viewers who caught up through their Netflix accounts.

But Netflix, like Frank Underwood, was always playing a longer game than its competitors understood. Years of streaming content didn't just give Netflix the material on which to build a subscriber base; it gave them reams of data on what its subscribers watched, and how much they watched it. Netflix's intimate familiarity with the content of its would-be rivals, and the desires of its own users, gave them a uniquely focused opportunity to propel themselves into competition.

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