Thursday, August 14, 2014

House Of Cards

When TigerBlog has to write an essay on the first day of school about how he spent his summer vacation, he can probably sum most of it up in two words: Watched Netflix.

Actually, TigerBlog can't remember too many times, if any actually, where he was asked to write about his summer vacation on the first day of a new school year. Maybe at Penn, before finger-painting. That's how education is at Penn, right all you Princeton people?

Seriously, TB can't remember being asked to do write about summer vacation. He probably was at some point. He doesn't really remember much of second grade or third grade or anything like that.

TigerBlog went to a bunch of different schools between first grade and high school, as opposed to his own children, who will have gone to one elementary school for K-5, one middle school for 6-8 and then one high school (though different high schools from each other).

TB went to one school for first and second grades, another for third, yet another for fourth and then a different one for fifth and sixth. Then it was two years at the junior high school and four years at high school. That's six schools in 12 years, as opposed to three for his kids.

And that was all without ever moving out of his house. It was all with the same kids in the same school district the entire 12 years. It's just that there were a lot of buildings used.

TB used to think this was normal; in fact, he's guessing most people didn't do it that way.

Meanwhile, back at Netflix, TigerBlog yesterday talked about "Orange Is The New Black," which consumed 26 hours of his life in a short period of time.

Once that show was over, TB immediately started on "House of Cards," and he polished off all 26 episodes of that show in no time as well. Actually, he thinks that he went through "House of Cards" in fewer days than "OITNB."

If you've "binge-watched," you know what it's like. One episode ends, and you immediately want to watch another one. And then you look at the clock when that one's over and say "it's not too late; one more." The next thing you know, it's midnight, and you've spent four hours watching a show. And want to keep going.

"House of Cards" might be better than "Orange Is The New Black," but they're both outstanding. They're very different subjects, but they are both well-written and well-acted with great, great characters. And they both mix in humor with their serious foundations, though TB would hardly call either a comedy.

"House of Cards" is nominated for 13 Emmy Awards, four more than "OITNB."

If you don't know anything about "House of Cards," it's the story of Frank Underwood, the majority whip of the House of Representatives (at least in Episode 1; TB won't spoil what happens for you). The whips in the house responsible for keeping the party members in line and getting them to vote the way the party wants, usually with the need to exchange favors - or threats - to get compliance.

Underwood is played by Kevin Spacey, who is about as good in this role as Claire Danes is as Carrie Matheson in "Homeland," which means extraordinarily-over-the-top great. The entire cast is tremendous, with one great character after enough - the same kind of great supporting cast that "OITNB" has.

Rather than give away the plot, TB will simply say that the entire season makes him wonder how much of this is accurate portrayal of how the U.S. government works at its highest levels.

And to recommend that you get Netflix and start watching.

As with all binge-watching, the problem now is what show to watch next. He's thinking about "Breaking Bad," but he's not sure he has 85 episodes in him. On the other hand, that won't take him very long, given the way binge-watching works.

He watched the first episode of "Lilyhammer," another Netflix original series. This one stars Steven Van Zandt as a mob guy-turned-informer who gets sent to the Norwegian town (spelled "Lillehammer;" the title of the show is changed on purpose because of the name of Van Zandt's character's dog).

It seems like it would be right in TB's wheelhouse. Van Zandt sort of plays Silvio Dante from "The Sopranos" again, and it's more funny than serious. He fell asleep during Episode 1, but he may have to give it another go.

There are big lessons to be learned from Netflix and binge-watching about the evolution of viewing habits, and there are takeaways for Princeton Athletics.

First of all, Netflix released all 13 episodes of each season of "OITNB" and "House of Cards" at the same time, as opposed to one per week. It's like the shows were on Sunday at 9 or Tuesday at 10. They were just there - just like Season 3 will be, though not for awhile for either.

Second, TigerBlog watched some of the episodes on his TV, some on his computer and some on his phone. If he had a tablet, he could have used that too.

In other words, there's a lot of content out there, and it's accessible anywhere, not just on TV.

Since TigerBlog's first day here more than 20 years ago, television has always been a huge priority. Get games on TV. Any TV. A TV camera = good. No TV camera = bad.

That is changing rapidly.

TB still thinks that there is great value in television, especially Princeton's agreement with ESPN. It's perfect for Princeton, with a chance to put a minimum of seven events per year on an ESPN network, with the huge distribution that comes with it.

The other great part about that is that most of those events are on the WatchESPN app, which takes them from TV only to the mobile world, which is what people really want these days.

That's why the Ivy League Digital Network is such a great idea. Watch anywhere you are.

Unlike a TV show, live athletic events are meant to be seen live, though people do watch archived versions, though not in great numbers. The ability to provide streams to the target audience on their phones, tablets and computers is huge.

The problem is what do you do when the choice is streaming or television, because not all TV broadcasts can be streamed. In fact, most can't be.

What about networks that don't have the reach that ESPN does? If you a huge Princeton fan, would you rather have a game on TV on a network that you may or may not have or the ability to watch it on your phone wherever you are?

The flip side is that you have actually go to the Ivy League Digital Network. Non-Ivy League fans probably aren't going to be doing that, though they might stumble onto a game on television and be intrigued.

It's quite the issue these days. Keep in mind, the ILDN is not cheap for the eight schools and the league, and significant resources continue to be invested in the name of improving the product.

TB doesn't think the league is quite to the point where it doesn't need TV at all. On the other hand, building the ILDN should be a highest priority.

After all, it's the future. It's important to think in the long term and how to get there. The long-term is definitely producing as much original live content as possible. There's no doubt about that. It's what people want.

The short term? TV is still a big part of it.

And the shorter term? Finding the next show to binge-watch.

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