Last night, I had a bit of a four-episode marathon and finished watching the second season of Netflix's brilliant original: "House of Cards". In the warm afterglow of its recent conclusion, right now I feel like it's a genuine contender for "my favourite series of all time". I'm sure the feeling won't last and after a few days I will again conclude that the honour actually resides with "The Wire" after all. And I know that "House of Cards" isn't truly "original" either - if you are British and of a certain age (over about 35, I expect) you may well have loved the UK original on which the Spacey version is based.
But the remake is better. Not only is it built to last several seasons (the UK version of the early 90s was frustratingly short by comparison), but I don't remember a series that not only maintains, but actually continuously raises, such a high level of tension and sustains that swell through 13 episodes. And, of course, it has Kevin Spacey in it - officially the Greatest Actor of All Time (you may think that's a matter of opinion but if you disagree, I promise you that are wrong).
Regardless. The principle importance of "House of Cards" is not in its excellent scripting and execution (although without those, it may not be important at all). It's importance is that it was the first "original" content produced exclusively for Netflix, the online streaming service.
Netflix and services like it, are - like HBO in the 1990s - already tearing up the way we consume television. Netflix is doing this despite the fact that (exclusive content aside) it doesn't have the "very latest" in the way that Sky (sort of) does. But consider what it has already achieved - it is disrupting the "old school" - as evidenced by the announcement last week of the TWC-Comcast merger. More than that, the principle of on-demand for such a low monthly fee must be causing Apple executives serious pause for thought - they thought they were going to be the next cool kids on the digital entertainment block but are already being eclipsed.
Netflix is not news, of course, but I believe we have reached the "tipping point" - critical mass achieved. The model where you get to choose what you want, when you want - including for example being able to watch an entire season all at once instead of over 13 weeks - is too compelling, especially at the price of a Netflix sub. When I compare that £6 a month to the average £80 a month I still spend on Sky, something inside me dies a little. Like a lot of people my age it took me a while (years, in fact) to let go of "owning" my music and accept that renting it was the inevitable future (Spotify revolutionised that aspect of my life). In the case of TV it's happened rather faster - if you aren't already on board with an on-demand subscription, suck it up - it's inevitable.
Kevin Spacey may or may not recognise any of this (he seems to me to be savvy enough that he almost certainly does), but either way the excellence of "House of Cards" - and the fact that it's not just new content but exclusive, - marks a watershed in TV entertainment. There's no going back. Defensive mergers and consolidation won't cut it: traditional providers of TV must shape up fast, they are already realising that their very future is a House of Cards.