Burning Question: Does Amazon
Will Amazon's 'Alpha House' (r) have the impact of 'House of Cards' (l)?
Q: Does Amazon and its new slate of shows have a chance of breaking Netflix's dominance of streaming originals?
A: To anybody who's thinking about this, I've got one piece of advice for you. Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, there, Sparky. As I type this column, Netflix can boast 26 current and past series and specials, with stars such as Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Jason Bateman, Kevin Spacey's southern accent, Michael Cera, Marc Maron, Aziz Ansari, and Crazy Eyes.
Netflix also has an impressive slate in its future, including second seasons of "Orange Is the New Black," "House of Cards," and "Hemlock Grove." The company recently announced a deal with Marvel that will bring us The Defenders — stories of superheroes such as Jessica Jones and Daredevil. And there's even an "Untitled Psychological Thriller" in Netflix's upcoming slate. Oooh! Goosebumps!
As for Amazon? It has offered standalone TV movies in the past. But it just debuted its first original series this week. "Alpha House," inspired by the real-life bunking situation experienced by Sen. Chuck Schumer and other D.C. power players, boasts John Goodman and (in cameo) Bill Murray. There are upcoming series, too: "Betas" will offer up the likes of Moby and Ed Begley Jr.
Get the idea? Of course there's a chance that Amazon will eclipse Netflix sometime in the future. Their biggest shows both seem to be getting love, at least, from critics: Metacritic has Amazon's Emmy-winning flagship scripted series, "House of Cards" (coincidentally also set in D.C.), with a 76 (out of 100) rating versus a perfectly respectable 71 for "Alpha House."
But right now, nobody's thinking that way, especially when you consider that Amazon Prime has an estimated 10 million to 12 million subscribers versus Netflix's reported 30 million streaming customers. (Netflix's total customer base is closer to 40 million.)
Remember: Video entertainment is at the core of Netflix's business. And as of now, Amazon still sees itself as more of a shopping site, with the streaming video thrown in as a lagniappe for Prime subscribers. That's a very different business model, and it may not even be fair to compare the two companies as entertainment entities, at least, not yet.