The media paid a lot of attention to the 2013 roll out of Netflix’s House of Cards – but the show did not mark the first time Netflix tried content creation. In fact, the company’s first foray into Hollywood as Red Envelope Entertainment was more important than its gambles on Lilyhammer and House of Cards because it laid the foundation for the huge success of its second try. The series represented a new paradigm for the company and the entertainment industry – episodes were released all at once, to all Netflix subscribers, and the series itself was the product of Netflix’s prodigious database.
It seems like common sense now, but nobody knew whether that would work in 2013. Nor did Netflix really know how much value it would reap from its little production company, Red Envelope Entertainment, or from its decision to sponsor the Spirit Awards, which honor independent films, starting in the early 2000s.
I attended a couple of the Spirit Awards ceremonies, and it was easy to see as I watched huge stars like George Clooney mingle with up-and-coming directors, writers, and actors in a big white tent in Santa Monica, California that this was the future of American entertainment. Those young directors, writers and stars remembered Netflix’s early support, and when the company plunged into content creation, they were on board. Here’s an interview I did with NPR about this in 2013.