While it's hard to measure the exact impact Netflix has made on the television landscape and how viewers consume content, it's very apparent that a large portion of TV watchers are shifting their time and attention to digital mediums. The service's ever-expanding subscriber base has even made it possible for Netflix to create original shows, such as House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black, but one territory the digital media giant hasn't explored is bonus material - at least until now.
What has always set DVDs apart from TV broadcasts, theatrical releases and even streaming content has been the exclusive bonuses that come on the physical discs, including audio commentaries, gag reels, making-of featurettes and more. However, Netflix showed it may be able to provide the same types of bonuses soon, after adding audio commentaries to season 1 of its first original series, House of Cards.
Commentaries on each of the season's 13 episodes are currently available to subscribers by simply changing the subtitle and alternate audio preference on the service. All six of the season's directors - including David Fincher (The Social Network), Allen Coulter (The Sopranos) and Joel Schumacher (Falling Down) - provide commentary on the episodes they helmed and while the season is available on DVD, those audio commentary tracks are not included on the discs.
According to Variety, the motivation behind the move is to reinvigorate interest in the Emmy-winning drama before season 2 premieres next month, but we couldn't help but wonder: Will audio commentaries on streaming content become a trend?
Director commentaries may not be the most popular bonus feature on many DVDs, but if other DVD-style extras are introduced at some point, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu could have yet another leg up on other mediums. And even if Netflix were to simply stick with the commentaries, it would still be able to further satisfy its customers interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects and production stories from their favorite shows.
As always, the biggest question from the Netflix side of things will be: Is producing bonus content worth it? The answer will likely depend on how many users take advantage of the extra features and this latest introduction of audio commentaries may become a notable measuring stick.
While this is Netflix's first foray into additional content, it is not the first streaming service of its kind to offer extra features. Last fall, streaming movie service Vudu unveiled Vudu Extras+, which offers bonuses including deleted scenes, movie trivia and featurettes on select titles. Vudu intended to enhance the value of digital ownership with Vudu Extras+ and if Netflix finds that its extra features enhance the value of its shows, it certainly will find a way to churn out more of the same type of content for more programs.
Be sure to check out the director commentaries for House of Cards season 1 now to gear up for season 2, which will be available to stream on Netflix on February 14, 2014.