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Kevin Spacey used to never think about television. After all, he’s got two Oscars. But as the face of Netflix’s House of Cards, he has become a voice in support of the changing habits of viewers and acknowledged that TV is getting more creative than film. In a speech in Edinburgh on Thursday, Spacey said that television producers and networks have to understand how streaming has changed the game or they will disappear.
The American Beauty actor said that the success of House of Cards is because viewers “want freedom” to watch a show at their own pace. “If they want to binge — as they've been doing on House Of Cards — then we should let them binge,” he told the crowd at the Edinburgh International Television Festival during his keynote address.
He admitted that if it wasn’t for House of Cards he would never have been at the festival in the first place. “Frankly, 15 years ago I wouldn't have been up here lecturing you because my agent would never have allowed me to even consider being on a television series after winning an Oscar,” he noted.
Later, he said that the current “golden age” of television - created by shows like The Wire and Breaking Bad - could be in danger if studios continue to use the old system to develop their shows.
“Studios and networks who ignore either shift — whether the increasing sophistication of storytelling, or the constantly shifting sands of technological advancement — will be left behind,” he said.
According to Deadline, Spacey covered this point in more depth during a Q&A session Friday. “People are too lazy” to look for talent in unique places. “I’ll hear people are doing a show in a pub or a basement and it’s incredible and they can’t get anyone to come see it,” he commented. “No agent or manager or exec will go. You have to get off your ass and go look.”
“If executives and people in the talent business don’t participate… they’re going to miss it,” he explained.
He also dismissed the current pilot model, praising Netflix and HBO for going straight to series orders, instead of wasting money on just ordering a single pilot episode to be produced.
Another topic Spacey covered both during his speech and on Friday was distribution of films. He suggested that there’s no reason why theater owners should fear a movie coming out on DVD and Video on Demand the same time it opens in theaters. “I believe it will be a huge bite out of piracy. It’s not going to affect the movie business,” he said.
He also came up with a really unique vision of the future of TV. "I can imagine there is going to come a time when someone will do 13 episodes of a story with no breaks… and the audience decides when the pause is," he said Friday.
Spacey lives in London and is the artistic director for the Old Vic. He’s also working on House of Cards season two.
image: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for IWC/image.net