DirecTV tries to join Netflix, Hulu with new original series Kingdom: Can they compete?
With the premiere of Kingdom on Oct. 8, DirecTV is beginning to launch its own lineup of original programming, a move popularized by plenty of cable channels and streaming platforms before it.
DirecTV is no stranger to quality programming, of course. In 2008, a deal with NBC ensured that the stellar series Friday Night Lights found a home for another three seasons, with first-run episodes airing on DirecTV before repeats made their way to the prime-time network a few months later. While FNL never had a huge viewership, its fan base was passionate, and it was a natural fit for DirecTV, a satellite network known for its sports packages.
Kingdom seems like an excellent choice for its flagship original show, neatly falling in the middle of the Venn diagram between fans of sports and fans of family drama. It's Friday Night Lights with more curse words and twice as much violence. The cast even boasts former FNL alum Matt Lauria.
Set in the world of competitive mixed martial arts fighting, it features Frank Grillo as a former fighter-turned-gym-owner and father to two sons, played respectively by Nick Jonas and Jonathan Tucker. Jonas plays the gym's golden child, a prize fighter teeming with potential, while Tucker is lost in a grittier subculture of drugs and addiction. The creative team behind the show is pedigreed, the actors are brilliant and the pilot episode is intense and thoroughly enjoyable.
But is it enough to help DirecTV compete with other non-cable entities that already have seasons of original content under their belts?
The purpose of original programming is to lure in new subscribers. It's certainly worked for HBO and Showtime, but at the moment, Netflix is the undisputed king of original streaming content, and it's largely because Netflix doesn't have one target customer base. There's no one specific type of subscriber Netflix is looking to bring in; the audience for Orange Is the New Black isn't the same as the audience settling in to binge on Hemlock Grove, and the ability to diversify its production lineup gives Netflix an edge right now.
It has targeted demographics across the board, and thus far, it's yielded spectacular results. Subscriptions to Netflix have risen while HBO and Showtime have been on the downswing, and House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black have each earned multiple Emmy nominations.
DirecTV's primary audience is sports fans, and while Kingdom is aligned with a sports fan's interests, it'll take more than the lure of one show to hook new customers, particularly when it's a show that's already aimed at current subscribers.
Still, enough buzz could give it a chance, and with Grillo riding the success of Captain America 2 and a Jonas brother in such a dark, dramatic world, there's bound to be plenty of buzz. If Kingdom finds its audience, the next best step is for DirecTV to diversify.
Keep the sports fans happy, but float some pitches geared at the audience that tuned in to Friday Night Lights for the Taylor family, not just the East Dillon Lions.