As the first actor to give the lecture in its 40 year history Kevin Spacey has a unique outlook on how television has changed over the last few years. After a succesful film career, winning Oscars for his roles in "American Beauty" and "The Usual Suspects", Spacey has recently worked with Netflix on the political drama "House of Cards". Netflix broke all the rules by releasing all thirteen episodes at the same time and many viewers "binged" on multiple episodes. The series was critically acclaimed and Netflix have commissioned a second series. Spacey spoke about the differences of delivering a show in this way:
"For years, particularly with the advent of the Internet, people have been griping about lessening attention spans. But if someone can watch an entire season of a TV series in one day, doesn't that show an incredible attention span? When the story is good enough, people can watch something three times the length of an opera. The audience has spoken: They want stories. They're dying for them. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook... and God knows what else. All we have to do is give it to them."
He also touched on the sticky topic of piracy:
"Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price, and they'll more likely pay for it rather than steal it. Well, some will still steal it, but I believe this new model can take a bite out of piracy."
He also talked about how Television Executives had to have the courage to nurture creative talent and not pull the plug on new shows just because they have low ratings. He cited the example of Hill Street Blues, where executives were worried by focus groups who found the pilot "Confusing and Depressing" and almost did not go ahead with the series:
"If those executives had had their way, the road would have never been paved for The Sopranos, Rescue Me, Weeds, Homeland, Dexter, Six Feet Under, Deadwood, Damages, Sons of Anarchy, Oz, The Wire, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and House of Cards,"
"If the list of programs I just read isn't the most powerful and inescapable evidence that the king of television is the creatives -- then I don't know what would convince you. And our challenge now is to keep the flame of this revolutionary programming alive by continuing to seek out new talent, nurture it, encourage it, challenge it, give it a home and the kind of autonomy that the past and present -- of our three golden ages of television -- has proved it deserves."
Spacey finished his speech with a quote from Orson Wells:
"I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can't stop eating peanuts."