As background for the ongoing Netflix thread, I've been reading up on HBO. Lots of interesting facts for anyone who follows the business of television, but one detail, though minor, jumped out as an illustration of a couple of points about the network's strategy:
HBO's first scripted series, launched back in 1983, was Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock, beating the detective show Phillip Marlowe, Private Eye out of the gate, albeit only by a few months.
(listen at your own peril, this may have a tendency to stick in your head.)
Fraggle Rock turned out to be a huge, long-running hit, but there's a limit to how much we should read into that (the luck factor is always difficult to account for). What's more interesting in the context of this discussion is that, from the very beginning:
1. HBO understood the value of the preschooler market, something that appears to have eluded Netflix even though that market is arguably more important for an on-demand service;
2. The network went with a new property from established creators, an approach it would return to many times over the next twenty years. Netflix has leaning heavily toward established properties, which almost by definition, reduces the chances of the kind of unexpected breakthrough hits often associated with HBO.