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The Unfolding Mystery of "True Detective" and Why TV's Content War Is Escalating Fast

By Tim Beyers – Feb 16, 2014 at 7:45AM

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New and forthcoming series from HBO demonstrate Time Warner’s commitment to the model, which could put pressure not only on Showtime but also AMC Networks, Netflix, and Starz.

The content war among broadcast, cable, and on-demand television channels is heating up, Fool contributor Tim Beyers says in the following video.

In years past, Netflix and AMC Networks could count on picking up leftovers from HBO and Showtime -- well-written programs that were presumably too niche for the big pay TV channels. (Think Mad Men and Breaking Bad.) No longer.

Game of Thrones already altered the equation by adding epic fantasy to HBO's lineup. True Detective may be about to alter it further. Writer Nic Pizzolatto's drama bounces back and forth between 2012 and 1995, granting viewers an up-close look at the "true" events surrounding the investigation of a ritualistic murder that's been copycatted in the present. Sound confusing? It can be, which in years past might have kept the show from making the leap to HBO and leaving the door open for AMC and Netflix.

Time Warner (TWX) executives appear to have learned their lesson, which is good, because Tim says True Detective's slow reveal can be tantalizing in its complexity. He also believes actors Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey are huge draws who deliver strong performances as unwilling partners in Louisiana's Criminal Investigation Division.

So, apparently, do many others. Episodes 3 and 4 of the show drew progressively higher viewership after a rather typical drop following the pilot. Reviews are also strong, with 88% of critics and 97% of viewers verifying the show as "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes.

Longer term, True Detective isn't likely to mean much for the stock of HBO parent Time Warner. But the very fact that the network is paying closer attention to (and paying up for) niche dramas such as True Detective could make it tougher for AMC and Netflix to find top-notch new originals to invest in.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Are you watching True Detective? If so, could have seen it working as well on AMC or Netflix? Please watch the video to get Tim's full take on the content war, and then leave a comment to let us know where you stand.

Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Netflix and Time Warner at the time of publication. Check out Tim's Web home and portfolio holdings, or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

The Motley Fool recommends AMC Networks and Netflix and owns shares of Netflix. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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