BEVERLY HILLS -- You've got to hand it to Netflix. The Internet streaming service has a way of seizing attention when it's not even trying.
Netflix doesn't have a physical presence at this summer's two-week press tour -- aka the Death March With Cocktails. It hasn't held a single news conference. Yet the Los Gatos-based company is still hogging much of the conversation.
That's because ever since it crashed the Emmy party a few weeks ago with 14 nominations, it has been trendy to speak of Netflix as a TV game changer. And at the press tour, reporters have been eager to elicit reaction from cable and network bigwigs about the new upstart on the block.
Are they impressed by what Netflix has been able to pull off in its first attempt at original programming with shows like "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black"? Do they feel at all threatened?
Of course, in the battlefield that is television, you never go out of your way to praise a rival. So what we've been hearing here is mostly muted admiration and "oh-isn't-that-nice-for-them" chatter.
And, really, when you're HBO, with its humongous haul of 108 Emmy nominations, Netflix is still very much just a speck in your rearview mirror.
"We live very comfortably amid competition," HBO CEO Richard Plepler said early in the tour. In other words: "What, me worry?"
What seems to be of more concern -- at least among reporters -- is Netflix's refusal thus far to disclose viewership data for its shows. While the broadcast networks are beholden to ratings and the cable channels routinely offer up audience numbers, Netflix has been able to proclaim shows like "Cards" to be a hit without coughing up any stats to back it up.
The general feeling seems to be that, if Netflix is going to compete in the TV big leagues, it needs to play the metrics game like everyone else does.
"It's curious. I don't know what more to make of it," HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo said of the Netflix strategy.
Several days later, Showtime entertainment president David Nevins weighed in on the issue, deeming it "interesting."
"For me, ratings numbers are a function of showmanship," he told reporters. "It's meaningful when I can say 'Ray Donovan' is the biggest first-year show we've ever had."
Then again, Nevins is also perplexed by Netflix's habit of releasing all of its episodes of a show in one, big, binge-friendly bunch.
"I still believe in the pleasure of giving them out one at a time," he said. "There's a lot of in-depth criticism and water-cooler chatter happening on a weekly basis, and that can't happen when everything gets dumped at the same time."
At least during this press tour, Netflix seems to have a pretty good handle on the water-cooler chatter.
MORE BLOODSUCKERS: Many fans of The CW's popular drama "The Vampire Diaries" are surely anticipating this fall's spinoff series, "The Originals," but executive producer Julie Plec wants to make it clear that they are two very different shows.
Where "Diaries" is a coming-of-age saga, "The Originals" is more adult in theme.
"('The Vampire Diaries') was cemented in the idea of first love and the struggles of being a vampire," she explained. "This show isn't about struggling to be a vampire. It's about embracing vampirism. It's about reveling in it. Some of these vampires are a thousand years old, and really, it's about the power of the family community and the power struggle over the family community and the supernatural community of an entire city."
Then she offered an analogy: "We like to look at it as we graduated high school and went to college and are getting our little master's degree in 'The Originals.' "
"The Originals" follows Klaus (Joseph Morgan), the original vampire-werewolf hybrid, as he returns to New Orleans, the city from which he and his siblings were exiled a century ago by their relentless hunter father. Plenty of bloodsucking tension ensues.
Plec said she and her collaborators are working hard to make sure that "The Originals" will not only draw fans of "Diaries," but viewers who might never have been interested in the show that spawned it.
"We want to have a show that stands on its own and doesn't have to rely creatively on the foundation of the mother ship, so to speak," she said.