To date, Netflix has only been an after-the-fact distributor, their only content being that which has been produced and distributed by someone else first. This is the safest route of course, it means only distributing content for which a market has already been proven to exist. Of course, in conjunction with the low risk, it also has lower reward than distributing successful first-run content. Netflix is taking the natural next step with their purchasing of first-run rights to the series “House of Cards.”
Based on a political thriller written by Michael Dobbs, and already adapted by the BBC into a well-regarded mini-series in the nineties, this adaptation will bring the cynical take on politics to a contemporary American setting. It is planned to run for at least 26 episodes, which will be exclusively available through Netflix for an as of yet undisclosed amount of time. There also isn’t word yet on whether it will be available on Instant Watch, though it seems that would be the most likely way that Netflix could leverage this to their strengths.
The series will star Kevin Spacey and David Fincher will executive produce the series in addition to directing at least the pilot episode. Early rumors suggest that Brad Pitt will wonder about the contents of a box during sweeps.
The key hair to be split here is that Netflix, while getting first run licensing, is not technically financing the production of the series at all, so they’re still a step shy of playing in exactly the same box as the networks and cable companies. One could make the argument that this really isn’t much different than what Netflix has done before. After all, how many people have watched the assorted HBO, Showtime, and Starz shows on the channels in question, and how many have watched them either through DVDs or on Netflix? Based on my highly scientific polling, that proportion is 100%, with a sample size of 6.*
Most of the interblogs have moved on to the only logical follow-up question to this news: when are they going to pick up “Firefly?” It’s the obvious joke, but it’s also the obvious direction for the industry. Having knocked out the brick and mortar rental companies, can Netflix knock out the cable companies too?
*Note: sample may include dogs and cats.