Netflix is set to enter the original content space in a big way with the release of House of Cards, a long-anticipated original series featuring Kevin Spacey as Rep. Frank Underwood, a ruthless politician with his eye on the top job in Washington.
The entire first season will be available to stream beginning tomorrow.
Netflix won the rights nearly two years ago, outbidding the likes of HBO and AMC with a massive upfront commitment of $100 million for 26 episodes (or two seasons). Netflix has an exclusive two-year window on the series. After that, the show’s producers are free to take it wherever they want.
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s content chief, argued at the time that the commitment was “not much of a radical departure in what we do every day,” and was based on the same methods and algorithms that Netflix uses to screen the rest of it’s content. He did add, however, that “There’s an added risk factor, in that this is the first time we’re licensing something that hasn’t been produced, or at least completed.”
That’s putting it very mildly. It’s an incredibly large deviation from how Netflix currently goes about acquiring content. It also represents only a piece of the commitment they’ve made to original content. By the end of the year, Netflix will launch a new season of Arrested Development, an old FOX cult favorite, and feature a new series by Ricky Gervais, among other new projects.
Original content, and House of Cards specifically, represents a very visible high-risk, high-reward proposition for the company.
More than that, it’s also a potential game changer for the entire pay-TV industry.