On Tuesday, Deadline.com reported that Netflix had outbid HBO and other television networks to buy "House of Cards," a new one-hour drama series developed by Kevin Spacey and The Social Network auteur David Fincher. If successful, the deal would mark a major first for Netflix: It would own the rights to a show instead of streaming and otherwise distributing programs and movies controlled by others. The deal is also notable for its scope: Netflix surprised observers by reportedly committing $100 million to two seasons (26 episodes). How will the company's bold move alter the television business?
This changes everything: "In one fell swoop, the streaming giant not only picked up a marquee series…but also upended the way television deals are made," says Kyle Buchanan at New York. It's unprecedented for any network, much less a company that has never created an original program, to give such an extended commitment to a new project. This is a "landmark move" that heralds a future where the internet, not television, will be the dominant form of mass entertainment.
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Netflix is now an even bigger player: Some see Netflix as simply a "place to watch favorite old movies and shows on a continual loop," says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. Producing its own shows, though, would make Netflix more like HBO in its Sopranos-fueled glory days — "a rich, restraint-free platform that doesn't have to play by the rules of traditional television." A successful deal would also lead to "fascinating possibilites" for other shows to be "made and successfully marketed outside traditional means."
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Failure is an option, too: "Getting into the business of betting on television shows is... a highly risky one for Netflix," say Ethan Smith and Nick Wingfield in The Wall Street Journal. So far, the company has been successful mostly by "focusing on its areas of expertise," which do not include producing TV shows. Netflix has tried to expand its reach before, most notably when it opened a separate unit to acquire DVD rights at film festivals. That division was eventually closed.
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