The bidding competition for the ability to air David Fincher and Kevin Spacey‘s project House of Cards was held recently, and the industry player that came out on top of things was a shock to pretty much everyone. The television drama about intrigue and subterfuge in British politics was acquired by Netflix rather than a standard television channel.
Deadline maintains that
Netflix landed the drama project by offering a staggering commitment of two seasons, or 26 episodes. Given that the price tag for a high-end drama is in the $4 million-$6 million an episode range and that a launch of a big original series commands tens of millions of dollars for promotion, the deal is believed to be worth more than $100 million and could change the way people consume TV shows.
So there are two things of note here: that Netflix is making its first foray into the realm of producing original content instead of streaming the content of others, and that Netflix optioned two seasons of a show, sight unseen.
It’s unusual these days for a television studio to agree to pay up front for more than a pilot, much less 26 episodes of what’s almost guaranteed to be an hour long show. For example:
AMC went straight to series on The Walking Dead but with a modest six-episode order. Rome and Fox’s CGI extravaganza Terra Nova started off with 13-episode orders. Starz, which has been going straight-to-series with its dramas, ordered 10 episodes of Camelot and 8 of Boss.
Netflix is nothing if cautious in their expansion into the field of film distribution, but with recent forays by Amazon.com and Facebook into instant streaming, perhaps they’re looking to step up their game.