...Netflix has outbid several major cable networks, including HBO and AMC, for Media Rights Capital's drama series House of Cards, executive produced and directed by David Fincher and exec produced by and starring Kevin Spacey.
Negotiations are still going on, but I hear 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.
Given the strong interest in House of Cards from multiple networks, observers had speculated that the project may get an episodic commitment, but a massive two-season order is pretty unheard of these days. Going straight to series itself is a risky proposition as attested by NBC, which recently tried it before reverting to the traditional pilot model. Besides the sandals-and-toga Rome, which was a co-production with the BBC, HBO has piloted all of its projects, including those with A-list talent such as Martin Scorsese/Terence Winter's Boardwalk Empire and Michael Mann/David Milch's Luck starring Dustin Hoffman. AMC went straight to series with The Walking Dead but with a modest six-episode order. Rome and Fox's CGI extravaganza Terra Nova started off with 13-episode orders. Snatching a high-profile project like House of Cards is certain to put Netflix on the map. But by committing to air and market a 26-episode original series, something it has never done before, it will also put the company to the test.
Netflix has been looking to diversify beyond movies. The day Amazon.com announced its entry into the online video space, Netflix unveiled a $200 million deal with CBS for two years for nonexclusive rights to stream such shows as The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Family Ties, Twin Peaks, Cheers and Frasier. Adding original series to the portfolio seems like a natural next step.
In his TV directorial debut, Fincher will helm the pilot for House of Cards, which is based on the book and British miniseries of the same name. Fincher is executive producing with Eric Roth, Joshua Donen as well as Spacey and his producing partner at Trigger Street Prods. Dana Brunetti. The political-thriller novel House of Cards, written by Michael Dobbs, a former Conservative Party chief of staff, is set at the end of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister and follows a British politician with his eye on the top job. In 1990, it was adapted by the BBC as a miniseries written by Andrew Davies and starring Ian Richardson. Fincher's adaptation, set in the U.S., was written by playwright-screenwriter Beau Willimon (The Ides of March).
Boldness (and some pretty deep pockets)!