MipTV: ‘House of Cards’ Travels Well

U.S. online hit "House of Cards" is a frequent flyer offline in dozens of countries -- and counting

Rep. Francis Underwood is on quite the worldwide whirlwind tour.

While the politician protagonist of “House of “Cards” rarely left Capitol Hill during the first season of the Netflix original series, he’s racking up plenty of airline miles in the international TV market. That should continue coming out of the MipTV conference, where Japan is likely to be among the next round of buyers expected to snap up “Cards”.

Since its Feb. 1 premiere on the streaming service, the series has been sold in dozens of countries by Sony Pictures Television, which is handling international sales for “Cards” producer Media Rights Capital. “Cards” was released that way in all territories where the streaming service is available, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Latin America, and Scandinavia.

“Because the two-season commitment (from Netflix) was there from the beginning, buyers knew that this would have enduring value for them,” says Keith LeGoy, president of international distribution at SPT. “So that is also new for buyers.”

“Cards” provides an early example that overseas TV nets are ready to buy from non-traditional auspices.

“I do think it’s a gamechanger,” said Gary Lico, president/CEO of program development and global distribution firm CableReady. “It shows if you have a strong concept, you don’t have to through the usual gatekeepers.”

Netflix made the unprecedented move of releasing 13 episodes at once of the series, which stars Kevin Spacey as the corrupt congressman. “What we and Sony Intl. Television conveyed to buyers is that Netflix has as many subscribers as HBO, and viewing can be non-linear since we’re posting (many) episodes all at once,” says Asif Satchu, CEO and co-founder of Media Rights Capital.

Jim Packer, prexy of worldwide TV and digital distribution at Lionsgate, thinks series like “Cards” are here to stay, but he worries about an unintended impact that binge viewing might have on audience momentum.

“My only hesitation is that it’s over quick,” Packer says, in a sentiment echoed by others. “You don’t get the week-to-week buzz building when 13 episodes are available all at once.”

While domestic TV ratings is ordinarily a telling barometer for gauging buyer interest abroad, Netflix doesn’t publicize such numbers. But the series is off to a good start in telecasts already on two multichannel TV platforms overseas.

After premiering Feb. 4 in a weekly Monday 9 p.m. slot on Sky Deutschland’s Sky Atlantic channel, a German-dubbed “Cards” consistently ranks in the top 10 in audience viewing for the week (Sky Atlantic carries upmarket Hollywood imports such as HBO originals). In addition, episodes are available on streaming service Sky Go and VOD platform Sky Anytime.

“”House of “Cards” was a no-brainer in terms of fit,” says Sky Deutschland exec programming veep Gary Davey. “It had that high quality and big event programming feel to it. It has the style, production value and the quality of the casting.”

“Cards” launched Feb. 21 on Canal Plus Spain’s Canal+1, where it has become “one of our most watched series, only behind big series such as Game of Thrones and some Spanish original productions,” says a rep for the channel. “We are very happy with the results, both in terms of consumption and the buzz that the series has generated.”

“Cards” is likely among just the first of a growing tide of online programming to be highlighted at MipTV’s digital-centric track, MipCube.

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