Follow the Money: Netflix and Its $100 Million ‘House of Cards’

Get it? Because he has blood on his hands

The Netflix original series “House of Cards,” which is basically about what might happen if Richard III and Lady Macbeth were married and decided to take over Washington, DC, has been extremely successful. It cleaned up at the Golden Globes, where it dominated the competition, and, along with its sister show “Orange is the New Black,” which is arguably even more incisive and engrossing, has made Netflix the new HBO. But has it made any money?

The show’s two seasons cost $100 million to produce, which is technically if not legally insane, according to industry analysts. Can Netflix recoup that investment?

Now that both seasons are available for streaming in toto, has “Cards” come up aces for its fledgling network? Has it made money? Can it?

The most obvious risk, Tullo thinks, is the $50 million per season price tag. With 56 million Netflix shares outstanding, the two seasons of “Cards” alone will cost the company nearly $2 per share.

Netflix earned just 29 cents per share in all of 2012, weighed down by its streaming-content bills. Those will keep rising: Netflix is on the hook for at least $5.6 billion over the next few years to pay for its content deals, according to its latest annual report. This month, the company said it’s considering issuing debt to raise capital and fund more original programming.

“It can’t just be a good show,” Tullo says of “Cards.” “It has to be a spectacular show, where people say, ‘Wow, you’ve got to sign up for Netflix to watch this.’ Is it really great enough to bring in two or three million people not subscribing already?”

Netflix won’t release numbers, which means we can only speculate. The show is a hit, for sure, even in unlikely locations — the Middle East hearts Kevin Spacey, and China can’t get enough of his shmaltzy deliciousness. I’m not alone in having binge-watched the entire show, from its first overripe moments through its “Scandal”-worthy cliffhangers. But that mean it will earn Netflix money, or only power? We know which Frank Underwood would prefer.



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