Netflix positions House of Cards as a gateway drug

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Netflix on October 8 will offer the complete run of its hit series House of Cards through Redbox. Yes, one rental service offers its original programming through another rental service. What a twisted web those corporations weave.

It all seems part of Netflix’s plan to transform into an HBO-style service—a content producer, not just a content repackager. The craziest part is that the plan issucceeding.

Imagine if your local Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or whatever had announced in 2003 that it planned to film its own “television show” starring Kevin Spacey, with directing talent like David Fincher and Joel Schumacher, only available in Blockbuster stores. “Yeah, right,” the decade-younger version of you would scoff.

And then imagine that silly Blockbuster show not only existed, but garnered nine Emmy nominations in its first year.

”That’s right—nine Emmys.”

Nine Emmy nominations for House of Cards alone. Netflix also snagged two nominations for supernatural thriller Hemlock Grove and three more for the long-anticipated fourth season of Arrested Development. And we’re not just talking the weird awards they don’t show on TV—House of Cards is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. It’s a big deal.

The move to put House of Cards in Redbox is yet another sign of where Netflix is headed. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has made it abundantly clear the company wants out of the DVD-by-mail business, and seems fine letting Redbox pick up the slack.

The razor blade?

With the video-streaming market growing more and more crowded, House of Cards is a great advertisement. It’s giving away the razor for free so you’ll come back and buy the blades.  It’s Netflix saying “Hey, we have mostly the same content as those other guys, but you’ll also get to watch these great shows we put out. Why don’t you try House of Cards, and—if you like it—we’ll be right over here with a sign-up sheet.”

Will it work? Hopefully. Netflix’s content is refreshing—both House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are amongst my favorite shows this year. The content team also shows an inclination to take major risks on niche shows, and Hastings has gone on record saying he’d like to support 20 different programs at once if the original content continues to do well.

That’s a broad swathe of programming, considering the service already has a supernatural show, political thriller, and beloved comedy under its belt (with science fiction and animated programs on the way).

Whatever the case, you now have zero excuse for why you haven’t watched House of Cards. After October 8 you can rent the entire season at Redbox, watch it all in a day or two, and then sit and fret about when the next season comes out—just like the rest of us.

Oh, and I guess check back next week to see whether Netflix beats out the networks for some Emmys. I’m going to guess yes. Absolutely.

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