Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced it will be making the first season of House of Cards available on DVD and Blu-ray on 11 June 2013. The TV series is owned by Media Rights Capital, but is notable for having been commissioned for and partly funded by Netflix.
The online video rental provider launched the entire 13-episode series on 1 February 2013, in a day-and-date exclusive window for its 33m online streaming subscribers across the US, Canada, The UK, Ireland, the Nordic region and Latin America. With the release of House of Cards on physical disc, subscribers of Netflix's traditional subscription DVD-by-mail service will also have access to the series.
House of Cards is not the first TV series to be released exclusively first to online viewers or move from an online platform to physical disc. However, given the online platform in question is Netflix, House of Cards is by far the most high-profile and significant success to date for this new distribution sequence.
For its production investment in the series, Netflix licenced exclusive "first window rights," but does not fully own the series. Media Rights Capital and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will distribute the series on other platforms and in territories where Netflix does not operate.
Netflix is employing the strategy of investing in original content for the same reasons that pay TV channels such as HBO and Showtime have already done for decades; to entice new subscribers and create value for existing subscribers. What makes House of Cards different is Netflix's ability as an online platform to show the series to its subscribers simultaneously across multiple territories, and in the manner that suits online viewing habits (i.e. making all 13 episodes available).
The success of House of Cards as an online series has - unlike in the case of previous online series - guaranteed its release on DVD and Blu-ray Disc; with the same level of marketing and retailer support as any other successful mainstream TV series would receive.
Physical media remains a key revenue generation stage for any filmed entertainment content and continues to be the broadest and most accessible distribution platform by far. Furthermore, at the time of release, physical DVDs and Blu-ray Disc box sets of House of Cards will have had less competition from previous pay TV viewings, and critically, the recording of the entire series via set-top box based DVRs, increasing sales potential for the physical product still further.