White-hot movie-streaming service Netflix could be looking to become the Web version of HBO as it negotiates to acquire an original television series helmed by "The Social Network" director David Fincher and starring actor Kevin Spacey.
The talks, originally reported by Web site Deadline Hollywood, were later reported by The Wall Street Journal, which quoted unnamed sources and said the discussions were part of a larger, "behind-the-scenes" effort by Netflix to hit up Hollywood production companies for original material to entice new subscribers to its streaming service. The Journal also said Spacey's representative had confirmed the talks.
The Fincher-Spacey series is a political thriller called "House of Cards" and is based on a novel and BBC miniseries of the same name. Both the aforementioned Tinsel Town players are part of a team of executive producers working with production company Media Rights Capital on the project.
Deadline Hollywood said Netflix was trying to insure its victory over other bidders by signing on for two seasons of the series for more than $100 million. But the Journal's source said that if successful, Netflix would probably pay much less.
Under the terms, Netflix would buy the right to distribute the series online before anyone else could make it available, the Journal reported, but Media Rights Capital could make subsequent deals for later broadcast or DVD sales.
If reached, the agreement would, in this case anyway, turn the TV industry on its head, making the Internet the first channel of distribution as opposed to an outlet for shows that have already been seen elsewhere. It could also help Netflix cover its tail from attacks by rival Hulu, as well as Amazon and Facebook, both of which have recently threatened to jump into the market for streaming-entertainment.
It would also diversify Netflix's offerings, a circumstance that could become increasingly important as Hollywood becomes ever more wary of the upstart's rapid growth and the potential threat it represents to revenue from DVD sales, pay TV services, and traditional broadcasters.
HBO, of course, has enjoyed great success with original shows, such as "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos."