It's been just over a month since the highly-anticipated Netflix original series House of Cards launched, but the series has already found critical acclaim and is the most-watched piece of content available to subscribers. It's the most high-profile bit of original content to launch away from the grip of broadcast and cable networks, and it's something that other online video providers are taking note of. As reported by Variety, Redbox and Verizon are hoping to break into original content of their own eventually on the new Redbox Instant service that is scheduled to launch in the next month or so. Speaking on Friday at the UCLA Entertainment Symposium, Creative Artists Agency lawyer Peter Micelli revealed that Redbox and Verizon have been inquiring about original programming opportunities, something that would mark a major strategy shift for Redbox. Up until now, the service has focused mainly on movies, and Redbox Instant only has movies planned for its initial launch.
Redbox isn't the only new company getting into the original content business, according to Micelli — he also revealed that Microsoft plans to make some high-end content buys in the near future, as well. "But right behind [Netflix] is Xbox and [former CBS executive] Nancy Tellem," he said. "She's going in looking at it in a similar way to Netflix." Of course, there's also Amazon, who plans a heavy push into original programming this year. Micelli says Amazon is planning to focus more on comedies with smaller budgets of about $1 million per episode. And the flood of original, online-only content isn't expected to stop there — "Almost every month someone comes in to get into high-end scripted programming," Micelli said. "It's an unbelievable thing to see."
David Fincher apparently took 'House of Cards' way above its budget
Of course, producing your own content isn't cheap, and Micelli revealed some details on just how much money House of Cards cost to make. "House of Cards' started at $4.5 million [per episode] and [executive producer David] Fincher took it way above that." Compare that to AMC's Mad Men, which reportedly came in at $2.5 million per episode prior to the fourth season airing in early 2011, and it's clear that making a series like House of Cards isn't an easy or inexpensive venture. At least it's coming in cheaper than HBO's Boardwalk Empire, whose pilot episode reportedly cost nearly $20 million. House of Cards isn't the only pricey original program that Netflix is producing, either — Micelli estimates that Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black both will come in at or near $4 million per episode. That's a budget most hour-long network shows rarely exceed.