There is a new competitor for HBO and Showtime in the television landscape - and, for the first time, it is not a television network.
Netflix, the popular online film service, said on Friday that it had licensed the exclusive rights to "House of Cards," a show that is to be directed by David Fincher, the director of "The Social Network," and to star Kevin Spacey.
The deal immediately makes Netflix a player in premium television programming.
"House of Cards," a serialized political drama, will look and feel like a traditional TV show, but it will not be distributed that way. Rather than having its debut at a certain time and date on a TV channel, "House of Cards" will have its debut online, where there are no set showtimes.
"Just a couple years ago, this would be completely unheard of," Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, acknowledged in an interview. "It speaks a lot to how quickly this market is emerging...