While Netflix has spent the last several years dutifully trying to convince content providers to license TV shows and movies to the subscription video-on-demand service—all while simultaneously developing its own original content to draw in viewers HBO-style—now it looks as though the tables have turned.
Comcast subscribers will soon be able to watch House of Cards via their cable set-top box sans Netflix subscription. That’s according to a report from Variety, which notes that Comcast made a deal with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, thereby giving Comcast the rights to sell the series through its newly launched Xfinity Store.
While Netflix owns exclusive streaming rights to House of Cards, Sony is in charge of international and home distribution.
Comcast also made a deal with Lionsgate that will give it rights to sell Netflix’s other highly acclaimed original series Orange is the New Black in May.
Comcast has confirmed the report, but Netflix could not be reached for comment.
This doesn’t mean that Comcast subscribers can stream Netflix free of additional costs. It’s the digital equivalent of buying the DVD set when it hits the shelves months after the season airs. Non-Netflix users have been able to watch House of Cards since season one was released on DVD last June. It’s also available in other digital stores, such as Amazon Instant Video, Walmart.com, and Verizon Fios.
A Comcast spokesperson says that House of Cards will be available in the Xfinity Store within the next 30 days, and that it will only be the first season of the show. The second season will presumably become available in the Xfinity Store some time around or after it’s made available on DVD.
Previously, Netflix was in discussions with Comcast about the possibility of bringing a Netflix app to Comcast set-top boxes. Those discussions were reportedly put on hold (as were Netflix’s talks with Time Warner about the same thing) when Comcast acquired Time Warner for $45 billion. Meanwhile, Comcast has reportedly been working on a video-on-demand service that could “out-Netflix Netflix.”
Last month, Netflix and Comcast announced a deal in which Netflix will pay for direct access to Comcast’s subscribers. Net neutrality rules are meant to ensure that all digital content companies receive equal access to bandwidth. The problem is that Netflix is a notorious bandwidth hog, so Netflix’s deal with Comcast is not actually paying for prioritization. Rather, Netflix is paying to deliver its content directly to consumers rather than going through middlemen, like Cogent Communications. Essentially, it’s getting a direct route to Comcast Internet subscribers rather than driving on the same crowded freeway with all the other schmucks.