Well that was unexpected. DVD rental and online streaming giant Netflix has purchased the rights to David Fincher’s newest TV series, House Of Cards. The company outbid traditional cable networks HBO and AMC for the political thriller.

Netflix won the rights to broadcast the series by committing to two seasons upfront. This is the latest in a series of aggressive moves by the company to expand its online streaming offering – just last month, it added the historically finicky CBS to its stable of content providers.

While details are scarce, it’s logical to assume that all 26 episodes will premiere on Netflix’s Instant Streaming service and be exclusive for some time.

House Of Cards is based on a 1989 novel by Michael Dobbs, chronicling the transition to a new British prime minister after the end of Margaret Thatcher’s term. The book was adapted into a BBC program a year later, but the story will be Americanized for its reboot. The new series is being directed by David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network) and will star his frequent collaborator, Kevin Spacey.

The implications for the future of television are massive. Internet distribution has been threatening to eat away at cable providers for years, but this marks the first time that a major series will be exclusively shown online.

Netflix is now much more than a distribution channel for television and movies: it’s a production house that has placed itself in direct competition with HBO and AMC, and by extension, every major cable channel in Hollywood. It was more or less inevitable that a major series would premiere on the Internet, but the fact that it comes from Netflix and not a traditional media company means that the landscape for premium TV could shift in a major way.

The cable game has always been about content stables – the reason you can’t get most HBO shows on Netflix – and now the cable channels will be competing with Netflix and for the hottest new shows. Add that to web projects like The Confession on Hulu and Amazon’s rumored subscription service, and you’ve got a huge new arena for top-tier content.

House Of Cards is still a long way away from shooting, but with Netflix bankrolling production, expect to see a premier in the spring or summer of 2012.

Source: TV Guide