David Zurawik

Time has come for decision on 'House of Cards' and Maryland

If there is one message that came through this week in Netflix executive Ted Sarados telling Wall Street analysts that the problems between "House of Cards" and Maryland are "over-comeable," it is that enough's enough. The impasse and bickering have gone on long enough, and it's time to get back onto the soundstages and make Season 3.

The message from the chief content executive at Netflix was sent not just to Wall Street, where the kinds of questions that can affect stock prices are starting to get asked; it was sent first and foremost in a very public way to Media Rights Capital, the production company to which Netflix paid $100 million to make Seasons 1 and 2.


MRC has shot the first two season of "House of Cards" in sites around Baltimore, including renting space at The Baltimore Sun. And MRC is the company that created a PR mess in trying to strongarm Maryland legislators and wound up getting $3.5 million less than it said it needed in incentives from this year's legislative session -- along with a lot of bad press.

The California-based production company has postured long enough since the end of the legislative session, with threats to tear down the sets, pack up the soundstages in Joppa and move to Georgia or Pennsylvania. At least, those were the last two states floated to me on condition of anonymity by folks associated with the production in hopes that I would write an oh-my-god-we-must-give-them-more-money-or-they-will-leave-us piece.


Last year, MRC returned on April 28 to production in its Maryland soundstages -- industrial park warehouses that it had spent millions of Netflix dollars to rewire and soundproof. Leaving those soundstages and all the money invested in transforming them over $3.5 million never made sense to me, and it makes less sense each day that passes.

Monday is April 28, and that makes me think MRC needs to make a decision by the end of this week on where it is going to make Season 3. And if it is not Maryland, I don't see how the production company can get the new episodes to Netflix in times for the distributor's annual February release.

Maybe Netflix is OK with upsetting a subscriber expectation that it brilliantly created. But in the on-demand world in which Netflix so successfully does business, that is a risky move – the kind that could affect stock prices, especially for a company looking to hike its subscriber fees.

You can read here the take by "Deadline" on the comments by Sarandos, which it first reported Monday.