The return was expected by some, given the large commitment to infrastructure made with soundstages and sets in Harford County since the production set up shop in 2012.
But, in the past, producers have used the threat of relocation as a bargaining chip with the state over tax credits and incentives. And Kevin Spacey, star of "House of Cards," and his producing partner, Dana Brunetti, recently took on executive roles at Relativity Media, which led to Hollywood speculation that the only way he would stay with "House of Cards" is if it relocated to California, where the production company is headquartered.
Netflix confirmed that Spacey will return for Season 5 in his role as Frank Underwood, but Beau Willimon, who adapted the drama from the British original and served as showrunner, is leaving.
The news of Underwood's return was music to the ears of state commerce department staff.
"We are very grateful that they apparently made that decision," said Bill Pencek, the state's acting managing director of tourism, film and the arts.
Offering a tax credit is practically a prerequisite for attracting TV shows and movies, according to Jack Gerbes, director of the Maryland Film Office.
"In the economics of today's Hollywood, that's pretty much the first question that comes out of a producer's or a studio executive's mouth when they call Maryland: What are the film incentives?" Gerbes said.
About 40 states offer some sort of tax credit, he added.
In the current fiscal year that runs through June 30, the "House of Cards" team is receiving $2 million in film production tax credits, out of a total pot of $7.5 million. The rest went to HBO's "Veep," which left Maryland last year to set up shop in California.
Gov. Larry Hogan's budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes $11.5 million for the film production tax credits — an amount that is subject to change as lawmakers review the budget. Officials at the commerce department, which administers the tax credit, said it's too early to say how much of a tax credit "House of Cards" would apply for.
With the departure of HBO's "Veep," the loss of "House of Cards" would have been a harsh blow to the local production community.
Season 4 of "House of Cards" debuts March 4 on Netflix. The political thriller helped catapult Netflix into the top end of major media companies after the streaming service made an unprecedented commitment of $100 million for 26 episodes without seeing a pilot.