Chris Schulz is the deputy head of entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Hey Netflix, why can't we watch House of Cards?

House of Cards' fourth season is being released on Netflix today, everywhere except New Zealand. Why? Netflix won't tell us. Chris Schulz tries to find out why.

The fourth season of House of Cards will be released in New Zealand on March 4, trumpeted the press release. Wait. What?

Arriving via email on February 28 at 1.38pm with the subject line, "Best Picks on Netflix NZ - March 2016," this was cause for some celebration.

The original email included House of Cards.
The original email included House of Cards.

After all, due to wrangling over rights issues, no one in New Zealand had legally been able to watch Netflix's best and most acclaimed drama here since season two.

So the email suggested we might finally be getting the show that helped make Netflix what it supposedly is - a one-stop shop for streaming original content.

The second email, with House of Cards removed.
The second email, with House of Cards removed.

After all, as Todd Yellin, Netflix's vice-president of product innovation, told me when the service launched here: "From here-on in, New Zealand is part of the Netflix family."

He also used the fun phrase "global throughout the entire world" - something I've borrowed to bolster all my powerpoint presentations lately.

But two hours later, our House of Cards hopes were dashed. Another release arrived from Netflix's Australian PR team.

The subject? "Updated: Best Picks on Netflix NZ - March 2016". House of Cards had been removed from the line-up.

WTF Netflix?

That was the gist of a lengthy series of questions we emailed to Netflix last week, trying to find out why we couldn't watch the show here.

Those questions included: What do NZ Netflix subscribers need to do to see House of Cards seasons three and four? Is this a local streaming rights issue? Does someone else have the broadcast or streaming rights? Do those rights expire at some point and revert to Netflix and if so when? Does Netflix have a view on one of its biggest shows being unavailable here?

And lastly, has Netflix disowned us? Are we like Kevin from Home Alone, left to our own devices while scrambling around the house trying to make the cable work so we can watch House of freaking Cards?

Okay, we didn't ask that last one, but it's starting to feel that way - especially when we didn't get a reply to our email.

So we asked TV3, who said they only have the broadcast rights for the first two seasons.

Lightbox did, at one point, offer streaming of the first two seasons, but those have since been removed from the service.

And because Netflix has cracked down on VPNs, hacking into the US Netflix service, as many did to watch House of Cards' third season, no longer appears to be an option.

We did find this DVD for season three on sale on TradeMe for $57 plus $2.50 postage. But who owns a DVD player anymore? Who posts things?

Sigh. At this point, it seems there's only one person who can help us.

So we asked him.


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