China's all in on 'House of Cards'
American viewers aren't the only ones binging on "House of Cards." Chinese viewers have also been watching after Nasdaq-listed firm Sohu released the second season of the U.S. political thriller in the mainland on Friday, the same day as the American debut.
Speaking to CNBC's Eunice Yoon, Sohu's CEO said that while the drama isn't for the masses, it's popular among a growing number of young Chinese who love American politics and culture.
"When Chinese audiences watch American TV shows, although the stories are about America and the world and it's not relevant to the daily lives of Chinese here, but because of the quality and suspense, it's universal. So Chinese people know good things so that's why they love American movies and TV shows," said Sohu's CEO and Chairman Charles Zhang.
Aside from the younger crowed, viewers also include a heavy proportion of government officials and technical workers at management levels in cities from Beijing to Guangzhou, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported last week.
Wang Qishan, head of the Communist Party's anti-corruption body and a member of the all-powerful Politburo Committee, is also reportedly a fan, according to the Hong Kong-based magazine Phoenix Weekly.
Sohu is the mainland's equivalent of Netflix and owner of the show's Chinese streaming rights, which it purchased from Netflix.
"It's basically a one-time purchase [from Netflix]. The business model is really all about advertising so we just buy the episodes, put it out and buy advertising so we don't share our profits with Netflix," Zhang said.
Sohu is known for bringing comedy program "Saturday Night Live" and Ellen Degeneres' talk show to China at a time when American filmmakers are increasingly looking to tap Asia's vast audiences.
"TV shows are part of our overall video strategy of domestic TV shows, American and South Korean shows. American movies, we are working on it. We are working on a strategy to introduce a pay-per-view service," Zhang said.
The show's second season deals with hot-button issues present in the current state of U.S.-Sino relations, such as cyber espionage, currency manipulation and a trade war over rare-earth minerals.
When asked if he was worried about the show getting blocked by the government's strict censors, Zhang replied "so far, we haven't got any indication."
— By CNBC.com's Nyshka Chandran. Follow her on Twitter @NyshkaCNBC