‘House of Cards': What Happens to Next Season With Kevin Spacey Out?

Might a Claire-led Season 6 be in the cards?

Netflix cut ties with Kevin Spacey on Friday amid numerous accusations of sexual misconduct against the actor, but questions remain regarding the future of “House of Cards.”

The Emmy-winning political drama series was in production on its sixth season last month when Netflix and series producer Media Rights Capital announced that “House of Cards” will end with Season 6, and that production has been suspended indefinitely. This followed Anthony Rapp accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct decades ago when Rapp was just 14 years old.

Many “House of Cards” fans — including a famous one like Jessica Chastain — have voiced the opinion on social media that the show should make Robin Wright’s Claire the lead for the sixth season. Can this help sustain a series that has seen its critical approval ebb and flow over the years? Or is it better for the show to just end now and focus on potential spinoffs?

“If they can kill him and make Claire president, maybe it gets interesting, and maybe it continues, but I honestly don’t know,” Wedbush Securities digital media analyst Michael Pachter told TheWrap.

Gina Keating, author of “Netflixed: The Epic Battle for America’s Eyeballs,” believes it’s possible that viewers will eventually dissociate the Beau Willimon-created show from the accusations, and that there could still be interest in a Spacey-free Season 6. But how long that might take remains unclear, given that the show has been so intrinsically linked to the discussion of the scandal.

“I can’t think of another time in which an entire body of content was associated with a social awareness campaign in this way — with negative and possibly lasting overtones,” Keating told TheWrap. “I think it would be reasonable for Netflix to let the furor over these allegations subside and then revisit the final season with a better sense of how to complete it with appropriate sensitivity and for the best long-term financial impact.”

When “House of Cards” first premiered in February 2013, centering on Frank (Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Wright), it helped establish Netflix as a destination for original programming.

But thanks to a slew of critically praised and buzzy shows that have launched since then — “Orange Is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “13 Reasons Why” — the series no longer appears to be as essential to the streamer as it was earlier in its run when it was more of a source of water cooler chatter. (Media Rights Capital, which owns the show, said Friday that Spacey has been suspended but not fired, adding that they will “continue to evaluate a creative path forward” for “House of Cards” during a “hiatus.”)

“Netflix’s brand and reputation is now more important to them than any one series, even if that series was once its flagship,” Neil Landau, author of “TV Outside the Box” and head of UCLA’s Writing for Television program, told TheWrap. “Protecting the Netflix brand supersedes its relationship with Kevin Spacey.”

Pachter compares the impending end of “House of Cards” to any popular show signing off — say, “Friends” bowing out on NBC in 2004 — but says this is far from the disaster for Netflix that it might have been if the show had ended after just one season.

“It remains one of Netflix’s popular shows, according to survey work we’ve done. It’s not as popular as ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ it’s not as popular as ‘Stranger Things,'” he said. “It’s got a lot more name recognition, but it’s been around for five seasons.”

“I don’t think there will be any meaningful financial impact,” added Pachter, referring to the show’s eventual ending. “Netflix is a well-managed company. I think their PR department is very smart. They’re distancing themselves from somebody who has so many allegations.”

As Landau points out, the idea that a show can benefit from controversy — think the old “any publicity is good publicity” adage — is no longer as relevant in the age of viral social media.

“Netflix is smart to anticipate the worst from the Kevin Spacey debacle,” he said. “They’re protecting their own reputation at the expense of Spacey’s and in favor of their subscription base. Right now, no one wants to see Bill Cosby or Kevin Spacey projects popping up on their home screens, and Netflix knows that better than anyone.”

Representatives for Netflix and Media Rights Capital declined to comment.