May 1, 2013

Netflix Streaming Loses 2000 Titles as Universal & MGM Licenses Expire

While the phenomenon of title evaporation is nothing new to Netflix, one of the service's most significant catalog losses will come with the expiration of licensing agreements with Warner Bros., Universal, and MGM. Starting today and continuing over the course of May, InstantWatcher tracks 1,794 previously available films that will no longer be streamed on Netflix. This news piggy-backs that of Warner Archive Instant, an offering that -- very literal title notwithstanding -- should be quite familiar to Netflix viewers. Click below for details on what perennial picks will be removed from the Netflix catalog, some additional info on Warner's Archive Instant, plus what Netflix itself has to say about all this as well.

[Update]: Warner Instant tweeted this:

This news comes from a number of sources including Slate (which calls the situation 'Streamageddon') and The Verge, the latter of which indicates the loss of "15 seasons of South Park, old horror movies like Audrey Rose, and James Bond classics like Dr. No and Goldfinger." In the case of South Park, that particular loss may be easily recooped at SouthParkStudios.com -- this is of course a rather exceptional case in that, well, every episode of the show is freely and legally available for online viewing. This is decidedly not the case with any of the other titles to speak of.

As the name implies, Archive Instant is a streaming service which emphasizes viewing of hard-to-find WB classics over contemporary releases -- though it doesn't necessarily mean 'oldies only,' rarity seems to be a driving force here:

Now, the timing of this may seem suspect, and some of the streamed titles Netflix is losing will in fact be making their way to Archive Instant -- though perhaps not instantaneously, as overlap titles may take time to roll out on the latter service. Furthermore, Warner has explicitly stated that this is sheer coincidence, and the apparent overlaps are purely circumstantial -- similarly, the lapsed-license material from MGM and Universal will not be resurfacing on Warner's service:

Apparently not all titles are remastered in HD, and Archive Instant's Silverlight player (for both Mac and Windows users) doesn't support HD resolutions at this time -- currently, 720p and 1080p viewing options, where applicable, are only available to viewers watching via Roku. As for what Netflix has to say (again, to The Verge) about the situation and whatever amount of uncertainty this may cast on its future outlook:

The vast majority of the titles that expire on Wednesday are older features that were aggregated by Epix. We recently added many great, more recent titles such as ParaNorman (Universal), Hunger Games (Epix), Safe (Epix) and Bachelorette (Weinstein). Tomorrow we will also add MI:2, among many other titles.

Netflix is a dynamic service, we constantly update the TV shows and movies that are available to our members. We will add more than 500 titles May 1, but we also have titles expiring, this ebb and flow happens all the time.

Indeed, Netflix is poised to continue developing its own original content. This trend will likely take hold with the 'flix, especially given this model's success with House of Cards. Unlike the material of Netflix's back-catalog, original content means no license expiration to worry about, for one thing. The draw offered by original content's exclusivity may simply prove to be a better long-term investment for Netflix than leased content. It would certainly prevent future content-vacuums like this one, which will reduce viewer/user frustration at the very least.

A complete list of films that Netflix will decommission from its streaming service is available (and regularly updated) on InstantWatcher.

What do you guys think, could this overhaul or ones like it signal the beginning of the end for Netflix's traditional services? Or, could it simply be another reminder that original content is king?

[via The Verge and Slate]

Your Comment

22 Comments

Times are a changin'

May 1, 2013 at 11:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Barret Bowman

Idiot studios... Trying to isolate each studio's content into their own exclusive realm, making the legal online content become fragmented and incomprehensible for the average consumer, is THE MOST CERTAIN WAY TO ENSURE ILLEGALS TRIUMPHING. Legal music only started being competitive against illegal when everything was given a common market under iTunes. It is unfathomable that Hollywood has learnt nothing from the mistakes of the music industry. Netflix (and their likes) was and is the best chance the studios have of competing with illegal streaming and torrents. And the idiot studios decide to kill it off and try to build their own useless reservoirs? Who the h*** is going to bother with being subscriped to every single studio's proprietary closed garden? If they go down this path, pirate streaming is going to go 100% mainstream (no pun intended).

May 1, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Frankhy

Amen - just when we thought Netflix was the way of the future some money hungry ego fatass bozo has to ruin it for everyone and himself.
You see I live in New Zealand where TV content is limited to national free TV or Sky repeats. I went out of my way to watch Netflix. I pay for a monthly VPN alongside netflix just so I could finally watch what I want without massive download times, affordable price and what's even more - support the people who make it. Like the fat ass who made this decision can eat his own fecal matter - I'm gonna go back to piracy.

May 2, 2013 at 12:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

Tyler: I'm a NZer too, and I know of other kiwis like yourself who have gone to that hassle of a VPN just to access American content like you have!

Is crazy they want to screw up such a good system for obtaining legal content that many places in the rest of the world are but merely wishing and hoping they could get the same for themselves.

May 2, 2013 at 1:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I think you're right that fragmenting this type of distribution across too many platforms will be to the studio's detriment (and the entire industry). It appears that WB has yet again showed what an old boys club it is and how they are out of touch, while desperately clambering to appear in touch.

It's an early enough move that they'll likely see a decent return, but the long game will ALWAYS be determined by the consumer. Too many hoops to jump through or too many complications (or even too many choices) and the consumer will take the easiest route, always. Sadly, for most that will mean pirating.

It's a shame to see WB taking this stance and then playing it all coy, I fear other studios are going to follow in this same type of approach and attempt to emulate WBs model.

If that does happen, damaging as it might be, in the future it may create an opportunity for entrepreneurial multi-service subscription portals to amalgamate access to the scattered content and simplify the consumer experience back to something similar to what NetFlix has been offering from the get go. I guess we'll have to see how it all shakes down.

With 2 steps forward, it looks like we're about to take one step back. Hopefully the next two steps forward come quickly enough that we can get past this mess and continue the job of moving this occasionally sedentary industry forward into the ACTUAL present times.

/end rant

May 2, 2013 at 3:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jules

I feel like the biggest problem with segmenting into studio libraries is that people do not know which studio made what! I go to the same movie theater to see films from every studio. I used to go to rent videos at 1 store. I want to go to one place to find everything like Steam for video games (though big publishers like EA are starting to peel off there too).

May 2, 2013 at 1:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Honestly if Netflix keeps it up and provides as quality of content as House of Cards, the new Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove (good according to a friend though haven't had time to watch) then I will continue paying for the service. Channels like AMC I'd say have about 4-6 high caliber, quality shows. Considering Netflix has released 5 exclusives with 5 more in the fire they've earned every penny of my monthly subscription. I know my analysis isn't going very deep, but on this criteria alone I'd say it puts them at the same level as AMC, with the potential to match channels like HBO/Showtime in great content. Coupled with it's core competency of providing a massive library of premium content makes it very valuable to me as a consumer.

May 1, 2013 at 11:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dammit. Oh well. Netflix will soon be a "channel" that will be focused on original content. I just hope its good.

May 1, 2013 at 11:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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There is an on-going power struggle or lack of... Studios are afraid of change/loss but have no facts that they can continue to march forward with out innovation. Views are expecting a TV experience and history has shown us viewers don't like siloing. We want a single location for limitless options, which is siloing in some respect. Studios run into problems when faced with affiliate-networks and local cable company agreements. How do you not trash/support an old system and move forward with technology? If everything were on iTunes or Netflix or Hulu, our local stations would, in time, plummet (Maybe). It's the same with radio. Netflix is currently under-watch by many Studios to see how many people want or prefer a system like it. From that assessment, how ever long it takes, they will determine the transmission. Competing however, will ultimately fail, an example of this is iTunes V.S. the record industry. Many companies have tried to compete individually but consumers don't want to hop around to get digital music, they want a pool to swim in. I believe right now Netflix is playing a pinnacle role in how this transition will roll, from A to B (Pun) by providing Original Content! Original Content is a Plus to any network for viewers. Look at the challenge HBO has presented with On Demand no Cable needed! It's an exciting time.

May 2, 2013 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sean

Wow, I made many typos. Sorry for my poor grammar.

May 2, 2013 at 7:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sean

Carl Icahn bought a big stake of Netflix late last year and has been trying to sell it off, last I read. Netflix reportedly has/had 3 billion in debt based on content they were obliged to pay for, and if anyone hasn't noticed, Netflix Instant has had less and less on offer.

It seems to me that Icahn doesn't want to take on more debt by getting into any big new deals, because he wants to get a better deal for selling it -- plus the buyer, if found, may already have overlapping licensing agreements in place.

May 2, 2013 at 4:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ted

I'm going to stick with Netflix. The studios are idiots if they think we're going to sign up for six different streaming services (at $10 a pop). Starz had one successful series and they think they're a mini-major. And now Warner.

Everyone looks at the money Netflix is making and gets pissed off. But they would have never thought of it cause they can't innovate for shit and they're determined-determined-to deliver content to us the way they want and not the way the consumer wants it. Ask the music business: that worked like gangbusters for them.

When Wal-mart started online division they had a motto on the wall: 'you can't out Amazon Amazon'. Meaning that you can't offer the same service that the market leader is already doing-even if you say you're going to do it better/cheaper-if they're doing it well. Warner will be back the same way the studios eventually cowtowed to MTV and iTunes. When they realize that there can be only one (okay maybe two-with said Amazon).

May 2, 2013 at 6:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave Mueller

It seems the big fish are eating up the smaller ones ... they will choke!

May 2, 2013 at 10:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Sad. Hollywood stole an innovative idea like Netflix and is trying to copycat them, starting their own "community" of memberships. Wow. "And the rich become squanderers, leaving none for anyone, not even themselves. A wasted effort, when all that needed to be done was combine resources, and everyone wins."

This just shows how weak Hollywood and the larger studios are becoming. We are in the middle of a revolution. With all of the new budget-friendly HDSLR's, Lenses, Lighting, and all other filmmaking equipment, it's only a matter of time before all Indie filmmaking is looked at, at the same rate as larger studios. Software alone makes it so anyone with a way of recording video can give it that "cinematic" look. The next big thing is using the Internet as the catalyst for our distribution. I think Hollywood knows this, and is desperately trying to compete with an industry that is unlimited.

Before, getting somewhere in the film industry meant going out to L.A. and desperately selling yourself. Now, you can do it from your own home, from your own computer. YouTube started this, and Hollywood is trying to end it. Sad. They will never get it.

May 3, 2013 at 2:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tim

"Before, getting somewhere in the film industry meant going out to L.A. and desperately selling yourself."
That's still how it is lol. If you are a youtube star or blow up from your content online, chances you are you will at least rent a room in LA because you'll be going there frequently for business

May 3, 2013 at 3:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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john jeffries

Does my Apple TV get this content from the studios? No. Would I subscribe to it if it did? No. I love what Netflix is doing and I will continue to support them because I think they have a very solid future. They are going in the right direction.

I'm sure the website that the studios are using is shit, it's not even full HD. While Netflix constantly works to improve the experience (they're working on 4K streaming right?).

In the end, the movie studios will lose out (at least that's what a spiteful me wants). And even though I have hundreds of movies in my queue, I watch TV more than anything else. If I'm going to watch a movie it's going to be a damn good one that's worth me focusing on for 2ish hours and I'm going to watch it on a Bluray that I rent from the kiosk down the street for $1.50 a night.

In my opinion, I will support Netflix over movie studios and stuff like this is just stupid. Just like the music industry 10 years ago, hollywood is making the same mistakes.

Idiots...

May 3, 2013 at 3:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Julian

I like the idea of a service to watch rare movies. But the fact that it costs more and is limiting bugs me. I'm also unhappy that the studios have pulled so much material from netflix, regardless of the reason.

Oh well, I'll try the free trial and see if it's at all useful.

May 4, 2013 at 5:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I have a Netflix account (both US and UK) and I love it to bits for TV series, however their movie selection has never been great. To save dissapointment I also have a Movies Capital subscription which I pay for every 2 years (it's dirt cheap). buymoviescapital.com

May 13, 2013 at 11:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I was half way through Lost when the show disapeared, not impressed and given I have Love Film instant and an I pad Netflix may as well go now. It was handy as it ran on Andriod but until they have a decent catalogue of original content available i will be canceling.

May 31, 2013 at 8:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I've created a couple blogs that use numerous methods to show what is expiring on Netflix Canada and Netflix USA...updated daily! Even though Netflix discontinued the API access to expiry/expiring soon dates, they still show the expiring dates within their website. Take a look at NetflixUSAExpiring.blogspot.com and NetflixCanadaExpiring.blogspot.ca

August 7, 2013 at 10:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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goro s 値段

August 20, 2013 at 11:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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OMG my last name is bowman too!

January 21, 2014 at 5:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Bowman