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:
@ryanbkoo The article cited in Slate has been modified because Zero WB titles expired and zero of these titles are coming to Instant— Warner Archive (@WarnerArchive) May 2, 2013
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:
We aren't involved in Netflix’s business decisions & our content is drawn solely from WB's library & aren't streaming Universal/MGM content— Warner Archive (@WarnerArchive) April 30, 2013
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?
- Expired License Films on Netflix -- InstantWatcher
- Warner Archive Instant -- Homepage
- Warner Archive Instant launches, offers subscription to stream classic movies and TV shows -- Engadget