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Netflix 'streamageddon?' Not so much

May 02, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Reports of Netflix's loss of more than 1,000 titles are overstated. The service added about 500 titles, including "Mission: Impossible  Ghost Protocol."
Reports of Netflix's loss of more than 1,000 titles are overstated.… (Handout / MCT )

Sometimes the Internet can amplify big ideas. Other times it's an echo chamber for random noise.

The latter is the case when it comes to the so-called streamageddon at Netflix, in which various bloggers opined about the loss of titles from the subscription service's streaming library — no doubt causing panic among Netflix susbscribers wondering just what they would be getting for their monthly subscription fees.

It turns out, the great "Netflix purge" of 2013 was wildly exaggerated. 

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The rumblings started when a site called "Instant Watcher," which monitors the comings and goings of movie and television titles, got the ball rolling, reporting that 1,794 titles, including some classic James Bond films such as "Dr. No" and "Goldfinger," would disappear on May 1.

Other mainstream news sites, including CNN Money, picked up the story and attributed the development to Netflix's evolution from broad digital distributor to more selective programmer. It noted that the service is emphasizing original programming, creating shows that are exclusively available through Netflix — such as "House of Cards" or "Hemlock Grove."

That's not what's going on here.

Netflix did lose about 1,000 titles — not the higher number that has been bouncing around Internet blogs — because the titles fell out of availability to on-demand services.  At the same time, it added 500 titles, including "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," "The Hunger Games" and "Captain America: The First Avenger.

Blame the vagaries of the pay television release "window."

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Epix licenses movies from Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate for home distribution. Epix, in turn, licenses the on-demand rights to Netflix, Amazon.com and Verizon — making new films available to consumers roughly 90 days after they come out on DVD and Blu-ray disc.

Movies routinely flow in and out of availability for the duration of these pay TV licensing agreements — which can extend for years. Television viewers seldom notice, because premium channels don't offer all the movies in one big library-like bulge.

The gap in availability is more obvious with on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon.com or Verizon. This has been a problem that has bedeviled digital services for years.

Netflix spokesman Jonathan Friedland said the nature of such pay TV agreements is one reason Netflix has begun to license content directly from studios rather than through networks or pay television aggregators.

There's no need to deal with the confusing on-again, off-again availability of titles.

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