One of Netflix' strengths is its back catalog of classic movies and TV shows. It is always fun to run into great films from the past when browsing through its collection, and I keep a number of classics in my instant queue, just in case I run out of other entertainment options on a quiet night. But there is a catch with the Netflix instant queue—there is no guarantee that titles added to it will be available in the future, because the streaming selection changes over time.
As the "watch instantly" collection changes over time, some titles become unavailable
May 1, 2013 is a particularly significant day for subscribers to Netflix' streaming service, because of the sheer scope of the churn in the company's catalog. Almost 1800 titles are being withdrawn. Some of the titles that will no longer be on Netflix include 15 seasons of South Park and a number of classic James Bond movies, as well as classics from the Warner Bros. catalog. According to Slate, part of the reason for the purge is Warner Bros. new streaming service, Archive Instant.
Archive Instant is a $10 per month streaming service that promises access to rare and hard to find movies from the Warner Bros. archives. The service launched earlier this month and features hundreds of titles. However, many of those titles are already available via Netflix streaming. Check out Vince Simoneau's somewhat skeptical piece on the subject here.
Upon further examination, there appear to be several reasons why so many titles are scheduled to be withdrawn from the Netflix catalog this month, and Netflix is quick to mention that it is also adding 500 new titles to the catalog of streaming titles. In a statement, Netflix defended its action, mentioning that many of the titles being withdrawn were no longer popular viewing options.
"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
Some of the movies that came off the instant queue were expected to expire, such as the James Bond classics. On the other hand, the loss of 15 seasons worth of South Park episodes accounts for more than 10% of the titles that are no longer available.
Perhaps Netflix saw this day coming, and that was part of the reason behind its foray into original programming. Is exclusive access to a few hundred classic movies and TV shows enough to justify another $10 per month bill? And if the market fragments in that manner, is there any end in sight? Is the loss of so much content going to impact Netflix' recent growth, or is that now driven by original programs?