Streaming Rights On Whitney Houston Movie NOT Pulled In Order To 'Make Really A Large Amount Of Money On DVD Sales' [Updated]

from the profiting-off-of-death dept

Update: Netflix denies this story, though the reporter stands by it. See update at the end.

We covered how Sony Music UK jacked up prices on Whitney Houston’s music minutes after her death — then changing them back and apologizing. However, in an even more extreme case, it appears that whoever holds the copyrights on the Whitney Houston movie, The Bodyguard has pulled those rights from Netflix, where it had been streamable (found via Karl Bode, but kudos to Dan McDermott who noticed the problem and found out the details from Netflix). The reasoning is that they figure lots of people will want to buy it now, and this is a chance to cash in on her death:

Netflix rep: “Okay Dan, I just went and talked to my main supervisor as to why the movie had been pulled and the reason it was pulled was the production company pulled the streaming rights from us because all the publicity after Whitney Houston’s passing there was an opportunity to make really a very large amount of money on the DVD sales of her movies. So they’re going to pull all the streaming titles we have of Whitney Houston so they can make more money off the DVD sales of her movies.”

Now, watch the copyright holder complain that there’s too much infringement of the movie as well…

Update: Apparently Netflix is denying the story though McDermott — a long time reporter stands by the story. Netflix claims that the streaming rights to the movie went away last year when a licensing deal ended (and it is true that Netflix has lost some streaming rights in the last few months, though I have no idea if this is one of them). However, McDermott insists that he got the story from Netflix directly. As he told Andrew Couts at Digital Trends:

“I publish three newspapers and first started in news when I was news director at WLVA in 1987. I was aware of the sensitive nature of the story and was cautious and responsible,” McDermott told us via email. “The quote I printed is accurate. I cannot speak to whether the Netflix representative was telling me the truth but I asked him to verify what the Netflix users were saying (that it was pulled after her death) and the guy came back and said what he said. I tripled checked to get the quote accurate.

“He said that he had checked with two supervisors and that the ‘main’ one told him why it had been pulled.

“Personally I believe that the kid told me what his supervisors said. I can’t imagine that they were pulled after her death in some bizarre coincidence.

“Also, it is important to note that Netflix is not the bad guy in this. Unless they lie now.”

I guess it’s possible that Netflix is right, and there was confusion on the part of the supervisors…

Update 2: Indeed, it looks like my guess was correct. Netflix was right, and the supervisors of the customer service guy were wrong. Dan McDermott has admitted that the report the guy gave him appears to be wrong. He reported it correctly, but Netflix staffers gave him incorrect info. The movie was pulled from streaming back in January…

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Comments on “Streaming Rights On Whitney Houston Movie NOT Pulled In Order To 'Make Really A Large Amount Of Money On DVD Sales' [Updated]”

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90 Comments
:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re:

Naw naw naw, this is the difference between capitalism and greed.

In capitalism, one goes out of their way to meet the customers’ demand, making a REASONABLE profit the whole way thru.

Greed, on the other hand, leads one to do stupid things in order to drive up the prices, like crafting some artificial scarcity (for more on greed and artificial scarcity, see: OPEC).

sehlat (profile) says:

Who cares?

The streaming will be back when the rightsholder notices that one or two dozen people actually bothered to buy the movie who hadn’t already done so.

Is there any movie that can’t be waited for, given how many movies are available? If you can’t see “The Bodyguard”, there are bunchteen others, either already in your collection, buyable or streamable.

And finally, for those who are starting to get sick to their stomachs at the thought of giving Hollywood so much as a penny, better alternatives are available.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re:

….like crafting some artificial scarcity (for more on greed and artificial scarcity, see: OPEC).

Yeah, OPEC and the oil companies are masters of that for sure.

The one that always gets me is this one:

From a recent USA Today article:

Rising prices are an annual spring ritual, largely because of seasonal demand.

If it demand increases at the same time every damn year, why are they so unprepared for it every single time?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

So unless I care about the price of “The Bodyguard,” then I don’t respect the dead? I don’t see it. It’s got nothing to do with respect for Whitney Houston. The fact is that demand for the DVD has gone up, and they’re going to profit off of it. It’s called business.

And what about Mike “profiting” off of her death by running all these silly stories? Where’s his respect?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I love how worked up you guys get about them selling a movie for what the market is willing to pay for it, but you don’t care at all when people willingly steal a movie and violate other people’s rights. Funny how that works. You guys love the lawbreakers but hate their victims. It’s amazing. And sad.

And, good Lord, if someone was accused of illegally downloading this movie, Mike would be defending that person all the way. He would never stand up for the victims who had their rights violated.

GMacGuffin says:

Re:

My refusal to use emoticons to relay sarcasm does bite back at times. Let us not forget that stories like these spread as well, so old-school scarcity ploys like this are more likely to backfire. (Especially for a film that truly, deeply, sucks.)

And it’s still available on Netflix as a physical DVD, but in the queue it is labeled, Very long wait. Is this scarcity a result of complicity with Netflix? … one has to wonder. [Emoticon.]

(And it’s not OPEC, it’s the Republican Machine — run by big oil — that’s driving up the gas prices to stop economic growth during the election cycle … so says my socialist wife.)

Hulser (profile) says:

The Houston Clause?

the production company pulled the streaming rights from us

They can do that? I would think that it’d be a no-brainer for Netflix to stipulate in the contract with the media company that they can’t just arbitrarily pull the rights on a particular movie. But then again, the content companies have Netflix over a barrel, so maybe there’s a clause in the contract for this very thing. Still, it seems odd that they can just yank a single title.

MRK says:

Re:

Supply and demand is most definitely in effect.

The production company are simply creating an artificial scarcity while demand is unusually high.

Jerk thing to do? Yep. But its in their rights to do so. We can stick it to them by simply not buying the DVD.

Techdirt is just reporting the facts. Its not Techdirt’s fault for making the production company look bad, they did that to themselves.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re:

violate other people’s rights

You don’t have a right to my hard-drive or to the contents thereof.

You and the rest of the stone-age media can keep pretending that you do and even get laws passed to that effect, but that’s just re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic that is so-called “intellectual property”.

Adapt or go extinct. Whining won’t save you.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Just what about having the movie available on Netflix prevents them from selling DVD’s? Does it make the movie more scarce? No. Does it make viewing the movie more scarce? Possibly. But availability on Netflix in no way prevents the purchase of DVD’s. One might argue that being on Netflix increases the exposure of the movie, and that exposure just might drive a DVD sale or two.

If it weren’t for Kevin Costner, I might just go and torrent the movie, but I have some standards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Demand has gone up, supply remains the same until they put artificial limits on it to make it “scarce” and run up the cost. They can do what they like with their movies but creating artificial scarcity around real demand following an “actresses” death is low. Some people just want to watch the movie again to remember a star they liked/admired/whatever they don’t want to own it. The studios are trying to make own it or don’t watch it their only options.

Adam V says:

Re:

Aren’t we talking about streaming? Is supply and demand a factor in the *streaming* market?

Or are you trying to say “this movie is available from: Best Buy (physical), Netflix (physical), Netflix (streaming). If we remove Netflix (streaming) from the picture, more people will flock to Best Buy (physical) to get the movie”?

You’re omitting the fact that the majority of these people likely switched to Netflix (streaming) because they were tired of paying for a movie at Best Buy (physical) only to watch it once or twice and never again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“I love how worked up you guys get about them selling a movie for what the market is willing to pay for it, but you don’t care at all when people willingly steal a movie and violate other people’s rights. Funny how that works. You guys love the lawbreakers but hate their victims. It’s amazing. And sad.”

The movie was available as streaming video at a set price.
People were wiling to pay for it.
Warner Brothers yanked access in order to force those who were willing to pay for streaming video to buy a more expensive plastic disc.
That’s not “…what the market is willing to pay for it…” it’s exploitation and greed, pure and simple.
But then, since you’re a shill, you hav no actual opinion except what your masters tell you to think, boy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“Mike trying to pretend like supply and demand is not a factor in the market for movies shows a bit of delusion on his part, no?”

You mean artificially-induced demand by cutting off the existing supply?

It’s like in the old Westerns where the bad guys controlled the dam and forced townspeople to pay for water to keep themselves alive until Randolph Scott came along, shot the bad guys and opened the dam.
Who’s our Randolph Scott?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

At no point does this say anything about not caring about when people “willingly [*cough*] steal.” It does, however, make a prediction that they will also complain (probably with some hyped up stat) about the piracy on the movie now.

So you have on one hand, a group trying to manipulate supply, and on the other hand the same group will likely complain about how others are manipulating supply. And using the term ‘supply’ here is a real loose version because as Mike said the supply is, for practical purposes, infinite.

The point of the article is to show facts. People will then form their own opinions of the morality or ethics of the situation once they know facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I don’t see what the fuss is.

Then you’re blind.

Supply and demand, and all that.

Wrong – demand might increase, but supply is still infinite. Add the fact that they’ve forgotten about their competition, who haven’t raised their prices. Raising your prices when your competition doesn’t is bad business.

your need to try and make them look bad.

Are you suggesting that Mike made them raise prices? No, they’re making themselves look bad without any help from Mike.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re:

Let’s try to get some perspective, shall we?

Sony jacks up the price of their back catalog of Whitney Houston gets blasted and admits their mistake and sets the price back down again.

This movie production company doesn’t seem to have noticed that as moves in to do roughly the same with the DVD. I don’t really care all that much except that it’s beyond tacky and opportunistic and in horribly bad taste.

Doesn’t it strike you that the backlash in both cases IS the market speaking? Sony listened, these people didn’t.

All in all they get what they deserve which is probably few, if any, extra sales of the DVD at, one assumes, increased prices. It’s just not that good a movie.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re:

While it appears that Netflix has it back on let’s go to my major point.

WB pulls the stream to increase DVD sales, at increased prices no doubt, and gets hammered on line for it. Including here.

Does it not strike you that in the same way as Sony’s attempt to profit from her death had to be reversed doesn’t it strike you that the market IS speaking?

It has nothing to do with infringement or piracy or any other of your standard “evils” it’s just the market speaking that the move is tacky, in horrible taste and they’re not gonna buy.

It’s the market that’s speaking and that’s all there is to it. Opportunism in the Internet age gets answered very quickly with outrage. What can’t you understand about that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“I love how worked up you guys get about them selling a movie for what the market is willing to pay for it, but you don’t care at all when people willingly steal a movie and violate other people’s rights. Funny how that works. You guys love the lawbreakers but hate their victims. It’s amazing. And sad.

And, good Lord, if someone was accused of illegally downloading this movie, Mike would be defending that person all the way. He would never stand up for the victims who had their rights violated.”

You are a complete fucking tool, this goes beyond copyright numnuts, you’re efforts to focus your slander campaign on this, is both sad and patthetic, and just insults us, that you think us so fickle, as to forget the bigger picture

You sir are either dumb or the problem, dare i say, a true politician

Anubis says:

Re:

Absolutely correct. The cost to them, or anyone, to transmit the product digitally is pretty minor I would have to imagine. Just the fractional cost of whatever broadband service they pay for, I suppose.

The cost to manufacture and distribute a new DVD, however is not minor. But the cynic in me thinks the studio already has SOME quantity of these DVDs already manufactured, sitting in a crate somewhere, just waiting to be sold.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Chris, I understand the technical ability to reproduce 1s and 0s. One day you will come to understand that it isn’t the 1s and 0s that are valuable, but rather the product they convey.

Would you care to give me a million dollars for a collection of random bits?

Supply and demand – you have to look at where the supply comes from to understand that there is nothing infinite about content.

darryl says:

Quality Masnick 'research' !!!! Hahahaha

it’s typical of the bad reporting on TD part, all the ‘stories’ here on TD are just that, when your ‘source’ is ‘what some guy said to some other guy, and that other guy said it somewhere on the web.

Masnick thinks “thats good enough for me” “STOP THE PRESS”…

It shows that mansick has NO interest whatsoever in accurate or unbiased reporting, he’s just interested in how he can ‘spin it’. Truth never enters into the equation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

true, but your logic, truth and reasoning has NO place here on TD…

neither is independent thought…

here on TD you are told to ‘think what Mansick tells you to think, and feel how he wants you to feel’..

This place is primarily for those who will not or cannot think for themselves or form their own opinions. If you try to do there here, you will meet the ire of the Masnick guard dogs, who are suitabily programmed to insult you, but NEVER propose a viable counter argument, and if you really upset them, Masnick himself will hurl you some abuse… (but not address the issue)..

Loki says:

Re:

I love how worked up you guys get about them selling a movie for what the market is willing to pay for it, but you don’t care at all when people willingly steal a movie and violate other people’s rights.

It might have something to do with the fact that Infringers, in their efforts to get what they want, in the manner they want, may cause inconvenience to the movie seller and trample/violate some of their “rights” but they don’t directly inconvenience me or trample my rights in the process.

The movie sellers, on the other hand, treat everyone – customers and infringers alike – with dishonesty, inconvenience, and even as outright criminals. They show no concern for violating/trampling my rights or anyone else’s in the process of pursuing their agenda.

Basically, if someone is peeing in your bushes, don’t expect me to care if you’re taking a dump in the middle of my front lawn.

Funny how that works.

Oh, and when a good portion of your wealth was originally obtained from basically the same form of “theft” you are complaining about, and you have basically engaged in activities that are essentially extortion, blackmail and bribery, claiming you are somehow a victim is merely laughable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

true, but your logic, truth and reasoning has NO place here on TD…

neither is independent thought…

here on TD you are told to ‘think what Mansick tells you to think, and feel how he wants you to feel’..

This place is primarily for those who will not or cannot think for themselves or form their own opinions. If you try to do there here, you will meet the ire of the Masnick guard dogs, who are suitabily programmed to insult you, but NEVER propose a viable counter argument, and if you really upset them, Masnick himself will hurl you some abuse… (but not address the issue)..

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re:

Then the scarcity is in the production, not the end product. Once created, the product is infinitely copyable and thus has a value approaching zero.

If you want to increase production, you give people a reason to support production (e.g. Kickstarter). You can’t improve production by trying to overturn the laws of supply and demand for the end product.

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