by Karl Bode

Filed Under:
movies, release windows

fox, netflix, universal

Netflix Agrees To Delay Fox And Universal New Releases, Annoy Avatar Fans

from the let's-make-it-harder-for-the-consumer-to-access-our-product dept

Netflix recently decided it would be a good idea to strike a deal with Warner Brothers that involved delaying all new Warner Brothers releases by 28 days. Film industry executives somehow believe this strategy is going to help them sell more DVDs, though as we've been discussing, the deal as designed seems just as likely to confuse the hell out of consumers as it tries (and fails) to prop up less innovative companies. Why would Netflix agree to such a deal? It was the only way they could get Hollywood to loosen their vice-like licensing grip on the number of titles they allow Netflix to stream via broadband.

Of course the deal doesn't apply to Blockbuster, who ponied up the cash to the studios so they can apparently mock Netflix and Redbox in advertisements instead of actually innovating. None of this, including the fact that Netflix is facing a class action lawsuit, has apparently fazed Netflix or the studios -- as Netflix has now signed similar delayed-release deals with both Twentieth Century Fox and Unviersal Studios. As with the Warner Brothers arrangement, this will ramp up Netflix's access to both studios' libraries for streaming, though it looks like it won't necessarily save Netflix any money:

Netflix says its deal with Universal will give it the "benefits of reduced product costs;" it does not make a similar assertion about Fox. Both deals do however let Netflix build up its instant-streaming catalogue. Fox, for instance, says it will make all prior seasons of several hit TV series, including 24, Bones and King of the Hill, available to Netflix instant-streaming subscribers, while Universal says it is doing the same with some "premium domestic titles," like Gosford Park.

Not too surprisingly, the press release announcing the deal tries to pretend that the deal is about "providing consumers with attractive options" when it does the exact opposite. Netflix goes on to insist that by restricting how consumers can consume studio content, they're actually making film delivery more "flexible" and "convenient" and that the deal is just "a win all around."

Granted, Netflix customers who really only use Netflix's streaming service may not care about this, especially if they're not all that interested in new releases. Still, that doesn't make keeping your product out of customer hands any smarter of a business plan when you're trying to compete with piracy. One of the first major titles to be impacted by the deal will be Avatar, which thanks to this "convenient" deal won't be available on Netflix in any form until 28 days after its April 22 street release date. Customers annoyed by that delay might go buy the DVD, or hey, they might just go download it via Bit Torrent, where they aren't forced to wait for no particularly good reason.

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  1. icon
    JohnF (profile), 12 Apr 2010 @ 9:56am

    Digial is the future for Netflix

    Piracy has been an attractive option because it gives (almost) immediate access to the content. But much content is not available, certainly not for old classics that weren't offered on DVD. Hopefully Netflix will gain access to those. While the studios are missing out on an opportunity (don't they always shoot themselves in the foot?) there are some good things in the Netflix deal.

    Value #1: I don't mind the 28-day delay since I can get more content options. While not everything available on BT is in the Netflix catalog, adding more options is always a good thing.

    Value #2: The BB and RB kiosks are only gonna have the latest and greatest, and not nearly the selection that Netflix can offer for immediate download and no extra cash from my pocket than what I already budgeted. Sure, I can get a BB subscription, but I really don't ever need to be the first on my block to see a new release.

    Value #3: My Tivo is already able to download from Netflix (and BB and Amazon), I think the XBox and PS3 also can do this, so Netflix is building up streaming to a good assortment of boxes already connected to your TV. Again, no additional out-of-pocket spend to dual-purpose my device.

    It won't be long before the media industry catches on to making all content available for viewing whenever the consumer wants to see it. If I want to watch a movie from 1939, and they get a cut from it, that's money that they would be not be getting by keeping it locked up. Maybe it isn't (or wasn't) a popular title, so what? Making it available makes it possible to profit from it.

    We've got the mechanisms in place, all they need to do is open up their content, which has been THE biggest problem all along. They aren't completely solving it here, but it seems like a step in the proper direction.

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