Netflix Keeps Losing Mainstream Movies, Informs Users They Should Be Ok With That Because Of Adam Sandler
from the painful-evolution dept
Such deals are at the heart of Netflix's permission culture dilemma, where the company is at the whims of broadcast licensing, often tied to a cable industry (Comcast/NBC) that intends to directly harm Netflix. These copyright gardens, built under the illusion of control, increasingly fracture content availability, confusing customers as they try to find a service that has most of the content they're looking for. Unfortunately, in many instances these customers then wind up finding that piracy is easier than decoding and running this availability gauntlet, where shows appear and disappear daily as deals are struck or cancelled.
And while Netflix's catalog of mainstream, high-end fare may be looking relatively skimpy these days, the company penned a blog post informing customers they really shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about that. Why? Because Netflix is busy working on creating an additional array of original content that may or may not be any good:
"We hear from our members that you wish we had newer movies. So do we. Studio licensing practices means it often takes more than a year before consumers can watch a theatrically released movie when and how they want. Just like we’ve changed the game for TV watchers by releasing entire seasons around the world at the same time, we have begun making movies that will premiere on Netflix globally and in some cases, simultaneously in theaters. It will take us time to build a robust slate of original movies, but we’re hard at work on it with such great stars and directors as Brad Pitt, Ricky Gervais, Judd Apatow, Angelina Jolie, Sofia Coppola and Adam Sandler."And yes, while some Netflix content (House of Cards, Bloodlines and hopefully soon one of my favorites, Black Mirror) is great, it's not entirely clear that more Adam Sandler movies are the answer for users frustrated at the growing lack of popular options in Netflix's B-grade heavy content catalog. And while licensing does certainly hamstring Netflix, in this instance both Hulu and Amazon didn't find Epix's asking price too severe, meaning that Netflix made a judgement call and decided this content was content that its customers can live without.
At the moment, Netflix is focused on international expansion (200 countries by year's end), disrupting stale movie release windows, and original content. That's respectable, and it's likely the right path toward independence long-term from the noose of tightening broadcaster copyright. But at the same time Netflix's core catalog and satisfied customer base still relies on a certain threshold of quality content. As such, Netflix has to walk a fine line between giving consumers what they want, and trying to navigate the permissions culture tightrope dictated by broadcasters.
Netflix also has to walk the minefield of explaining all of this to consumers who just want the latest and greatest content and options and don't care about the details. For example, Amazon recently announced it would be letting users download content for streaming at a later date (albeit via Amazon's heavily DRM'd system). That's an appealing solution for usage-capped customers, but Netflix last week stated it wouldn't be following suit, claiming that offline downloads would prove too confusing for customers:
"I think it’s something that lots of people ask for. We’ll see if it’s something lots of people will use. Undoubtedly it adds considerable complexity to your life with Amazon Prime – you have to remember that you want to download this thing. It’s not going to be instant, you have to have the right storage on your device, you have to manage it, and I’m just not sure people are actually that compelled to do that, and that it’s worth providing that level of complexity.”Of course that's crap: letting people store a local copy of a film isn't remotely complex. What's complex is explaining to consumers why such functionality would likely cost Netflix significantly more in copyright licensing fees and layers of mandated DRM deployment. As we've noted previously, Netflix is still transitioning from a DVD rental business governed by the first sale doctrine, to a streaming business governed by the permission winds of countless fickle media empires. Communicating the costs of that transition to consumers clearly and honestly certainly isn't easy, but much like its Qwickster snafu of a few years back, it's entirely possible that Netflix could be pushing too far, too fast.