Logan Burtch-Buus

The online streaming industry is growing and growing every year. Standing at the forefront of this online explosion is Netflix, the well known provider of both online streaming of thousands of different programs ranging from movies, to T.V. shows, and documentaries as well as in home, through the mail deliveries of their content. Netflix began the road to online kingship back in 1997, when the company began as a traditional through the mail provider. By 1999 the company had introduced a monthly subscription policy and now operates on both monthly payment and unlimited online streaming. Over the past decade or so, Netflix has found its way into the homes of many families, college students, and anyone else who enjoys video entertainment. Netflix has been able to stand amongst the forefront of much of the development of the in-home and delivery movie craze, but this rise to the top has not been one without trials and setbacks.

In 2011 Netflix made the controversial decision to split its services in half and created the new service called Qwikster. Qwikster would be responsible for handling in home deliveries of DVD’s as well as the introduction of videogames. Customers wishing to receive both online streaming of their videos as well as an in-home delivery service would then have to pay for both the services of Netflix and Qwikster. This was not a popular decision amongst the public. Qwikster quickly received harsh feedback and the changes were reversed. In 2012, Netflix and Starz Network were unable to renew their contract for the rights to many of the programs that made up the majority of Netflix’s newer catalogue. This is just one of the multiple instances in which Netflix was unable to renew valuable contracts for the rights to air many popular and well known programming. Both of these occurrences have made it difficult for Netflix to hold a strong grasp at the top of the online movie service hill.

News came to the public a few days ago that would serve as another blow to the services provided by Netflix. Warner Brothers, Universal Studios, and MGM have decided to pull a collective sum of almost 2,000 titles from the Netflix catalogue. The titles that have been pulled are going to be added to the newly formed Warner Brothers Instant Archive, a program that Warner Brothers recently started as their own form of internet streaming entertainment. This comes as a major blow to the already straggling Netflix catalogue. The question then becomes, is the public willing to pay for multiple services just to get their movie and T.V. show fix? When is enough, enough and when are the media-rights-owning giants such as Universal and Starz Network going to come to some kind of agreement as to a single website or service to host their titles? The reason given by Warner Brothers for the massive removal of titles was to segment the Netflix offering as to diversify the market. This comes as a help to no one, especially us as the consumers. More of our hard earned income is spent on paying for different services that were all at one point under the banner of one website. Is this a move to diversify the market, or to try and cut in on some of the money made by Netflix over the past decade plus?

This removal of programs has led many a Netflix viewer to binge on the programs that are slated to be removed within the coming weeks. Will they go and pay for the Services of Warner Brothers Instant Archive? Probably not. More likely those forced to be without the programs they want to watch will have to just go without, as money becomes a growing commodity in need, the ability to pay for more and more services to get what you previously had lessens. All of this comes with an even bitterer follow up. A Netflix representative has mentioned the possibility that the company may be willing to let go of the contract the Netflix holds with Viacom. This would cut off all programming from MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon, amongst others.

Netflix has been the subject of more than solely bad news, though. In a recent interview with Ted Sarandos, the Chief Content Officer for Netflix, a question was raised surrounding Netflix renewing fabled T.V. shows such as Arrested Development. The success that Arrested Development has enjoyed despite being off the air for years has prompted Netflix to renew the show’s filming and will be releasing new content soon. Netflix has also rolled out a group of Netflix exclusive programming, most successfully the acclaimed series House of Cards. The possibility for Netflix to expand their viewing catalogue exists, but it hardly outweighs the losses that the various contract expirations have caused.

Netflix is not the only source one can look towards for online entertainment. Hulu Plus is a similar service that provides up to date selections of some of cable’s most popular television, from Family Guy to How I Met Your Mother. Hulu Plus has contracts with multiple cable networks to air many popular television shows just as they air on cable, so those without a cable service provider will be able to enjoy the newest in T.V. entertainment. This unique offering, as well as Hulu’s impressive selection, has made Hulu Plus viable competition for Netflix. The provider of the most up to date T.V. and movie selections seems to be collecting viewership.

Do these recent losses in Netflix’s media holdings hold a grim forecast for the company’s future? For the future of internet T.V. streaming in general, more likely. As more and more big name titles disappear from the Netflix offerings, will the customers also disappear? Netflix has been shown to lessen the regularity at which people illegally torrent their entertainment, will the removal of so much of Netflix’s offerings bring about a renewed frenzy of illegal downloading? The coming months may brings us a lot of those answers as Netflix and other services like Hulu Plus look to hold on to as many of their entertainment rights as possible and retain their viewership.

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