On Sunday morning, Netflix’s film aficionados got some disappointing news: Some of the most popular movies on Netflix will be taken down at the close of September because the streaming service declined to renew its contract with a movie distributor. Epix, the cable network that gave Netflix access to Transformers: Age of Extinction, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and many other titles, has instead inked a non-exclusive deal with Hulu. The decision appears to be a ploy to prioritize and promote Netflix’s original content, which will soon include movies.
In a blog post, Netflix made the case for its upcoming slate of original films, claiming its own content would serve as a worthy alternative for users that are upset by its decision. “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,” the company wrote.
Netflix has decided, it seems, that its future lies in producing limited amounts of original content rather than offering an infinite library of titles for streaming. The money that would have been used to acquire external content is instead being funneled toward generating a smaller library of in-house content. As we’ve seen, Netflix has produced both compelling content–House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black–and, well, the likes of Hemlock Grove.
On the one hand, Netflix’s decision makes sense; many users find its movie offerings severely lacking and turn to the service for its catalog of TV series, original and otherwise. But the streaming platform’s trajectory is also a lesson in the dangers of disruptive technology. The rise of Netflix’s DVD-by-mail delivery service obliterated the retail model used by Blockbuster Video, regional retailers, and independent video stores. Apart from a limited number of video stores catering to cinephiles or smaller communities, the retail video store is an endangered species. By ditching its deal with Epix, Netflix has made clear that it does not care to serve people who want streaming access to traditional movies.
That leaves viewers in a bit of a bind. Netflix’s selection of streaming movies is contingent on the whims of lawyers and rights acquisition teams, and the company sees itself more as an Internet-age hybrid of a Hollywood studio and TV network rather than as a streaming service that offers viewers access to existing content.
Meanwhile, users who want their fill of movies can turn to either Hulu–which was more than happy to snap up the rights to all those movies–or Amazon, which made a deal with Epix a few years back.