by Michael Lowrey
Over the past decade, Netflix pretty much killed off the video store. Now streaming video is suppose to be the next big thing and is turning Netflix’s DVD business into an endangered species. So this should be a good time for lovers of more obscure movies, right?
Absolutely not. Jon Brooks of KQED in San Francisco offers up a detailed explanation of the latest development in the world of home movie viewing and why people that are at even marginally selective in what they choose to watch are going to be disappointed.
The death of Netflix DVDs could very well spell the end of the golden days of one-stop shopping. Check out this 2013 Netflix PR video communicating that the company should no longer be looked upon as a massive movie library. What it really is, it says, is the “Internet’s largest television network.”
With every title we add, we remain focused on our goal of being an expert programmer (vocal emphasis in the video) offering a mix that delights our members rather than trying to be a broad distributor. We’re selective about what titles we add to Netflix …. we can’t license everything and also maintain our low prices. So we look for those titles that deliver the biggest viewership relative to the licensing costs. This also means that we’ll forego or choose not to renew some titles that aren’t watched enough relative to their costs.
Brooks references a Bloomberg story from January that lays out the core issue:
Old-fashioned video rental stores, and Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service, are governed by something called “first-sale doctrine”: Once I sell you a physical copy of a movie or song, you can do whatever you like with the physical object, except copy it or show it publicly… But streaming is governed by a different set of rules for digital content. You can’t stream a movie to someone unless the rights holders have agreed to let you do so. … Essentially, Netflix cannot afford to buy the rights to all the movies you want to watch.
The likely outcome? Subscribing to multiple streaming services, none of which offers anything near everything you want. And possibly the continued existence of video stores — Visart, I’m looking at you — if they’re nimble enough to file the resulting niche.