Monday, January 19, 2015

Earlier this month, stories circulated about British shows leaving Netflix at the end of the month. Then it was clarified that only BBC shows would leave, and then only certain BBC shows.

It rang familiar since the same thing happened last year at this time. By the end of the month, Netflix and the Beeb renewed their deal, apparently for another year. Now the year is up, hence shows are expiring. It's all very confusing because many people can't distinguish between BBC British shows and non-British shows, and I can't blame them because that info isn't always evident.

Variety reports movement in the situation, but the report is a little deceptive. Let's break it down. Full credit to Variety, and you can get the article and everything else right here.

Fans of British television can rest easy. Following numerous reports that Netflix and the BBC were parting ways, the streaming service has clarified that many of its most popular Brit series are staying put.

Uh-oh! Notice that word "many"? It's subtle, but I think that'll be relevant later.

In response to headlines that beloved series “Doctor Who,” “Luther,” the original “The Office” and more were going to be dropped from the service at the end of the month, a Netflix spokeswoman tells Variety that such reports were false.

"Such reports were false" that those particular series are not leaving.

Among the shows that will still be available on Netflix are classic and current “Doctor Who” series, “Luther,” “Top Gear” seasons 17 through 20, “Torchwood,” “Wallander,” “Keeping Up Appearances,” and the original “Office” and “House of Cards” series.

Rest easy, British TV fans!

The deal in question did not involve series including “Sherlock,” “Happy Valley,” “The Honorable Woman,” “Call the Midwife” or other series not up for renewal. These series will remain on Netflix.

Rest easier, British TV fans! This is the kind of clarification media outlets should provide as soon as they report on expiring series, not after they report it.

Actually, this kind of thing is why Netflix is so vague about when contracts expire and when shows are leaving. As much as I despise not having that information as a consumer, I can understand the value of keeping the info close to vest. For one thing, it calls attention to the quantity of programming disappears from the service. For another, people get antsy at the thought of their specific favorites leaving, and it leads to some bad pub for a while. Negotiations could be ongoing, and it might hurt leverage for Netflix if an outcry occurs, which might in turn make it hard to retain the shows. That said, I still want more info, not less, and I'd at least like to know if there's a chance shows will be retained.

Here’s a list of BBC series staying on Netflix’s service:
Classic “Doctor Who”
“Doctor Who” seasons 1 through 7
“Copper” seasons 1 and 2
“House of Cards” trilogy
“Keeping Up Appearances” season 1
“Luther” seasons 1 through 3
“Monarch of the Glen” seasons 1 through 6
“North & South”
“Robin Hood” seasons 1 through 3
“The Buccaneers”
“The Office” U.K. seasons 1 and 2
“Top Gear” seasons 17 though 20
“Torchwood” seasons 1 through 4
“Wallander” seasons 1 through 3

This is what we like, specifics! Conspicuous by its absence is "Ripper Street," a show I saw some online comments about. Well, as far as I know, it is staying, too, but in looking it up, I learned that its third season was commissioned by Amazon Prime UK, has not been on Amazon Prime US (and in fact, seasons 1 and 2 are not on Prime, either, but are still on Netflix), and will air on BBC America in 2015. Does this mean season 3 will stream on Amazon Prime US, or will Netflix get it after the BBC America run? I don't know, and I don't expect Netflix to issue press releases trumpeting that fact, but I include it to illustrate how difficult it is to follow this kind of thing. Streaming services are way less transparent than broadcast or even cable networks about programming.

Let's get to the kicker at the end of the "Variety" article:

Fans should plan to enjoy “Fawlty Towers,” “Blackadder,” “MI-5″ and “Red Dwarf” before Feb. 1 when they will no longer be available.

Hey-ohhh! Nice little kick to the gut at the end there. So "such reports" weren't ALL wrong, eh, Netflix? it looks like some of the iconic series that fans fretted about vanishing really are vanishing. And where will they go? Will they go anywhere? Who knows?

Well, I know. All 4 of these series are on Hulu Plus. It would be nice if "Variety" mentioned that--you know, as a service to its readers who are looking for information, as opposed to regurgitating some PR from Netflix. I also think it's disingenuous to imply that no British shows are leaving Netflix at the end of the month, only to tack on a bit at the end that, oh, by the way, some of those shows you love? Yeah, they are leaving.

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