Monday, September 28, 2015

Does Netflix have an October Surprise for us this week?

Let me say right away, lest I get anyone's hopes up, that I have no knowledge that it does, and I don't believe it does. But I sure hope it does.

Here's what won't be a surprise: On October 1, Netflix's deal with Epix expires, meaning scores of high-profile titles go bye-bye from Instant Watching. Couple that with the normal churn the service experiences each month, and according to my Instant Watcher tracker for Roku, at least 500 titles are disappearing this week.

Netflix is losing a little something for everybody: comedies, dramas, action movies, British movies, new movies, old movies, blockbusters, B-movies...did I mention 500?

The company says it is concentrating on original and/or exclusive content, and it couldn't (or wouldn't pay enough for) such status with the Paramount, Lionsgate, Epix originals, and other content it got through that deal. Well, Netflix has some great content, but not enough to make up for the shock of losing so many big things at once. You know how people always complain that Netflix never gets the movies people really want to watch? Well, when people counter that, "It has __ and ___," they usually cite Epix-controlled movies.

The Epix stuff will go to Hulu, so for those who have both services, the content will still be available. But what does this do to Netflix's selection? I'm still reeling from all the older television shows that left this summer and were replaced by zilch.

Observers point to the Disney deal, which is still a little vague. We know Netflix will get exclusive rights to Disney theatricals...beginning next year, not October 1. We know Netflix already has a Disney library deal...and hasn't done a whole lot with it. Hey, as a parent I am grateful that current Disney TV shows and cartoons are available for streaming, and I love the assortment of older animation that is on Instant. But it's just that: an assortment. When the deal first kicked in, each month brought a new assortment of vintage Disney. That rarely happens now.

Even the reports of this new phase of the Disney agreement are circumspect about what happens beyond the few theatrical movies that go straight to Netflix after a window. One article said Netflix gets "access to the vast majority of the Disney library." First of all, "vast majority" doesn't make me optimistic that "Snow White"  will be on the service anytime soon. And "access" is a lot different than "all the Disney library will eventually appear."

Here's one easy way to appease the customers who are gonna freak out when they see their queues decimated this Thursday: Expand the Disney back catalog offerings. Where is all the live action family movies? Where are all the classic animation shorts? Where are the rare TV shows Disney was issuing in its Treasures DVD line before it killed that off?

(There is a premium service called Disney Family Movies that offers a handful of these things each month for way too high a price; I sure hope the existence of this isn't the obstacle)


Ahem. Absent all of  that, could Netflix have another October Surprise to replace or at least take some of the sting out of all those recent theatricals? Rumors swirled last week about the Star Wars movies. Those would be welcome, but not really any kind of equivalent. No, I want to see something big. Netflix probably thinks it can easily ride out the wave of publicity it will get this week, but I sure hope it has something planned beyond Adam Sandler, "Crouching Tiger," and Chelsea Handler.

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