Netflix’s Next Big Problem: Keeping Quality Content
Netflix has built a sizable streaming library, with more than 20,000 titles now available. So why is it that, when the company is spending more money than ever securing streaming content, I'm finding less and less to watch through its streaming service?
By Ryan Lawler, GigaOMA funny thing happened when I checked out my Netflix instant queue the other day: About a third of all the movies and TV shows that I had added over the past few years had been moved to the “Saved” section, meaning they were no longer available for instant streaming. I’ve been an avid Netflix user for years, so I’ve accumulated quite a list of instant titles in my instant queue: about 450 at last count. So imagine my surprise when 160 of those titles were no longer available for streaming — and this happened after I had already chosen to discontinue the DVD-by-mail portion of my subscription. But it’s not just the number of movies that had dropped out of the streaming service, but the quality of the movies that were no longer available: award-winnings films like The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, indie favorites like The Royal Tenenbaums and Fargo, even cult classics like A Nightmare on Elm Street have all disappeared from the streaming service. At the same time that some top content has passed out of my instant queue, the quality of new content being added seems (to me) to have markedly depreciated. While Netflix’s “Top Picks for Ryan” and overall recommendations system is still pretty good at pinpointing new content I’ll find interesting, I’ve noticed that I’m finding less and less of interest in the “New Movies to Watch Instantly” that have been added to the company’s streaming library. Sure, I might check out I’m Still Here just to see what all the buzz is about, and maybe — maybe — I’ll watch 70s classics like Woody Allen’s All You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex or Dustin Hoffman’s turn as Lenny. But by and large, the new additions to Netflix’s streaming library pale in comparison to the content that just fell out of my Instant Queue. Surely, Netflix is going through some growing pains right now. For all its success in growing its subscriber base and building a distribution platform for streaming content to practically every connected device known to man, Hollywood studios are growing increasingly wary of its market power. Some executives — like Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes — are openly hostile towards the company, while others are merely ambivalent about Netflix. While it is writing bigger and bigger checks to secure streaming rights to their content, it’s also eating away at DVD sales and could be prompting some consumers to cancel their cable subscriptions. The overwhelming attitude towards Netflix seems to be that studios are willing to license their content — but for a price. And as this price goes ever higher, Netflix is having to pick and choose which streaming rights it wants to maintain and which it chooses to let lapse. All this could be what’s behind the big drop-off in availability of streaming titles that have interested me.