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Netflix lost more than 1100 streaming titles Wednesday, but does it matter?

Ian Paul, Brad Chacos | May 2, 2013
The Internet is abuzz with the news that Netflix's streaming titles are seeing some dramatic changes in May, with the online service set to lose a whopping 1800 titles during the month.

The Internet is abuzz with the news that Netflix's streaming titles are seeing some dramatic changes in May, with the online service set to lose a whopping 1800 titles during the month.

More than 1100 of those titles are already gone, as they were set to expire on May 1, based on data from InstantWatcher.com, a Web app that uses the Netflix API to track catalog expirations.

Pitchforks are out! Torches are being waved! Curses are being uttered!

But is it really such a big deal?

The great purge

Let's take a peek at what's going away, first of all.

Among the major movies that disappeared Wednesday are James Bond titles such as Dr. No and A View To A Kill, as well as classics such as the 1979 version of Black Stallion. At the end of the month, Netflix may also lose South Park seasons 1-15 and a number of South Park special compilations such as South Park: The Cult of Cartman.

Most of the titles disappearing aren't gems, however. Alongside the few classics are a vast trove of schlocky titles such as Daughters of Satan (1972), starring a pre-Magnum P. I.Tom Selleck.

The big change in the Netflix catalog was called "Streamageddon" by Slate. The culture site noted the Netflix dump includes titles from Warner Bros--some of which may end on the new $10 per month Warner Archive Instant streaming service--and pre-1986 titles from MGM and Universal.

A Netflix spokesperson told TechHive that "The vast majority of the titles that expire on Wednesday are older features that were aggregated by Epix."

The two online video services reached a deal in 2010 that gave Netflix the ability to stream titles licensed by Epix until September 2013. Netflix also has an option to extend the Epix deal until September 2014, according to Reuters.

Later in May, more titles will evaporate as part of Netflix's streaming deal with Viacom. That agreement gave Netflix access to titles from Nickelodeon, BET, and MTV. Netflix announced the expiration in its letter to shareholders in late April for the company's Q1 2013 earnings. At the time, Netflix said it was in discussions to continue licensing specific Viacom shows but had yet to reach a deal.

If no agreement is reached, that purge will hurt much more than today's. Many families turn to Netflix for commercial-free Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants  needs.

Pragmatic business decisions

While a large number of titles are disappearing, Netflix says the catalog switch is routine.

Representatives pointed out that Netflix Instant recently added newer movies to its streaming selection, many of them from Epix itself.The Hunger Games, ParaNorman, Safe, and Bachelorette all debuted on the service in recent weeks, and Mission Impossible: 2 is but one of many shows being added to Netflix Instant today.

 

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