On 9th January 2014, Netflix turns two years old in the UK. The birthday celebrations, though, will be missing some important guests. 475, to be exact.
Research by unofficial Netflix fansite Netflix.maft.co has found that almost 500 titles will be removed from Netflix in January 2014, starting with 66 on New Year’s Day itself. That’s around 17 per cent of Netflix’s entire catalogue.
Titles being removed include such classics as The Bicycle Thief, Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, The Conversation, The Untouchables, The Day of the Dead and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and modern masterpieces such as The Skin I Live In and Requiem for a Dream. Others will be less missed, from Cracking the Da Vinci Code and Derailed to The Man Who Sued God and The Howling: Reborn.
Con Air is being removed from Netflix UK on Sunday 5th January 2014.
TV shows are up for the chop too, including all five seasons of Daria and Netflix’s entire collection of Agatha Christie’s Poirot (currently a selection from Season 8 and 9 and all of Season 10, 11 and 12).
Kids are also set to lose out, with Nickelodeon’s content soon to be unavailable, including Ren and Stimpy, The Wild Thornberrys, Hey Arnold!, Franklin, Drake & Josh and many others. The removal of Comedy Central and MTV content too, from William Shatner’s Roast to the aforementioned Daria, suggests that a deal that saw the Viacom rights lost by Netflix US to rival Amazon is now hitting UK shores.
All of Nickelodeon’s content left Netflix US in June 2013 and popped up on Amazon Instant Video instead. Netflix’s response was the launch of Netflix Families to highlight its child-friendly content. In the UK, meanwhile, Nickelodeon’s content appeared on LOVEFiLM Instant (Ren and Stimpy, for example, is here) but remained on Netflix UK too. That all changes on Sunday 5th January, when it will only be available on LOVEFiLM Instant – including titles such as Pingu, Hey Arnold! and Blue’s Clues.
Daria is being removed from Netflix UK on Sunday 5th January 2014.
Business as usual?
The sheer volume of removals scheduled to herald in the New Year is staggering enough to attract attention from the national media. Speaking to The Telegraph, Netflix Director of Communications Joris Evers comments: “We have a continuous ebb and flow of titles on Netflix and this isn’t anything new. We always add titles as we secure rights and remove titles as our license expires. We are always looking to provide a great mix of things to watch that our members will love.”
This is absolutely correct: if you follow @VODzillaMag on Twitter, you’ll be well aware that Netflix are forever adding new titles as well as removing them. While around 30 titles are taken down every month, new arrivals often occur every week, if not every day.
The Lives of Others is being removed on Sunday 5th January.
The same is true of all subscription VOD platforms. Sky’s NOW TV, for example, has 12 titles set to expire shortly:
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle
The Three Musketeers
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The New Year, then, is just another monthly update for VOD licences. But with 12 months on Netflix’s company clock, more licences are set to expire than normal, as yearly contracts come to end. Why remove content? The decision not to renew will come down to multiple factors, but the main one is likely to be the number of times it is viewed – if people are not watching a title, why pay the rental fees to have the streaming rights for something there is no demand for when that can be spent acquiring something more recent and attention-grabbing?
That inevitably means that a lot of niche interests, be they smaller indie films, older classics or Korean or Japanese titles, end up under-represented. It speaks volumes that there are no silent movie titles on Netflix UK, for example. The counter-argument is that there is usually a net gain in the overall number of things available to stream, which theoretically offers more diversity within a range of in-demand genres. Indeed, since Christmas, three things have been removed from Netflix UK (A Horrible Way to Die, Waking Sleeping Beauty and Downton Abbey) while 28 things have been added. With almost 500 things bidding farewell in a week’s time, though, Netflix will have one hell of a job signing up enough to make up for it.
Nonetheless, they already seem to be making a good start.
The Conversation is being removed from Netflix UK on Wednesday 1st January 2014.
Happy New Year: Netflix’s latest releases
These are the new releases on Netflix UK for 31st December 2013:
A Haunted House
Alpha & Omega 2
The Blues Brothers
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
Home Run Showdown
The Moth Diaries
Olympus Has Fallen
The Powerpuff Girls Season 3
Trap for Cinderella
This latest list of new Netflix titles highlights two major trends.
Firstly, the arrival of recent titles; things that have been released on DVD this year, and some in the cinema too, are already appearing on the service. Where films in the past have waited months after their theatrical release to go to DVD and pay-per-view before eventually, maybe years later, landing on subscription services, Netflix is now closing the gap. Bachelorette was released in cinemas on Friday 16th August and only recently hit DVD shelves in October. Bachelorette and Breakout are hardly a fair swap for The Good the Bad and the Ugly, but if the company can secure increasingly newer titles, will that be enough to win over subscribers?
Secondly, it shows the arrival of more titles from its deal with Cartoon Network, which has already added Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory and Adventure Time to Netflix UK: combined with its new DreamWorks deal for original series Turbo: F.A.S.T., Netflix is making a concerted effort to fill Nickelodeon’s void with new children’s entertainment.
Ren and Stimpy is being removed from Netflix UK on Sunday 5th January 2014
What 2014 Gate means for Netflix
What 2014 Gate really reveals for Netflix, though, is the company’s major crisis: not what’s available or what’s unavailable, but what they tell their members.
The video on-demand market has traditionally been very closed about its battle for streaming rights, with one service not liking to reveal its cards lest another tries to steal them out of its hands. LOVEFiLM have begun announcing upcoming Instant releases, though, alongside the major pay-per-view services: you can see all of these future titles listed on our UK VOD release dates page.
Netflix, though, remains a closed book. Expiry dates are only revealed to members if they add a title to their new watchlist feature, My List. With no official announcements of upcoming release dates either, aside from the odd flagship title (House of Cards Season 2 arrives on Valentine’s Day, The Square on 17th January), existing customers do not know whether to continue subscribing, especially when they see a previous favourite due to expire. The sudden removal of The Muppet Christmas Carol a few days before Christmas, then, could’ve seen a wave of people cancel before December was out.
As a result, other sites are now having to announce upcoming expiry dates. Here’s the problem, though: half of these 500 odd titles set to bow out on 5th January could, hypothetically, wind up being renewed a few days later. But nobody knows that apart from Netflix. Uncertainty is the weakness of video on-demand. It doesn’t just stem from the idea that you don’t own content – subscribing grants you unlimited access to content, which is a different thing, but no less valuable – it stems from not being told what’s going on.
That is why from January 2014 onwards, as well as reviews and listings of the latest UK VOD releases, VODzilla.co will be bringing you expiry information too, not just for Netflix titles but other VOD services too.
We may soon discover Netflix’s 2nd birthday party may not be missing one-fifth of its guests after all; they may simply be running late. Until the company announces an official RSVP list for the festivities, though, people deciding whether to join the party or not will remain hovering on the doorstep.
Con Air departs. The Powerpuff Girls arrive. The cycle continues.
Happy birthday, Netflix. Here’s to another year.