‘For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option’
Netflix users seeking rare or less commercially valued titles are finding the company’s streaming and DVD mailer service unequal to their desires, a development that prompts the question of whether technology and free enterprise have led audiences down a dark road to a narrower cultural selection.
At the website of the San Francisco Bay Area’s KQED Arts, a public media associate of NPR and PBS, editor and contributor Jon Brooks tells of his discovery that a movie he rented from the company years ago had become unavailable. Amazon streaming and iTunes didn’t have it either. He would have gone to a local video store, but those had all closed down. The local library was a dead end too. Only after a week of searching, when his wife found the title in another city’s library, was he able to see the movie.
The episode was disconcerting. I had started using Netflix around the millennium because it seemed like a great idea with no downside (the eventual disappearance of video stores notwithstanding). I was paying a fortune in late fees at my local disc-o-mat, and Netflix’s so-called “long tail” strategy of amassing a vast array of niche content in addition to popular titles appealed to me, as did having the ability to get what looked to be every single movie ever released on DVD delivered straight to my door. And rarely did Netflix disappoint when there was something I wanted to watch, no matter how esoteric.
… And now it seems, while still nowhere as haphazard as the streaming selection, the company’s once reliably complete DVD selection is becoming less so all the time. After my Sweet Sweetback dilemma, I began to note that some DVDs that used to sit patiently awaiting their turn in my queue had dropped down to the “saved” section, where the time of their availability is listed as “unknown.” I think it is safe to say, you can translate that as “never.” Earlier this year, I mentioned this incredibly shrinking DVD phenomenon to John Taylor, the buyer at San Francisco’s Le Video, and he told me Netflix’s DVD collection was now absent a growing number of significant titles, including a passel of Woody Allen films.
Brooks cites a Netflix PR video indicating that the company “should no longer be looked upon as a massive movie library,” as he writes, but rather, in the company’s language, the “Internet’s largest television network”:
With every title we add, we remain focused on our goal of being an expert programmer (vocal emphasis in the video) offering a mix that delights our members rather than trying to be a broad distributor. We’re selective about what titles we add to Netflix …. we can’t license everything and also maintain our low prices. So we look for those titles that deliver the biggest viewership relative to the licensing costs. This also means that we’ll forego or choose not to renew some titles that aren’t watched enough relative to their costs.
See the PR video below and read more of Brooks’ survey of the growing film distribution problem here.
— Posted by Alexander Reed KellyWait, before you go…
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