Sunday, December 28, 2008

Netflix instant-viewing queue gets slashed

Online movie rental service Netflix has done a good job bulking up its Internet streaming video library, but the vagaries of Hollywood movie licensing are causing quite a few titles to disappear from the service lately.
Nearly 20% of the movies in my Instant queue today are set to expire soon. The 20 movies range from classics like “The Wild Bunch” and “Dirty Harry” to documentaries like “Little Dieter Needs to Fly.” Some will be available until Dec. 31, others Jan. 1, and one – the foreign film “Lilya 4-ever” – expires Jan. 16.
The “Watch Instantly” option, available on PCs and various set-top boxes, is a nice extra for subscribers of Netflix’s DVDs-by-mail service. It gives subscribers the flexibility to watch something other than the DVDs they have on hand from Netflix.
But unlike the set-it-and-forget-it management of my DVD rental queue, I actually have to actively keep track of which movies are expiring and when in my Instant queue.
Cnet posted a good article explaining how TV broadcasters can lock up licensing rights for certain movies, causing them to disappear from Web services like Netflix and Apple’s iTunes.
I’ve raced to watch some movies through instant viewing, but 12 have slipped through and fallen into a “Saved” list. They’re saved until they become available for Internet streaming again. Whenever that is.

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