Thursday, August 12, 2010

‘Broken’ TV series offer big opportunities and challenges for Netflix

Online movie rental service Netflix scored a lot of headlines this week with its deal to stream movies from Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM.
But Netflix is pursuing more than just recent Hollywood movies for its streaming video service. It’s also going after older content, including TV shows and movies. After all, 70% of the movies that Netflix rents today are older content, not new releases, said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix.
In a recent interview for a story on over-the-top TV, I asked Sarandos whether Netflix was pursuing TV shows that maybe lasted a season or two and aren’t available on DVD or anywhere else for that matter.
“We love those,” Sarandos said. “We’ve got a ton of energy going after those broken series that only lasted a season or two. And there’s literally no business model for those. They can’t syndicate them. Sometimes they come out on DVD. That’s it. ‘Arrested Development’ is a great example of that. Three seasons and out. And it’s one of the most watched shows on Netflix.”
I’ve written previously about shows that I’d like to see available for streaming, including “Harry O” (1974-76), “Brimstone” (1998-99) and “Robbery Homicide Division” (2002-03).
If those shows are just sitting in vaults gathering dust, what’s the holdup in acquiring them for streaming?
“We have to figure out what we want. And nobody is actively selling them either. So we have to find out who owns the rights and try to work out a deal,” Sarandos said.
Sometimes it’s hard to find tapes of the shows in question, he said. Some studios are sophisticated about managing their libraries and some are not, especially on the TV side, he said.

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