Streamageddon: Your Netflix Queue Just Got Shorter

Mayday is Doomsday for lovers of classic films on Netflix.

Today, the Warner/MGM library of classic films–the stuff I actually watch–vanished from the service. My queue was 49 films lighter this morning, and I’m feeling a little grumpy about it, particularly since I was preparing to cut my cable TV at the end of May.

Those classics films are appearing on the new Warner Archive Instant service: a premium streaming service that launched last month for $10 a month, and so far has slightly over 200 titles. Warner told Salon that WAI had nothing to do with the Netlfix loss of the library:

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. insists that the launch of Warner Archive Instant is not responsible for the removal of films from Netflix’s streaming service. Joris Evers of Netflix writes in to say that Netflix often licenses movies on an exclusive basis and sometimes chooses not to renew less watched titles. He also notes that many of the movies expiring at midnight were part of a deal Netflix had with Epix.

I can see that. Netflix is known for two things: a) creating a ground-breaking movie delivery service, and b) screwing it up.

But WAI isn’t exactly a brilliant idea, either. The Warner service is just another part of the weird studio branding attempts, like creating massive Blu-Ray box sets of movies that have nothing in common other than the Warner label. No one sits down and says, “Hey, honey, wanna watch a Warner movie tonight?” No one other than film buffs would even be able to tell you which stars were with which studios at which points in history.

And I was just getting pretty happy about the way entertainment delivery was developing, with streaming services replacing discs and cable. I don’t need 500 channels. I don’t sit down to “watch TV,” flicking around until I find something slightly less stupid than the offerings on the other 499 stations. If I feel like watching something particular (say, an old movie or an episode of Person of Interest), I sit down and watch it until it’s over, and then I stop and get on with my life. Not a single thing passes in front of my eyeballs that isn’t on disc, DVR, or streaming.

That era of “let’s see what’s on TV tonight” is over, and I’m glad to see the back of it. It was mostly a time-wasting, mind-dulling swamp. The only benefit it ever provided was a sort of shared cultural consciousness. You knew the next morning that everyone had watched MASH or the latest installment of Shogun the night before, and everyone could talk about it. It was the same thing during the Golden Age of radio. People describe walking down a city street on a summer night and being able to listen to the entire Edgar Bergen show as the sound drifted through one open window after another. Everyone was glued to the same station at the same time.

Of course, that was entertainment a family could enjoy together. I enjoy Walking Dead just fine, but it’s not something you gather the whole family for, unless you’re the Manson Family.

This atomization of entertainment isn’t a bad thing, though. I used to have to search out the quirky things I loved–silent and classic film, foreign films, old horror movies–sometimes paying $50 for a crummy VHS tape, as I had to for Murnau’s Nosferatu. Now, it’s all at the tips of my fingers for a pittance.

In order for that to really work, however, the streaming services need to get it together and make good deals to build strong libraries. No one wants to manage and pay for 5 or 6 services: that’s sending the whole technology in the wrong direction.

NOTE: Posts are going to be short and scattered as I finish my semester and take finals. Should be back on schedule soon. 

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    I’m with you 100% on this one. We’ve been looking at cutting our cable now, and have been exploring the various streaming video services. At some point, though, when you’re paying $8/mo for NetFlix, $7/mo for Hulu, $80/year for Amazon Prime, and now $ for WAI, what are you really saving?

    Warner Bros. seems to be the worst at ruining it for everyone, though. We were midway through Season 4 of Babylon 5 (THE. most. important. season. of just about any television show) when they pulled that from Netflix. Fortunately, we were able to find the rest of the episodes through other channels (cough, cough). Stargate (MGM) disappeared months ago (but is still on Amazon Watch Instantly… for now). Somehow, Supernatural (another Warner Bros. show) seems to still be on Netflix, though, and we’re grateful for that.

    Anyway, I hope the golden age of streaming video isn’t already over just as it was getting started. It sucks that the studios are all so greedy that they’ll put making a quick buck ahead of building a loyal customer base that actually likes their programming, but it’s hardly surprising.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I hadn’t even thought about Supernatural. We’d been watching some of the first season on Netflix.


  • Tim in Cleveland

    I’m surprised people still have cable. “Normal” television is only good for watching live events (i.e. sports) and everything else worth watching can be seen on the internet. The only down side to this is the tendency to have multiple windows open on the browser and peruse the internet during the boring parts of movies.

  • Adam

    Well to be nitpicky, if those all are all the services you’re paying for, that only comes out to $31.50 per month. I don’t know how much cable is where you are, but I’m guessing it’s almost twice that. Plus, with streaming you don’t have to sit through commercials (except for on Hulu; why do we pay a subscription AND have to watch commercials?). And as our host said, streaming a particular show is a much more intentional activity than just sitting down to watch TV.

  • Maggie Goff

    I know you’re going to hit it out of the ball park on your finals, but I’ll say a few prayers anyway. ;)

  • victor

    I believe it’s pronounced “Idjits” (“Supernatural” reference there).

    I wasn’t that enamored of the 1st season when it initially aired, but when they added Ben Edlund as a producer/writer in the second season (after “Angel” got cancelled), the show became infinitely better. Some of his episodes rival anything Joss Whedon did with Buffy, Angel, or anything since. “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” from season 6 is a great standalone episode, as is “Everybody Hates Hitler” from this season.. and of course any of the Ghostfacer episodes are great. “My Bloody Valentine” from Season 5 has probably the show’s biggest gross-out moment before the opening title even appears, but it introduces briefly one of the show’s funniest characters, too. I’d recommend “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” to anyone wondering what the show is all about.

  • Karen LH

    The only services that we pay for are Netflix DVD-only (because the selection is better) and Amazon Prime (only because the streaming video is included in a service that we were already subscribing to). Everything else that we stream is free. We use Hulu a lot, but only the free part, not Plus. Hulu Plus has never seemed worth the money to me.

  • Beccolina

    I was very upset about B5 disappearing (after Farscape also disappeared). B5 was next on my list after I finish Dr. Who. We only have Streaming Netflix, no Hulu or anything. I’d still cancel satellite if we could get all the football games streamed.

  • Matthew

    complete misinformation here, the Warner Archive is a completely separate library for titles that have never been on Netflix, and Warner is not retracting licenses to bring any other titles into WAC. the Warner Archive was originally created 4 years ago to offer made on demand burned DVDs for movies and TV series that could not support a traditional print run of pressed DVDs, the Instant streaming service is just another offering of that same library.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Where do you get “complete misinformation” from? Of course the Warner service is going to be built up to encompass their classic catalog. No one builds a whole streaming architecture and charges $10 a month for access to 222 movies. The old disc-on-demand service is the foundation for it, but it’s not the whole point of the service. It’s just the beginning.

    As for the Netflix/Warner thing, I print exactly what Warner had to say about the deal and its relationship to the Epix catalog. Read closer next time before you going throwing around claims of “misinformation.”