Yes, Netflix’s Film Catalog Has Gotten Much Smaller, And It Is Frustrating
With whatever insanity seems to be going on at Warner Bros., today doesn’t seem so good for the film industry. At least we get to see the first teaser for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tomorrow, but until then, here’s some more disappointing news for you, this time from your ol’ reliable streaming pal Netflix.
While endlessly browsing Netflix, unable to commit to a film or TV show to watch before ultimately settling on an episode of 30 Rock you’ve seen 14 times already, have you occasionally thought to yourself, “There seem to be less movie choices than before”? Oh, you have? Okay, it’s not just you (or me). According to All Flicks, Netflix’s film and TV catalog has experienced a bit of shrinkage in recent years — not of the “it happens to everyone” variety, but of the unfortunately noticeable George Costanza kind:
The statistics are simple and remarkable: in January of 2014, Netflix offered its US-based users a selection of 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows, for a total of 8,103 titles. As of March 23, 2016, they offer just 4,335 movies and 1,197 TV shows – 5,532 titles in total. That’s 2,571 fewer titles. In other words, Netflix’s catalog has shrunk 31.7% in less than two and a half years!
In less than three years, Netflix’s movie library has decreased by 33.2 percent, while their television catalog has dropped by 25.6 percent. That’s not a small number by any stretch of the imagination, but the reason isn’t difficult to discern: with Netflix debuting 31 new original series this year and could spend up to $5 billion on programming in 2016, which includes original films and TV shows.
As Slashfilm notes, Netflix has several streaming competitors all vying for the same titles, including Amazon and Hulu — both of which have followed in Netflix’s footsteps, considerably upping their original content over the last year.
But what makes this report frustrating is the increasing difficulty in finding specific titles to stream or rent via various media services. If you’re paying for Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus and Netflix Instant, and you have access to other services like iTunes, Vudu, et al., then surely at least one of these platforms should have the movie you want to watch, right? That’s not always the case, and it’s the perfect excuse for people who pirate content — especially those who pirate indie films.
And what really makes this unfortunate is how Netflix put video stores on the endangered species list. Many larger cities still boast independently-owned video stores that carry a wide selection, including independent, genre, classic and niche titles that aren’t available via Netflix or other streaming providers. But not everyone is lucky enough to live in a city with a video store, which is what made Netflix so hugely appealing in the first place.
Right now it feels as though Netflix (and Amazon; not so much Hulu, since the Criterion library is all they really have going for them, movie-wise) is forsaking the very people who put them in a position to spend $5 billion on original content. Sure, we love variety and we love that Netflix is diversifying its content so we can spend even more endless, wasted hours browsing through a bunch of titles before inevitably giving up and watching 30 Rock (again) — but we also want what we signed up for, which is the convenience of being able to watch movies that aren’t readily available anywhere else, and certainly far less available now that Netflix has turned video stores into unicorns.