My wife and I popped a bottle of wine on a Friday night last month. It was movie night in our house, which typically means surfing the iTunes movie catalog on our Apple TV until we find something that’s rent-worthy.
There was plenty to pick from, but nothing that grabbed our attention. Maybe next month. Our next stop? The Netflix app.
But we noticed Netflix’s movie selection is rather… bare? Uninteresting? My wife actually said, “I haven’t heard of any of these movies. Aren’t there any good movies on here?”
Of course, she isn’t the only one thinking this. It’s a common complaint across the internet. But is it just that…a complaint? Or has Netflix’s movie library really suffered?
Well, it’s a pretty common fact at this point that Netflix’s library is shrinking. Of course, what Netflix needs to do as it shrinks its licensed movie library is make sure the movies it does have are good ones.
But according to our analysis, it’s going backwards, unfortunately. A while back we noticed a post from this Reddit member who, two years ago, cross-referenced the IMDB (Internet Movie Database) top 250 movies list with Netflix’s movie library to find out how many of the top movies Netflix carried.
When u/clayton_frisbie posted his list on Reddit, Netflix had 49 of the Top 250 movies on the IMDB list. That’s just under 20 percent, which isn’t terrible.
But we wondered how that number has held up over the last two years in the face of a quickly shrinking library. So we reran the analysis. How many of the top 250 movies does Netflix now have?
As of September 2016, that number has dropped to 31, or about 12 percent. Here’s the list:
- Pulp Fiction
- Forrest Gump
- The Usual Suspects
- Saving Private Ryan
- Back to the Future
- Sunset Boulevard
- Cinema Paradiso
- Django Unchained
- The Shining
- American Beauty
- Reservoir Dogs
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- The Hunt
- Good Will Hunting
- V for Vendetta
- No Country for Old Men
- Into the Wild
- There Will Be Blood
- The Princess Bride
- The Truman Show
- Ip Man
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
It’s unclear why Netflix hasn’t worked to increase its library with movies that have been deemed popular. Cost likely comes into the equation — licensing isn’t cheap. But it could also deal with its desire to focus on original content, including movies.
This month, Netflix signed a deal with the theatre chain iPic Entertainment to debut some of its original movies on the big screen instead of streaming on a television set. According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal includes 10 Netflix originals, including “The Siege of Jadotville,” and the Christopher Guest-directed comedy, “Mascots.”
Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told The Journal that the deal is a way of building the Netflix brand.
“Putting it in a theatre might create a shorthand for people to understand these are really big movies,” he said. “These are not ‘TV movies.'”
iPic Entertainment screened Netflix’s “The Little Prince” in theaters earlier this year as part of a trial run.
Earlier this year, David Wells, the streaming company’s chief financial officer, said Netflix wants half of its content to be original productions over the next few years.
“We’ve been on a multiyear transition and evolution toward more of our own content,” Wells said in a conference call in September, as reported by Variety.
Now, there’s two ways to do that: 1) You can continue to ramp up your original programing, which we know is quite expensive, or 2) You can start cutting licensed TV shows and movies.
Well, and 3) I guess you could do a bit of both.
For Netflix, it makes good business sense to shift toward original, self-generated content for one big reason: original content is much easier to deal with because there are no licensing agreements and the programming — which is only available on Netflix — delivers a longer value, says Darrell Etherington, of TechCrunch.com.
“Licensing arrangements with outside TV and film distributors have a fixed term, and thus represent a recurring cost if you want to continue offering their content in your library. Original content is a one-and-done expense (though admittedly higher up-front), which then permanently continues to the breadth and size of your video catalog.”
While it may make good business sense to go this direction, it could upset some customers who want the service to be their go-to movie service.
“I absolutely do not care if you have exclusive rights for this content or if it’s original content,” said Nathan Hazout, a TechCrunch reader. “All I want is to type the name of the movie I want and click play. Your new focus on exclusive content is the reason I have canceled my subscription.”
Of course, fans of hits like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Marvel’s Daredevil,” will beg to differ. There’s no disputing that Netflix’s original content is a big reason why it has more subscribers than any other streaming service on the market today.
Today, the company is about “one-third to halfway” toward its 50-50 goal, Wells said. The company knocked out a good chunk of its licensed movies in September when its contract with Starz ended. That means no more “Scarface,” “Gangs of New York,” and many other classic titles.
According to CNN Money, Starz content accounted for only 2 percent of users viewing time.
Regardless, this much is true. Despite Netflix’s commitment to original content, its movie library is suffering. The question is, will the trend continue? Or will Netflix’s original movies begin popping up in IMDB’s list? Time will tell….