Why doesn't Netflix do old films?

Why so little representation of the sort of films stations like Turner Classic Movies run? I realize they have a few, but it seems so little when compared to the actual volume of films. Is there some special barrier for access to these films?

Just curious is all, and somewhat new to Netflix. (US version)

Are you asking about the DVD-by-mail service or the streaming service? If it’s the former, the movies are available from Netflix if they have good copies of the movie on DVD. Some older movies are out of print. If it’s the latter, then it’s a licensing issue. Netflix (and anyone else who wants to stream movies or TV shows) has to negotiate a licensing agreement for each title separately. On the other hand, the first sale doctrine means that if Netflix (or anyone else) can get copies of a title on DVD, it can rent it out.

Well, they don’t literally have to negotiate every single title. For new releases maybe, but for back-catalog stuff it’s a single deal for the whole catalog.

One big problem is that for a huge amount of older stuff, rights can be murky. Studios buy and sell each other, blocks of the catalog go this way and that, different distributors and production companies have different rights in different time periods, and so on. It gets messy. And for a lot of older stuff, there probably just isn’t enough demand to make figuring all that stuff out profitable.

Also, streaming licenses are all for a certain time period. Sometimes Netflix acquires a catalog of 50 zillion old movies, but the contract is only for two years and after that the studio doesn’t want to re-up. (Probably because not very many people were watching via Netflix anyway and so they didn’t make much money off of the deal.) Or maybe Amazon Prime offered better terms.

Some studios are now building their own streaming sites, like Hulu. In that case they’ll want their content to be exclusive where it doesn’t conflict with any existing deals already in place.

Yeah. The DVD-by-mail service has tons of old movies. TONS! Is part of why I keep that subscription going. (That and obscurish titles generally.)

This is probably better suited to Cafe Society than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Reads OP. Thinks of all the old movies he’s watched on Netflix streaming. Looks through pages and pages and pages of Netflix’s classic film listings in case he was imagining things. Wonders if OP somehow has a membership with a different Netflix.

While I agree that there is quite a lot of old stuff available by streaming, there can be some pretty big gaps. Try finding anything to stream with Peter Lorre in it, for instance.

I believe Warner Archive Instant reserves for their service many of the older films owned by Time Warner – Warner Bros., MGM pre-1986, and RKO. (As an example of their offerings, they offer four films with Peter Lorre, noted by asterion as being difficult to find.)

Searching for Peter Lorre I count 30 available on disc, including 6 of the Mr. Moto films. Plus 9 that can be put on your save list, including one more of the Mr. Moto films.

You just about can’t swing a black cat without hitting a film with him in it. (Like Tales of Terror)

Ditto about how they do have loads on DVD. No personal knowledge about streaming, but it’s logical that having a few copies of rarely-requested movies taking up valuable space on the servers might not be cost-effective.

Actually, I imagine that the marginal cost of keeping another movie on the servers is close to nothing. I suspect that the biggest limitation is on whether they have a license for a given movie. (BTW, the servers in question don’t belong to Netflix itself. Amazon hosts and streams the movies for Netflix. Ironic, given that Amazon has a competing streaming service.)

I don’t know why Netflix was so gung-ho to sell off the DVD-by-mail service in favor of the streaming service. Currently if I want to stream a movie, I might need to check if it’s available from Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Google or one of the other services. But Netflix stocks virtually anything that’s been released on Region 1 DVD.

For any particular individual movie, yes of course you are correct. But when you multiply it by the gazillions of movies that have ever been made, and then factor in how very rarely anyone will request this one film, it is a lot less cost-effective. That’s all I’m sayin’.

… I was going to give an example of an old movie which Netflix has on DVD but not on streaming. But after spending a half hour on the website AND on the phone with customer service, I have learned that it is not possible to browse Netflix availability without becoming a member. I personally AM a member, but I subscribe to DVD-only, so I have no way of finding out which titles are available for Streaming. Customer Support suggested that I take the free trial for streaming, and then I’d be able to browse, but I’ve learned the trap of these supposedly-free trials, and I am not going to do that.

Probably like a lot of areas in the entertainment, The Powers That Be don’t think that the older material does not appeal to enough people and if they exist, they are too tech limited to figure out streaming on a computer.

I’ve thought the same thing. And even dumber, if I’m looking for a movie on Netflix streaming, they don’t acknowledge that they have on DVD-by-mail. I wonder how many by-mail subscriptions they could sell, if when I do a search for Errol Flynn it showed me the 3 on-demand movies and the 12 DVDs that they offer.


Damn, ninja’d

I use 'Intolerance" to fall asleep to, 4 hour silent film, nothing but music :stuck_out_tongue: I also have Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and 5 or 6 more silents on my instant queue as background music. I like both versions of Metropolis, thanks very much. Moroder could do decent disco. Considering he was working with the chopped to hell version, I think he did fairly well.

The other thing is that there are much bigger barriers to entry in the DVD-by-mail service than the streaming service. Netflix owns a vast library of physical DVDs, it has the warehouses and specialized equipment to allow it to send and receive millions of DVDs daily. But virtually anyone can compete with them in the streaming space. The limitation is who has the rights to stream a particular title or a particular catalog of titles and there it’s a matter of who is willing to pay more for the rights, be it Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, etc.

Again, this is untrue. Storing the movie on a server is just hard drive space. And hard drive space at the bulk level can be had for pennies per GB.

FWIW, All Titles on Instant - from instantwatcher.com boast of having all instant watch titles. It probably has many errors as instant watch titles are disappearing frequently.

OP mentions Turner Classic Movies. How does one get a list of Turner Classic Movies to compare to Netflix?

I have a list of all Criterion Collection and have compared it to Netflix. They are mostly all there but Netflix nor Criterion Collection, to my knowledge, has any way of cross checking.

As I recall, the Criterion Collection sold streaming rights to their films to Hulu in place of Netflix. So Netflix has tons of great Criterion Collection DVDs, but can’t stream any of the movies (which is a huge loss to the folks who only have a Streaming subscription, as Criterion has a huge old movie collection).

This sort of Balkinization is one reason I’m less than enthusiastic about the brave new DVD-less “everything will be streamed” world everyone else seems to long for. Who wants to have to subscribe to dozens of different companies’ individual streaming services in order to have a reasonably full selection of content? I prefer the distribution model used by libraries and the Netflix DVD subscription service, where the company buys the rights to the content once and then is free to continually redistribute that content to its subscribers. I don’t want to have to sign up for HBO GO just to stream an episode of “Game of Thrones” and Hulu just to watch a couple of Criterion movies. I want one-stop shopping and a clear division between content producers and content distributors, but that’s the one thing the big media companies do NOT want to provide us!

<total hijack> I have a CD of a Spike Jones radio show where Lorre was the guest star. There was commentary - and one of the production people saw Lorre in his dressing room practicing doing Peter Lorre. </end hijack>