The odds are in Netflix’s favor as they have acquired the exclusive streaming rights to the blockbuster film The Hunger Games. After it’s big theatrical release (just over $408M in domestic box office), the premium/VOD cable channel EPIX bought first rights to air The Hunger Games on TV (which in turn benefited Amazon Prime members once EPIX made a deal with the streaming service back in 2012. Now that the EPIX exclusivity window has closed, Netflix has retained rights to the movie for streaming subscribers in the U.K., Canada and Ireland as of yesterday, though U.S. Netflix subscribers will have to wait a few months longer (or whatever Ted Sarandos meant by “later this year”).
Netflix has recently entered into exclusive streaming deals with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Lionsgate Entertainment, Miramax (for their library, including the films of Quentin Tarantino), The Walt Disney Company, and has entered into partnerships to produce exclusive content with DreamWorks SKG, Flavor Unit Entertainment and other producers of movie and TV content in order to maintain dominance in an increasingly crowded market. Reed Hastings’ streaming service has over 27 million subscribers as of February, 2013 and with successful original content offerings such as House of Cards in addition to their acquisitions of media partners and exclusive content to their streaming library, Netflix seems poised to complete its turnaround from near laughingstock in 2011 (remember Quickster?) to a company with a solid vision for the future of home entertainment.
Wall Street has begun noticing as consumers hard hit by years of recession, slow growth and a growing income gap, have looked for ways to stretch their disposable dollars, especially when it comes to cable TV vs. a plethora of new ways to obtain and enjoy movies, TV, music and books all from the comfort of one’s sofa. Cutting the cord has plenty of industry naysayers, yet more and more people are considering doing just that as cable bills continue to rise well into the hundreds of dollars for monthly “bundled’ subscription of services. As people continue to ditch their landline phones for mobile technology and smartphones, cable and satellite companies are becoming hard pressed to justify bundled services to an increasingly educated public.
Netflix, with its new original offerings, growing list of exclusive content to its on-demand video library, and plans for the future of home entertainment, seems to be a more attractive alternative to cable bloat, arcane pricing methods, and “cable wars” that have lead to stand-offs between content producers and cable companies, preventing subscribers from seeing some of their favorite shows and sporting events. That’s saying something for a company that’s been rumored to have been dead countless times in the last couple of years. Looking at it another way, Netflix didn’t even blink when the U.S. Postal Service decided to cancel Saturday delivery of the mail beginning in August. The way Netflix and Reed Hastings seem to be looking at it, if you’re still depending on mail service to get discs, and haven’t yet tuned in to watch Kevin Spacey in top form via Netflix Instant, then you’re in danger of being left behind as streaming grows out of its infancy and beyond its adolescence to become a mature, dependable service that delivers premium entertainment.