Netflix has an impressive library of movies, shows, documentaries, really anything your heart yearns for. What it doesn’t have is every movie known to mankind. A service like that would probably cost too much for anyone to realistically consider buying, especially on a monthly subscription.
It comes down to licenses and distribution rights. If a movie or TV show was in your library one day and gone the next, Netflix’s licensing agreement most likely ran its course and Netflix, not wanting to stream it anymore, decided against renewing the license.
How Netflix Does Business
In fact, if you’ve bought Netflix’s monthly subscription, you’ve had a hand in Netflix’s library. It’s the way they do business. Through their subscription, the money is funneled into buying more and more licenses, as well as keeping those movies and TV shows around.
Unfortunately, your subscription doesn’t give you direct access to the content that shows up in their library (that would be great, though). Netflix is a business and a business is going to make decisions based on what’s better for them. You and 10 other unique individuals might like some obscure TV show or movie, but the license might be too expensive or there just isn’t enough interest to justify buying it.
Disney’s Moana sat in Netflix’s library for a year and a half. Why? Considering it was Disney’s big animated movie at the time, and its budget has been estimated to be close to $200 million, Moana has grossed $640 million worldwide. Disney’s Moana not only paid its budget back, but went on to make another $440 million. That isn’t the entire picture, but that should give you some idea of what a business like Netflix shoots for.
It’s entirely possible your favorite TV shows and movies could be gone by tomorrow. And it might not always been decided on licenses. Netflix regularly shuffles content in and out of its library on a monthly basis. You’ll know ahead of time when a movie or TV show is making its way for the door. It keeps their library fresh. And hey, you might see something new you enjoy.
Your Place of Origin Matters
Where you live has a hand in what you see. Take the United States and United Kingdom, for example, both are English-speaking regions and yet, neither has a one for one library. It can be boiled down to two reasons: rights and taste.
Using the U.S. and U.K. as examples again, English-speaking regions does not equal the same taste in movies and TV shows. The major player in this balance, however, is a region’s rights. Censorship isn’t equal in every place of origin. The United States can be broken down into three levels: the FCC, self-regulation and none at all, in that order.
First, the FCC does have a hand in some censorship, particularly nudity and language; think news channels.
Self-regulation usually involves the channel deciding what they want censored or not, but since these channels are looking to make money through advertisement, they regulate themselves; think Comedy Central or the Disney Channel.
Then you have channels like HBO. Premium channels can pretty much do whatever they want. Nudity, cursing, adult content–they have free reign.
Of course, that isn’t the whole picture, just a grossly general breakdown. The point being made is that every region has its own views on what they deem should be censored or not. If a movie in the U.S. contains content that would be censored in another region, either it won’t be released in that region, or heavily censored at the least, like scenes being removed.
Some regions might not even have any rights for Netflix to buy. If it isn’t available in that region, Netflix can’t make the rights appear out of thin air.
Netflix’s Exclusive Right and Non-Exclusive Rights
Cycle through Netflix’s library and pick out their exclusive movies and TV shows. If they’re currently being streamed only on Netflix, then you’ll know that Netflix fought for those rights. Buying the license for a show is already expensive enough, but buying exclusive rights takes an even bigger toll.
Fire up any number of streaming apps and look for movies and TV shows that are available on multiple platforms. If you found a few, congratulations, you just found a non-exclusive movie and TV show. This comes down to an agreement made between Netflix and the owner of the movie or TV show.
Now, do the same as before, but look for movies and TV shows that don’t show up on multiple platforms. Chances are, you stumbled across an exclusive deal, usually followed by the tagline “a Netflix original.”
Netflix has a, somewhat, a complicated web of decisions to make before it streams a particular TV show or movie. Netflix has to worry about regions, rights, censorship and, above all, money. And yet, it still manages to be a great streaming service.