Netflix may lose some streaming movies

Just as Netflix agreed with one studio to delay new releases in exchange for more streaming movies, another studio could end up blocking its streaming catalog from the service.

It’s a complicated situation, according to Bloomberg’s inside sources, in which the cable movie channel Starz provides lots of newer films to Netflix’s instant streaming catalog as part of a digital rights agreement with Hollywood studios. But Disney considers newer movies that appear on Starz, such as Wall-E, to be premium content, and wants online viewers, including Netflix subscribers to pay extra. That’s not likely to fly with Netflix, whose streaming plan is predicated on one price for all-you-can-watch.

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We’ll see how this shakes out. Bloomberg says it’s possible that Netflix would have to negotiate directly with Disney to keep streaming some of its movies, but Starz has also indicated that it will fight to hang onto digital rights. Does this mean the cost of streaming for Netflix subscribers will increase? Bloomberg’s report doesn’t say.

In any case, don’t expect any big changes soon, because the existing Starz contract with Disney runs through 2012.

Days ago, Netflix and Warner Bros. Studios agreed not to make new releases available through Netflix’s mail-order service until 28 days after the DVD goes on sale. In exchange, Netflix will get more movies from Warner for its instant streaming catalog. That seems like a fair trade to me — Netflix gets more streaming movies, and Warner gets to learn the hard way that people will still rent their movies instead of buying them.

Disney’s supposed tactics, on the other hand, would only inconvenience customers. The studio essentially wants more money from customers for the same service that’s being offered now. That won’t fly.