Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Now Not Showing at iTunes and Netflix: Some of Your Favorite Movies

Want to watch nerd-favorite “The Fifth Element” via Netflix’s awesome streaming service? OK, but hurry up–the movie will disappear from the service on New Year’s Day. Want to rent the excellent George Clooney corporate thriller “Michael Clayton” via iTunes? Too late! The movie was there, but now it’s not.

Wait a minute: Hadn’t big media finally gotten religion and agreed to give us, the demanding consumers, everything we want, whenever we want it? Nope.

Hollywood in particular–which still has a big, if declining, business showing movies in theaters and then in other formats–is still interested in protecting its big analog revenue streams for as long as it can.

Translation: Netflix (NFLX) will show you just a slice of the of the 100,000+ movies it has in its regular catalog on its streaming service, because the studios aren’t eager to cut into their DVD sales and rental businesses. Which are way, way bigger than what they’re getting from digital outlets. And even movies that are available for free rental may disappear after a certain period, because the studios have other revenue “windows” to protect, as CNET explains.

The same thing goes for Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes: Even the mighty Steve Jobs can’t force the studios to give his customers unlimited access to their catalogs. This applies to multiple studios, by the way, and both new and old movies. “The Fifth Element” belongs to Time Warner’s (TWX) Warner Bros. studio, and came out way back in 1997, back when Netscape was a big deal. “Michael Clayton” is a Sony (SNE) movie that came out last year.

And by the way, that George Clooney movie really is good–like the excellent 1970s paranoia films brushed up a bit for modern times. And even more poignant after the past few months. I recommend seeing it even if you have to watch it on a screen other than your laptop. Which is exactly what Sony wants.


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