Netflix to Stream Relativity Movies

Netflix said Tuesday it’s secured rights to stream an unspecified number of Relativity-produced movies on its website.

Known mostly for online rentals of DVDs mailed to subscribers, Netflix has been growing a digital-rentals service that allows subscribers to stream films and other content. Netflix previously struck streaming deals with Warner Bros., Fox and selected other studios.

Netflix’s deal with Relativity will delay the availability of select titles until after the packaged media release window, allowing pics to be streamed by subscribers several months after their theatrical release in what might normally be considered the pay-TV window. It wasn’t immediately clear how many titles Relativity projects will fall under the deal, but it appears to apply only to its wholly produced movies.

“Traditionally, these films have flowed through Relativity’s studio releasing partners to output deals with premium TV channels,” the parties noted.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment handles Relativity releases on DVD, Blu-Ray disc and select digital distribution platforms.

In announcing the deal, Netflix claimed the agreement with Relativity reflected a paradigm shift in ancillary movie distribution away from pay TV channels.

“The deal marks a continued shift in the distribution of major motion pictures in the U.S.,” the companies said. “Under the agreement, an increasing amount of popular contemporary movies previously encumbered by pay TV agreements with premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and Starz will become available to be streamed from Netflix months — and not years — after their release on DVD. It will be the first time that studio-quality theatrical feature films will be streamed via subscription by Netflix instead of being broadcast by the traditional pay providers.”

Upcoming Relativity productions to be covered under the deal include Paramount’s boxing drama “The Fighter” and dramatic thriller “Skyline” from Universal Studios. Set for 2010 theatrical releases, the pics will be available for streaming on Netflix in early 2011.

“Our continued goal is to expand the breadth and timeliness of films and TV shows available to stream on Netflix,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said.

“We have always been about finding new ways to grow and monetize our business,” Relativity chief Ryan Kavanaugh said. “This clearly is a natural step in the evolution of the movie business and opens up a whole new world of revenue and marketing opportunities.”