Why Classic Shows Are Vanishing From Netflix

As fees soar, networks favor new content

Last October there was a brief (albeit furious) hue and cry over the departure of CBS’ long-running Angela Lansbury mystery series, Murder, She Wrote, from Netflix. It caused, as Jezebel’s Rebecca Rose put it, “a disturbance in the Force.” Normal service was restored a few months later, but the show’s brief departure—and its unexpected resurgence in popularity—point up a new trend in Web video: Content is getting more expensive, and sometimes the stuff IP owners want you to see isn’t the stuff you want to watch.

“Based on its deals, content is constantly going in and out of streaming services,” explained Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Netflix will spend more than $3 billion this year alone, and they’re committed to licensing more than $7 billion. The cost to produce content is higher than anything, and that’s the highest cost of all.”

Rayburn said that content costs, not the much-lamented fees from ISPs, are going to make the difference to consumers when it comes time to assess pricing.

But networks, ultimately, want to drive live viewership—that’s where the money still is, and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos has claimed that the service “brought maybe a million viewers to AMC” in 2012. And that may mean Sony sells less Monty Python’s Flying Circus and more Drop Dead Diva.

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