Leave a Comment

For years Netflix was the seemingly magical modern way to rent movies. For a reasonably low monthly subscription fee you could sign up to rent DVDs online, have them shipped to you in just two days, keep them as long as you want, and ship them back for free. In 2005, for a generation that had grown up racing to the nearby Blockbuster to get the movies back before the overdue fees kicked in, it was practically a miracle. Then when online streaming became a possibility, Netflix kicked it up another notch by offering an increasingly wide selection of movies for online streaming-- right that minute, for free!-- so that after awhile "Netflix" became synonymous with "movies you can rent without leaving your couch."

But that brave new world came with consequences, both from studios and self-created ones. There was the whole Qwikster debacle, but also competition from studios like Warner Bros., which launched its UltraViolet service that allowed viewers to store movies online. Warner Bros. still has to provide its movies to Netflix, of course, because there's a huge audience there, but they've now come up with a way to punish their competition in the process. A press release posted by Netflix today announces that Warner Bros. titles will only come to Netflix 56 days after the films are available for sale on DVD and Blu-Ray-- a window twice as long as the 28-day standard enforced by other studios.

Even through the corporate speak of the press release, you can read the tension between the two companies. Here's how Warner Bros. describes the change, and notice how they not-so-smoothly drop the Ultraviolet name in there:

"One of the key initiatives for Warner Bros. is to improve the value of ownership for the consumer and the extension of the rental window – along with our support of UltraViolet – is an important piece of that strategy."

And Netflix's response you can essentially read as being muttered through gritted teeth: "Netflix wants to ensure members have continued secure access to Warner Bros. DVDs and Blu-ray discs and, as such, is accepting the 56 day holdback." The company is, understandably, not adjusting well to the market they dominated suddenly being flooded by competition, and inevitably, it's now the consumer that's being punished. When you want to watch Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows after everybody else you know got it from Redbox and Netflix is still no-go, just remember you're the victim of a lot of corporate squabbling. Feels great, doesn't it?