Netflix subscribers have limited days to watch classics films such as The Good The Bad and The Ugly and Cape Fear before the licenses expire.
Nearly 500 films and TV series will vanish from Netflix's British catalogue over the coming days as the service reaches the anniversary of its launch in the UK. With little announcement to its subscribers, the TV-on-demand service will remove 66 titles on New Year's Day, a further two between January 2-3 and another 407 on January 5.
Spaghetti Western For a Few Dollars More will be unavailable on Netflix from January 1 along with its 1966 sequel, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The Untouchables, Kevin Costner's 1987 crime drama, will disappear on New Year's Day and Cape Fear, starring Robert De Niro, is only available to watch until January 5.
According to Netflix, there is generally an upward trend in quantity of content, especially in a new market such as the UK. Currently, a total of 2674 titles are available on Netflix UK, which launched on January 9 2012. Nevertheless a removal of nearly 20 per cent of titles seems considerable. However, the service is constantly letting some films expire and signing others up as part of a natural ebb and flow of content.
Joris Evers, director of communications at Netflix say
"We have a continuous ebb and flow of titles on Netflix and this isn't anything new. We always add titles as we secure rights and remove titles as our license expires. We are always looking to provide a great mix of things to watch that our members will love."
Netflix marks titles which are near expiry with a notice, stating the expiry date, as can be seen below. However, there are no lists of expiring films published by the company and members are not otherwise notified of which films will soon be unavailable, even of those stored in subscribers' My Lists section of the site, a type of to-watch list.
The list of expiring films can be found on Netflix.maft.co, an unofficial website made by web developer Matthew Morley that keeps track of Netflix's acquisitions through a piece of code that detects what is being added to the service.
Morley says that the removal of so much programming suggests that Netflix is coming to the end of contracts formed shortly before the service launched in the UK, exacerbating the usual monthly shift of old and new content on Netflix.
“Generally towards the end of each month we see between 10 and 40 titles expiring, but this is usually countered by the 'First of the Month' updates where between 20 and 80 new titles are added,” Morley says. “Throughout the month there's a steady trickle of additions and removals but the majority of both are in the first week of each month.”
Wayne McClellan, who runs a Netflix fan page on Facebook, posted on Sunday that the removal of MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central content suggests that Netflix’s deal with Viacom, the American mass media company, is coming to an end. Netflix US ended its contract with Viacom in May, with rival streaming service Amazon scooping up thousands of TV episodes in June as a result. It remains to be seen if UK streaming rival, LoveFilm, will make a deal with Viacom.
Netflix says that content deals are allowed to expire because the content is not being watched sufficiently to merit renewal.
However, some of the content due to expire has only been made available on Netflix for a number of weeks. Channel 4's makeover series 10 Years Younger, for instance, first appeared on the service in November 2013 and will be taken down on January 5. Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 classic, The 39 Steps, is expiring on the same day despite having started its contract months earlier in August 2013.
Other titles which will be unavailable after January 5 include: Food Inc. (2008), Educating Rita (1983), Almost Famous (2000), Requiem for a Dream (2000), Agatha Christie's Poirot (2001-2010), Chappelle's Show (2003 - 2005), The Cider House Rules (1999), Death of a Salesman (1985), Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959) and Louis CK: Chewed Up (2008).
Netflix are introducing new content constantly however: 10 new films including the 2011 remake of Wuthering Heights and Dustin Hoffman's 2012 drama A Late Quartet were brought to Netflix since Christmas Eve. There have been three removals in the same period, notably that of Downton Abbey's back catalogue on Christmas Day.
Regarding content in the future, Netflix has just announced major deals with Dreamworks and Disney/Marvel. This year it is adding homegrown UK content (Mr Selfridge), US shows (final seasons of Dexter), Netflix originals (season 2 of House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and Orange is the New Black) and the first run exclusive of Breaking Bad spin off Better Call Saul as well as Oscar nominated Netflix Original documentary, The Square.