New deal eliminates streaming rights to current shows

Showtime and Netflix have struck a new deal that won’t give the upstart subscription service streaming rights to the CBS Corp.-owned channel’s current series.

The shift comes as Showtime focuses on providing content to its newly launched Showtime Anytime authenticated broadband service.

While previous seasons of “Dexter” and “Californication” will disappear from Netflix this summer, Showtime will allow programs no longer active on the network to remain available for streaming via Netflix.

For instance, “The Tudors” will still be streamable on Netflix, and another Showtime series that isn’t on the service yet, “Sleeper Cell,” will be added in July.

Past and previous seasons of its current series will make their way to Showtime Anytime. The cabler launched the service with Comcast last October, providing subscribers with access to 400 hours of free on-demand programming on digital platforms. Showtime declined comment on the pact, but a spokeswoman issued a statement in response to the inquiry. “Current and past seasons of our original series will be available to our authenticated subscribers via our TV Everywhere service Showtime Anytime. A number of Showtime original series will continue to be available and stream on Netflix including ‘The Tudors’ and ‘Sleeper Cell.'”

A Netflix spokesman said “Dexter” and “Californication” are currently available and the company is working to renew them. He added that titles come and go as the “natural ebb and flow of the title availability at Netflix.”

“We have a great relationship with CBS Corp. and are in the process of renewing and adding shows from their many programming channels, including Showtime,” the spokesman added.

The mixed signals are a reflection of the “frenemies” status that keep subscription offerings like Showtime and Netflix in business. While Netflix’s recent decision to license firstrun series “House of Cards” only accentuates its growing rivalry with pay TV networks, the company’s growth to more than 20 million subscribers makes it too popular to ignore as a storefront — at least for library assets like “Sleeper.”

More and more programmers are expected to hold back streaming rights once sold to Netflix and other services and put them to use for TV Everywhere initiatives, though to date few besides Time Warner’s HBO and Turner Broadcasting have done so.

While that strategy delivers added value to cable operators who fork over billions each year to content companies, they lose out on incremental revenue opportunities from the likes of Netflix.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos acknowledged to Variety that the growing reluctance of premium cable channels to license streaming rights to their original series was a factor in the recent decision to obtain firstrun programming from Media Rights Capital.

HBO does not make any of its programming available for streaming on Netflix.

Sources indicated the new Showtime deal was struck before the “Cards” pact was announced.

The withdrawal is a blow to Netflix, where heavily serialized series are some of the biggest draws in its TV library.

The deal does not affect DVD versions of Showtime series; agreements on those are negotiated separately. Netflix never had streaming rights to the most recent seasons of Showtime shows, just the first two seasons of “Californication” and “Dexter.”

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