Starz tightens Netflix windows

Cabler to impose 90-day delay for streaming of movies, series

In another sign that Hollywood’s wary of Netflix’s rapid growth, Starz on Thursday said it intends to tighten the availability of pics and TV series on the service.

Starz’s move to restrict its programming comes after similar retrenchment by Showtime (Daily Variety, March 23). Both shifts reflect the concern among showbiz congloms that Netflix is building a formidable business on the back of Hollywood content and fueling the cord-cutting that will hurt showbiz’s most important distribution partners, cable and satellite operators.

Cable programmers are looking to steer their streaming rights to their own proprietary services that fall under the authentication business model, aka TV Everywhere.

Starz said it will impose a 90-day delay for the availability of original series that will begin with its April 1 launch of “Camelot.”

Starz’s firstrun movies, including the titles it runs through its output deals with Disney and Sony, “will follow suit,” according to a statement from Starz.

A spokeswoman said the date for the delay of the movies has yet to be determined. Netflix said there would be no immediate change in the availability of the pics as its deal with Starz isn’t up until the end of the year. “Movies are not impacted and contractually cannot be delayed,” the Netflix spokesman said.

Still, the shift in the terms of Starz’s movie deal with Netflix is significant because it was the 2008 pact between Starz and Netflix that allowed the latter to build up its streaming biz via access to hit Disney and Sony theatricals.

The tightening of programming windows has been seen by industry observers as a catalyst for Netflix’s decision to license original programming, as it did last week in cutting a two-season deal with Media Rights Capital for the Kevin Spacey series “House of Cards.”

Analysts have deemed it crucial for Netflix to renew its deal with Starz in order to hold onto digital rights to the Sony and Disney movies. But they’ve also projected that Starz will squeeze Netflix for much more than the estimated $30 million per year the streaming service currently pays.

Netflix used to make Starz programming available the day after the program’s debut on the mothership cable channel via the Starz Play streaming service that is carried by Netflix, as well as telcos Qwest and Verizon.

A Netflix spokesman shrugged off the impact of the delay on Starz original series, noting that its subscribers often watch multiple episodes in one sitting.

“We don’t optimize for day-and-date or next-day because Netflix members come here for the completeness of a series,” he said.

The delay will not affect original Starz series that have already been available on the Starz Play platform.

But as with the Showtime move, the restrictions will not affect Starz’s TV Everywhere platform, Starz Online, which is carried by Comcast, AT&T and Dish Network. Showtime is going to make episodes of current series available on Showtime Anytime.