×

In-Season ‘Stacking’ Rights: TV Biz Battles for Binge Viewing

TV execs discuss the fight to retain rights from SVOD bidders at Variety summit

Who owns binge viewing?

That’s the burning question separating subscription VOD services like Netflix from TV networks and their distribution partners, not to mention the studios stuck in the middle, as a heated discussion Monday at Variety’s Entertainment & Technology Summit indicated.

“That’s where the big fight is happening now,” said Marc Graboff, president of Core Media Group, the company behind “American Idol.”

The crux of the conflict is over what’s known as “in-season stacking rights,” which are rights to all of the episodes in the current season of a TV show. TV networks and pay-TV distributors generally have rights only to what’s known as the “rolling five,” the last five episodes of a show that aired on TV.

However, SVOD services want to bid those rights away from networks and distributors, which are loath to pay much extra for those rights given that they feel entitled to those episodes from their current affiliate deals. What’s more, companies like Netflix and Amazon say that exposing current-season content to pay-TV subscribers dilutes the value of the content they’re willing to pay top dollar to put on their own services.

And that doesn’t sit well with studios either that want to maximize revenues in the SVOD window.

“The challenge is financial,” said Lionsgate Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs (pictured above). “The value of Netflix down the line is going to be reduced if there’s play in the first season.”

All involved are fine with SVOD services buying up rights to previous seasons, but when it comes to the current season, all bets are off. The notion is that if a series can make available all of the episodes from a current season at any point during that season, it’s more likely they can induce the catch-up viewing that leads to tune-in for the latest episodes.

But as Chuck Saftler, president of program strategy and COO of FX Networks noted, networks need to have control over their content. “To have a show like ‘The Americans’ and (consumers) can’t go back to the beginning of the season — that doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“We want to stream all of our shows from a season, as opposed to two or three or five (episodes),” said Mark Stern, president of original content at Syfy.

“Studio and network interest diverge sometimes, and that provides an extra complication to things,” said Beggs. “I’m not sure how it’s going to get resolved but it will.”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • YouTube TV Adds Subscription Options for

    YouTube TV Adds Subscription Options for AMC Networks' Acorn TV, UMC

    Google’s YouTube TV now offers two more add-on channels to subscribers, under an expanded pact with AMC Networks: British TV service Acorn TV and UMC (Urban Movie Channel), which features a selection of black TV and film titles. Acorn TV’s add-on channel is now available via YouTube TV for $6 per month and UMC is [...]

  • homepod-white-shelf

    Apple Said to Prep Cheaper HomePod for 2020

    Apple is getting ready to introduce a cheaper version of its HomePod smart speaker in 2020, Bloomberg reported Thursday. The company is also working on a new version of its AirPod headphones for next year, according to Bloomberg. Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The new version of the HomePod is said [...]

  • Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Copyright

    Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Massive Copyright Infringement

    Eight Mile Style, a publishing company that holds administration rights to Eminem’s early catalog, filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify late Thursday, claiming that the streaming giant has no license to host about 250 of Eminem’s songs, while also taking aim at the Music Modernization Act, the federal law enacted last year to [...]

  • iQIYI headquarters building in Beijing

    China’s iQIYI in Talks for Indonesia Expansion

    Chinese streaming firm iQIYI is in negotiations to expand further into Southeast Asia through a venture with Indonesia’s Media Nusantara Citra. iQIYI announced its first step outside Chinese-majority territories in June, when it revealed a linkup in Malaysia with pay-TV leader Astro. It also operates in Taiwan. In April, the company said that it planned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content