UPDATED: Netflix customers soon will no longer be able to stream high-profile films like the “Hunger Games” movies and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” — while Hulu’s subscribers will be gaining access to them.
Netflix said it won’t renew its deal with Epix in a blog post Sunday by chief content officer Ted Sarandos. The deal will expire at the end of September, removing such hits as “World War Z” and the “Rocky” films from Netflix.
Epix confirmed the end of the relationship later Sunday by officially announcing that it and Hulu closed a multiyear, non-exclusive deal that will start Oct. 1, adding titles from Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate to that platform.
Netflix and Epix broke ground in their 2010 deal, carving out a third-party digital SVOD window for Epix and allowing Netflix to build up steam in its early years. Netflix lost exclusive rights in 2012, and Epix set an agreement with Amazon that year, which was re-upped in February.
“Hulu already offers some of the best and biggest titles in television programming, but our subscribers have been asking us for more, and more recent, big movies. We listened. Through this new deal with Epix, we are proud to now be able to offer a huge selection of the biggest blockbusters and premium films,” Craig Erwich, Hulu’s senior VP and head of content, said in the announcement. “This is a landmark deal for Hulu and it marks a huge expansion for our offering of premium programming.”
“Hulu has become one of the most popular premium streaming services and Epix’s agreement is evidence of their understanding of the value that our blockbuster Hollywood films, deep library of classic film titles and original programming brings to consumers,” said Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix. “We are excited to be partnering with Hulu, and share their commitment to providing viewers a truly premium experience, particularly as we enter the next phase of our network’s growth and development.”
At launch, “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “World War Z,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” “Robocop,” “God’s Not Dead” and more will become available to Hulu subscribers. “Interstellar,” “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” “Selma,” “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water,” “Top Five” and more will become available on the streaming service in the coming months.
Neither Epix nor Sarandos delved into the specifics of the end of their deal, and it’s often unclear in these situations who walked away from the table.
In the Netflix announcement, Sarandos touted the service’s growing slate of original movies, including Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation,” Adam Sandler’s “Ridiculous Six,” Brad Pitt’s “War Machine” and a Cambodia-based Angelina Jolie movie.
“We hear from our members that you wish we had newer movies,” Sarandos wrote. “So do we. Studio licensing practices means it often takes more than a year before consumers can watch a theatrically released movie when and how they want. Just like we’ve changed the game for TV watchers by releasing entire seasons around the world at the same time, we have begun making movies that will premiere on Netflix globally and in some cases, simultaneously in theaters.”
Sarandos noted that, while many of the movies to be removed are popular with users, they can be found in other places.
“We’ve enjoyed a five year partnership with Epix, but our strategic paths are no longer aligned,” Sarandos said in an official statement. “Our focus has shifted to provide great movies and TV series for our members that are exclusive to Netflix. Epix’s focus is to make sure that their movies will be widely available for consumers through a variety of platforms.”
Netflix reportedly paid Epix $1 billion in licensing fees for the life of the deal. The agreement allowed for Epix titles to hit Netflix 90 days after premiering on the premium cabler — typically eight to 10 months after a film bowed in theaters.
To a degree, the announcement shouldn’t come as too much as a surprise: As Netflix continued to up its original TV and film game, licensing deals started to seem less important.
Netflix still has its deal with Disney in the wings, though, which was inked in 2012 and will launch next year. As part of the deal, Netflix will have exclusive pay-TV rights for Disney films, including movies from properties Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm.
As for Hulu, movies have never been as much a priority for the service as TV shows have, which makes Epix arguably the biggest theatrical deal the streaming service has ever had. The company has already generated significant momentum this year on the licensing front, with multiple output deals from TV partners including FX Networks and AMC.