Starz to delay new series on Netflix streaming, movies may follow
Just two days after Showtime said it would soon stop making its original series available to stream from Netflix, Liberty Media's Starz, one of Netflix's longest running and most important partners, is changing its policy as well.
Starting April 1, when its new drama "Camelot" premieres, Starz will no longer put its original series on Netflix the day after they first air on television. Instead, Starz will institute a 90-day delay before Netflix subscribers can watch the shows via the Internet.
The pay channel also said that it eventually will institute a similar delay on movies. Starz currently provides movies from Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures to Netflix at the same time it gains the rights.
Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey, however, said, "Movies are not impacted and contractually cannot be delayed."
While that may be true for the moment, the companies' partnership expires in early 2012. Whether and how it may be renewed has been a looming question for both companies. Starz appears to be laying down a marker that, even if the deal is renewed, it will no longer provide its films as quickly.
Starz's announcement reflects a growing concern among many in Hollywood that Netflix is turning from partner into competitor. With more than 20 million subscribers, many of whom stream its library of movies and programs onto Internet-connected televisions, Netflix has in many ways become a premium channel that exists outside of the normal cable subscription universe.
Showtime and Starz's larger competitor HBO has consistently withheld its movies and television shows from Netflix for just that reason.
The new move to hold back original shows indicates that Starz may be growing concerned that providing content too quickly to Netflix could discourage consumers from subscribing to the cable channel.
Past seasons of Starz original series such as "Spartacus" will continue to be available on Netflix.
Swasey of Netflix called the change regarding television shows "evolutionary" and said it wouldn't significantly affect his company. "We value completeness more than freshness," he said.
Several movie studios last year reached deals that include a 28-day delay before Netflix can send newly released movies on DVD to subscribers.
-- Joe Flint and Ben Fritz
Photo: Eva Green as the malevolent Morgan in the Starz miniseries "Camelot." Credit: Michael Muller / Starz