Opinion Brief

Can Netflix survive the loss of 800 hours of reality shows and documentaries?

The company's deal with A&E to stream shows like Hoarders and Pawn Stars expires, sparking concerns about Netflix's ability to keep exclusive content

Reality-show junkies who subscribe to Netflix just got 800 hours of their lives back. On Monday, Netflix's streaming deal with A&E (which also owns The History Channel) expired without a successful renegotiation, which means the immediate loss of a substantial amount of reality-show content, including shows like Pawn Stars, Hoarders, Intervention, and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Though it's less of a blow than Netflix's recent breakdown with Epix — which owns high-profile content like The Avengers and The Hunger Games, and last month ended a longtime exclusive deal with Netflix by signing a deal with Amazon — it's another loss of content for subscribers of the company's streaming video service. What does this mean for Netflix's long-term goals, and will subscribers want to keep paying for the streaming video service as it hemorrhages content?

Netflix's power in the streaming industry is waning: Discussions with A&E broke down because Netflix "was seeking increased exclusivity" — something A&E was reluctant to grant, says Tim Kenneally at The Wrap. When Netflix began its streaming video service, it was essentially the only game in town; now, with legitimate competition from other streaming-video services like Amazon Instant Video, studios are much warier about licensing their premium content to one service exclusively. This is exactly what happened with Starz earlier this year, which said it pulled its content from Netflix "to protect the premium nature of our brand." And with Epix and A&E having followed Starz's lead, this probably won't be the end of Netflix's exclusivity woes."A&E programming pulled from Netflix streaming service"

The A&E shows weren't worth keeping: This happened because Netflix is "growing more selective" about which exclusives are worth keeping, says Dawn C. Chmielewski at The Los Angeles Times. The reality series offered by A&E "aren't heavily in demand," and the ever-increasing competition from rival streaming services has made Netflix use its resources more carefully. Anyone who doubts Netflix's power should look at the company's other exclusives, which include some of its "most-watched content," including programs like AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and new deals struck with networks like ABC, which allowed the company to stream shows like Revenge, Once Upon a Time, and Scandal."Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers disappear from Netflix"

Netflix is just moving away from unscripted content: This decision has serious implications for all of Netflix's video library, says Germain Lussier at SlashFilm. The deletion of so much reality-show programming heralds "a shift in company priorities from nonfiction to fiction programming." Netflix made inroads toward exclusive original content earlier this year with the mob drama drama Lilyhammer, and the service has plenty more exclusive series on the horizon, including House of Cards, Derek, and the resurrected Arrested Development. By allowing the agreement with A&E to expire, Netflix made a clear statement about its programming priorities as it looks to the future."Netflix loses 800 hours of new A&E and History Channel content"

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