If This Is Evil Netflix, Where Is the Goatee?


Netflix apparently doesn't want its subscribers to suffer from stream anxiety.

The leading video service has let subscribers know when the streaming licenses on its movies and shows are expiring -- giving members the opportunity to dig deep into their virtual queues to check out content before it goes away -- for some time.

Netflix also used to make the expiration dates known to third-party developers that offer applications to track these changes, but that ends this week.

"Starting today, we will no longer provide expiration dates for any of our titles in the public API," Netflix announced on Monday in its blog for developers. "We are making this change because the expiration date can be inaccurate as a result of frequent, often last minute, changes in content flow."

Changes do happen, but there is little doubt that this stems from the backlash that Netflix received after nearly 2,000 of its streaming titles expired last month.

Netflix isn't being entirely evil here.

"Netflix members will still be able to see the listed title expirations on Netflix.com on each individual title page," the blog entry concludes.

In other words, Netflix isn't going to make it a complete mystery to its 29.2 million domestic streaming customers. I still know that I have to break it to my son that SpongeBob SquarePants is going away next week. It may be inconvenient for subscribers to have to click through to individual title pages or pull up their queue on a PC and scroll through the "Notes" column, but the information is there. It's just a questionable move to make it harder for programmers to relay this information in more engaging ways than Netflix's organic solution.

This is the new reality. Discs may be forever, but streaming titles go away.

Subscribers will have to learn to live with that. Netflix has lost popular content before. Amazon.com hasn't had as many content deletions, but that's because it's only been in this niche since 2011. Just wait until the expiration anniversaries begin to pile up.

Licensing will always be a major shortcoming. It's not just about the studios keeping new content away the way that they did on the DVD side through Netflix, Coinstar's Redbox, and Dish Network's Blockbuster, delaying new releases by weeks in exchange for favorable purchase terms. Older titles will also be hard to keep around.

The upside here is that Netflix and Amazon are already starting to know what content is actually worth to their users during their initial runs. A key reason for Netflix targeting Arrested Development for a revival is that it saw its audience grow, unlike most of the cult shows available through its site, where the audience remains steady.

Streaming services will inevitably break your heart -- just as Blockbuster Video stores and Redbox kiosks eventually run out of stocking space -- but at least the decision to move on will be one based on hard numbers. Hopefully as soon as we all realize that streaming licenses don't live forever, Netflix can open up again about the mortality of its titles to third-party developers.

The tech war will be streamed
It's incredible to think just how much of our digital and technological lives are almost entirely shaped and molded by just a handful of companies. Find out "Who Will Win the War Between the 5 Biggest Tech Stocks?" in The Motley Fool's latest free report, which details the knock-down, drag-out battle being waged by the five kings of tech. Click here to keep reading.

The article If This Is Evil Netflix, Where Is the Goatee? originally appeared on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.