Sony Movies Pulled from Netflix Streaming

Starz pulled studio's titles temporarily, as part of a streaming rights dispute

All of Sony movies have been pulled from Netflix's streaming service, the subscription service announced on Friday. 

Netflix said that titles such as "Easy A" and "Grown Ups" are no longer available due to contract issues between Starz and Sony, but that explanation is being disputed by individuals involved in the negotiations.

"You may have noticed that Sony movies through StarzPlay are not currently available to watch instantly," Pauline Fischer, Netflix's Vice President of Content Acquisition, wrote on the company's blog. "This is the result of a temporary contract issue between Sony and Starz and, while these two valued partners work through their differences, we hope you are enjoying the wide variety of new movies and TV shows added daily," 

However, an individual with knowledge of the negotiations denied that Starz and Sony were in any kind of standoff over streaming rights. Rather, the individual told TheWrap that the decision to yank the studio's movies off of Netflix site on Friday morning was Starz's alone. 

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Sony declined to comment and a spokesperson for Netflix declined to elaborate on Fischer's blog post.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Starz told TheWrap: "Sony movies have been temporarily taken down from the StarzPlay service on Netflix. All parties are working diligently to resolve the issue and return the films to Netflix members.”

If Starz is in fact limiting access to content, it is in keeping with recent moves by the cable company to tighten restrictions on the movies and shows Netflix streams as part of an earlier agreement. That deal was widely perceived as a steal for Netflix, which paid far less for streaming rights to Starz than it has shelled out to subsequent partners.

The $30 million Netflix is believed to have paid Starz is significantly less than the $1 billion the company is reportedly spending to stream programming and movies from Epix. The old pact ends in 2012.

Starz had been an early partner in Netflix's streaming service, giving the subscription service online access to shows and movies from Disney and Sony. Negotiations for a new deal with Starz have been closely scrutinized by analysts.

Last April, Starz tightened restrictions on the content it makes available through Netflix, saying it will no longer allow the company to stream its shows the day after they air. Instead Netflix has to honor a 90-day waiting period for all episodes it streams.

Along with its other big-ticket studio partner, Disney, Starz has been locked in another battle over content rights. The two companies sued Dish Network earlier this year over a promotion that gave the satellite provider's subscribers a free year of Starz — and by extension, Disney movies.