On Sunday morning, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos took the unusual step of posting a letter to customers on the company blog, explaining that the streaming service wasn’t renewing its agreement with the cable network Epix, meaning that high profile movies including “Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “World War Z” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” will disappear from its U.S. catalog at the end of September.
“While many of these movies are popular, they are also widely available on cable and other subscription platforms at the same time as they are on Netflix and subject to the same drawn out licensing periods,” wrote Sarandos (pictured, left) in the blog.
A few hours later, competing streaming service Hulu issued a press releasing boasting that it had signed a multi-year agreement with Epix, bring the very same big movies into its catalog beginning on Oct. 1, along with a thousands of other titles from from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount, including franchises such as, the James Bond, “Rocky,” “Star Trek,” “Paranormal Activity”, “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Friday the Thirteenth” films. All new theatrical releases and original programming from Epix will be available 90 days after the start of their pay television window.
Hulu also noted other recent additions to its catalog, including titles from IFC Films (through its deal with AMC Networks, Showtime and The Criterion Collection.
“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,” said Craig Erwich, SVP and head of content for Hulu, in a statement. “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. This is a landmark deal for Hulu and it marks a huge expansion for our offering of premium programming.”
Sarandos began the blog post by acknowledging the common complaint that doesn’t have enough new “in-demand” movies on its service.
“We hear from our members that you wish we had newer movies. So do we,” Sarandos wrote, then blamed studio licensing practices, which “means it often takes more than a year before consumers can watch a theatrically released movie when and how they want.”
Two years ago, Netflix tried to alleviate customer concerns by explaining their licensing challenges to customers in a video (below).
In his blog post yesterday, Sarandos talked up all the exclusive original programming that Netflix has in the works, including director Cary Fukunaga’s (“True Detective”) African war drama “Beasts of No Nation,” due in December; the first of four Adam Sandler comedies “Ridiculous Six,” due in December; the Bill Murray holiday special “A Very Murray Christmas,” directed by Sofia Coppola; the early 2016 releases “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Green Legend” and “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday,” produced by Judd Apatow; the new drug war drama series “Narcos”; and the original documentary “Keith Richards: Under the Influence,” premiering Sept. 18.
Sarandos also boasted of the family films Netflix has coming due to new agreements with Universal (“Minions”), Sony Pictures Animation (“Hotel Transylvania 2”) and DreamWorks Animation (“Home”) and pointed out that it will be hte exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest theatrical movies from the The Walt Disney Company, including Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel movies.
“The majority of these films will arrive on Netflix faster than traditional arrangements had previously allowed,” Sarandos wrote.