Why Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Haven’t Dumped ‘The Cosby Show’

As cable networks abandon reruns of the series starring disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, digital streaming services are standing pat

THE COSBY SHOW -- Pictured: (back row, l-r) Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Theodore 'Theo' Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad as Clair Hanks Huxtable, Sabrina Le Beauf as Sondra Huxtable Tibideaux, (front row, l-r) Keshia Knight Pulliam as Rudy Huxtable, Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable, Tempestt Bledsoe as Vanessa Huxtable (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NBCU Photo Bank

In wake of new revelations in the scandal embroiling its creator and star, “The Cosby Show” has become a pariah on television.

On Tuesday, cable channels Bounce TV and Centric Network dropped reruns of the series from their lineups. The move followed the release of court documents in which Bill Cosby admitted to acquiring Quaaludes to give to young women with whom he intended to have sex, and to having done so to at least one woman. Nearly 40 women have now come forward to say that Cosby sexually assaulted them.

TV Land dropped “The Cosby Show” reruns in November, as accusations against Cosby began to mount. But the series is still available to stream via Hulu and Amazon. Though Netflix has no deal in place to stream “The Cosby Show,” the series is still available through its old-school DVD-by-mail service.

No digital service has yet to announce plans to remove “The Cosby Show” from its library. And while the “Dukes of Hazzard” was recently dropped by TV Land amid the Confederate-flag controversy and “7th Heaven” was dumped by Pop in 2014 following star Stephen Collins‘ admission of sexually molesting children, both shows are available via Amazon, Hulu and Netflix DVD.

Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media, attributes the lack of movement by streaming services to the fact that “there is so much online content,” he told TheWrap. “The Cosby Show” he said, “probably hasn’t been front and center” for streaming services the way it has for broadcast networks.

Scale and choice are central to the streaming services’ business models. While broadcast and cable networks are responsible for programming 168 hours or fewer a week, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon offer tens of thousands of hours of content available to view on demand.

That on-demand element also differentiates streaming services from the cable networks that have dropped “The Cosby Show.” Selecting a show to watch on Hulu is an active decision by the customer. A cable viewer, however, could stumble across “The Cosby Show” while flipping through the channels–were any network to schedule it.

But the desire to shed ties with Cosby extends beyond linear television. This week, Walt Disney World removed a bust of actor from its Hollywood Studios theme park and it was revealed that CAA had dropped him as a client in November. Though streaming services have yet to feel significant pressure to dump Cosby’s signature creation, they still may.

“I think if there is attention drawn to them for still streaming these shows and it creates a backlash they will follow the cable networks lead,” Adgate said.