Why Do TV Shows and Movies Leave Netflix?

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Netflix logo
Credit: Netflix

Netflix is still the biggest streaming service in the world and has been for quite some time. However, if you’ve been a paying subscriber for a long time you’ll know that Netflix’s streaming library has changed a lot over the years. While countless new beloved original shows and movies have been added, many extremely popular shows and movies have left Netflix, too. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you’ll need to know about why content leaves Netflix.

Netflix logo
Credit: Netflix

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that outside of Netflix’s original programming, like their own shows and movies they produce in-house, Netflix does not actually own any of the content on their service. The vast and overwhelming majority of streaming content is merely licensed from whoever actually owns it by streaming services, like Netflix.

Licensing shows and movies isn’t a one-time upfront payment that gives you the right to have a particular show or movie on your streaming service forever, either. These deals are always timed, and they can often with other conditions too, like exclusivity agreements. Traditionally, content is licensed to a particular streaming service for a number of years before the agreement expires.

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When these kinds of agreements expire, the content that a Netflix licensed will be removed from their service, unless the agreement is renewed. If a show or movie is popular on Netflix, when the license for that show or movie expires, the owner of that content will likely try to get a better deal and charge more to license that same content again.

Plus, over the course of the last decade, Netflix’s popularity, as well as the popularity of streaming as a whole, has exploded. For a long time, each year there were more and more Netflix subscribers than the previous year. This is another huge factor in licensing content. While it’s true that content owners want to get their content up on popular platforms, if your platform is popular, it means you have more resources available to invest in content, so licensing content can quickly become expensive.

Hulu logo
Credit: Hulu

This is why huge Netflix shows like The Office or Friends or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or any number of incredibly popular shows and movies have left Netflix. Content becomes extraordinarily popular on Netflix, so when the license expires for it, to renew the agreement the content owner will ask for much more money.

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And even if Netflix doesn’t want to pay that much for a particular piece of content or can’t afford to, nowadays there are dozens of other major mainstream streaming services that can and will pay a high price. If a particular show, like The Office for example, becomes a hallmark of Netflix, even if Netflix doesn’t want to renew the agreement to keep the show on its platform, because of how successful the show was on Netflix, other streaming services are willing to pay the premium to bring that success to their platform.

All of this together adds up to the reason why outside of original content, years ago Netflix’s library of streaming content was much more robust. Today, many shows once available on Netflix or exclusively available on Netflix have moved to other platforms.

This problem is only made worse by the fact that many streaming services today aren’t third-party services like Netflix. Many content owners and producers, like NBC or Disney or CBS or anybody else, have their own streaming services now, so many companies aren’t even interested in doing licensing deals anymore, because they’d rather put their content on their own streaming service.

Disney+ logo
Credit: Disney

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Most shows and movies aren’t individually big enough to make a company hundreds of millions or even billions in a licensing deal, but a halfway decent content library can, year after year, generate that kind of money, so content owners are generally incentivized to keep their content on their platforms, outside of especially lucrative deals.

The nature of the streaming landscape today is why Netflix has been, for years and years now, focusing on original content and heavily investing in producing tons and tons of it. Producing original content, especially big-budget Hollywood-esque programming, is far more expensive than licensing deals, yes, but it also comes with a unique set of benefits.

When you own the content on your streaming service, it’s yours to do whatever you want with. Not only can that content live exclusively forever on your streaming service, you can use it to market your service, you can sell merchandise based on the IP, and you can give customers a reason to stay subscribed: to be able to watch the latest season of their new favorite show as soon as it drops.

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This model can work, as evidenced by Netflix’s slate of extremely popular and critically acclaimed original content, but it’s a tough business model to nail, as you can see from services like Apple TV+ or Hulu. Both of these services have original content that’s well-liked, and a service like Hulu even has a breakout hit or two with content like The Handmaid’s Tale, but no other streaming service anywhere near rivals Netflix in terms of original content.

Prime Video logo
Credit: Amazon

Netflix is unique in this aspect not just because Netflix original content is popular and well-respected but because Netflix has such a wide variety of original content. They’ve got shows and movies of all genres and kinds that are aimed at all kinds of different demographics. A service like Disney+, for example, might have a lot of original content because Disney owns a lot of content, but Disney content often feels like Disney content, meaning there’s less variety in what’s available to watch.

Unfortunately, considering the streaming landscape today, there isn’t much reason to believe that streaming libraries will be consolidated and become easier to access from one place. As more and more streaming services pop up, more and more subscriptions become necessary, turning streaming into that which the technology replaced: cable.

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However, because of the monthly subscription model of streaming services, picking and choosing services for a month or few months before canceling your subscription and moving onto a different service for a while has become much more viable. While you’re waiting for new seasons of your favorite Netflix originals to drop, you can simply cancel your Netflix subscriptions and sign for another service like Hulu until there’s something you’d like to watch elsewhere.