Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Exterminate… the shows?

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Back in 2014 when Netflix lost “Battlestar Galactica”, I pointed out the sad truth of being the subscriber to a video streaming service: It’s all shifting sands, so you can’t count on what you’re watching today to be available tomorrow.

“Doctor Who” fans found that out yesterday, as the popular BBC series disappeared from all American video-streaming services. Not only Netflix and Amazon Prime were affected—Hulu, which boasted by far the largest number of classic “Doctor Who” episodes due to a deal with the BBC a few years back, also went completely dark.

While there’s no word about what will happen to the show, the most likely scenario is that the BBC is readying the launch of a U.S. streaming service of its own. This is interesting, given that’s there’s already a streaming service devoted to British TV.

Whether “Doctor Who” migrates to a new U.S. version of BBC iPlayer or returns to existing subscription services for a while longer, this sort of thing is going to keep happening. The owners of The CW network, CBS and Warner Bros., are pondering whether to pull their shows from Netflix. “Star Trek,” a popular staple of Netflix and Amazon both, could possibly migrate to CBS All Access in advance of the new “Star Trek” series debuting there next year.

This is why a large chunk of the $6 billion Netflix will spend on content this year (my back-of-envelope calculation is between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars) will be devoted to original programming: Because it knows that it can’t rely solely on other programming providers to create the value of its service. By the time your favorite old shows from other networks are no longer on Netflix, the reasoning goes, you’ll be too addicted to Netflix’s original series to cancel your account.

The real question is this: Who wants to subscribe to a half-dozen different $10/month streaming services? This is going to be a tough business, and some of these services aren’t going to make it.

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