updated 04:00 pm EST, Tue February 22, 2011
CBS brings classic TV shows to Netflix
CBS today showed a rare willingness to bring its TV shows to a subscription Internet service today and gave Netflix some key content. Classic shows such as Cheers, Star Trek and Twin Peaks will now be viewable through a streaming plan, as will two newer shows, Flashpoint and Medium. The non-exclusive deal lasts for two years and has an option for a two-year renewal.
The deal is a rare branching out for CBS. It has been willing to sell episode downloads through stores such as iTunes but has been reluctant to see any of its video go beyond its own website. The studio is the one holdout from Hulu after ABC/Disney, Fox and NBC all either helped start the site or signed on afterwards.
For Netflix, the coup follows one with ABC/Disney in December and as part of a strategy that already had access to some NBC shows. The company has been pushing hard to make Internet streaming a core feature and is estimated to have over 20,000 movies and TV shows to watch, many of them now recent in addition to classics. It still pales versus physical rentals, which at Blockbuster amount to about 120,000 titles, but has been enough for many to switch to the cheaper, $8 stream-only plan.
Studios have been concerned that Netflix may have too much influence over their business and have tried requiring artificial gaps between DVD and Netflix availability of up to 28 days. Most credit Blockbuster's bankruptcy and self-sale as evidence of how customers have preferred its mail-in and Internet services.