Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Former Netflix DVD Library Is a Lost Treasure

Jim Vorel:

It’s a strange feeling, to look back to a time merely 10 years ago and think “that was a golden era, wasn’t it?” It feels like it should take longer than a decade for that kind of clarity to develop, but the more time I spend looking at the streaming service landscape as a Paste staff writer, the more I find myself returning to the same conclusion: Netflix, as a service, could once say it offered a film library that was unmatched by any other archive of films in the world. Just a decade ago, the physical media library possessed by Netflix was well beyond 100,000 titles strong, offering a staggering degree of diversity that essentially made it the equivalent of the best-stocked video store in the world. At its peak, in fact, the number of DVD titles possessed by Netflix would have dwarfed the entire streaming libraries of all the major streamers today … combined.


The shrinking of the physical Netflix DVD library has been a simple enough process to observe for customers who are paying attention to their queue of upcoming deliveries. As the years have gone by, I’ve watched my own queue be decimated by this process, with titles first moving from “queue” to “saved” (essentially a request that Netflix obtain a DVD they no longer have), to then disappearing from the service entirely. Many films I borrowed from Netflix in the last decade no longer show up at all when searched at, and they’re exactly the sort of movies you would expect to see disappearing—cult films, foreign films, obscure titles, B-movies, etc.

Via Nick Heer:

The curious thing is that these services are both balkanized — in that they have vast amounts of stuff licensed exclusively to one service — and conglomerated — there are only a handful of parent companies that own all of Hollywood’s major studios. So instead of the music streaming model, where most people just pay for one service and then listen to a massive catalogue of music ranging from mainstream hits to independent artists, the movie industry thinks we’re all going to pay for each of their siloed services[…]


3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Correction, it should be "a *legal* film library that was unmatched by any other archive of films". If we include less reputable sources such as private BitTorrent trackers, then Netflix's DVD library of the past is utterly dwarfed by the collection of movies they make available.

[…] Paste Magazine (and Michael Tsai) note that Paste Magazine, I don’t like as a publication because one of their authors or perhaps […]

I worry about this too. I've had more trouble with movies being unavailable on disc in recent years. I just wanted to rewatch Porco Rosso but it's not available via Netlifx DVD.

Mostly I still think the old Netflix USPS service is pretty great. I don't have to jump between endless streaming services to figure out who has the rights, how much it will cost to rent, etc. I usually don't have trouble but I suppose my film tastes are not esoteric enough to showcase problems in Netflix's shrinking disc library. I hope they carry on with DVD delivery for years to come.

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