Everyone has that mindless TV show they watch to unwind in the evening. Mine was Pawn Stars, the reality TV series hit about a family-run pawn shop. Then, last Friday, Netflix removed Pawn Stars from my life without warning. I ditched my TV back in college and I haven’t been tempted to own one since... until now.
What happened? Netflix’s right to broadcast A&E’s 800 hours of content expired. While Pawn Stars still airs every Monday night on cable, I no longer have access to it because I'm one of those cord cutters who relies on Roku to watch my favorite shows via Netflix and Hulu. The show might come back if negotiations work out between the two media companies. Then again, it might not.
The sudden removal of Pawn Stars, along with A&E's entire catalog, is nothing new. In fact, things like this happen all the time. Earlier this year, for example, Netflix lost 8% of its content when its deal with Starz expired. The Starz shows, while horribly pixelated, comprised some of Netflix’s best offerings including one of my favorite romantic movies, The Illusionist.
Netflix doesn't seem to have a problem with this. "A number of titles expired today, that is true, but we have titles coming on and off all the time," said Netflix spokesman Joris Evers on Friday to the Hollywood Reporter.
Evers casual acknowledgement of how unstable the relationships his business depends on really wouldn’t be so insulting if I, as a paying customer, knew beforehand about titles being removed, or coming. I only had a couple episodes of Pawn Stars left to watch before I would have been caught up to the current season. If I had known the titles were being removed, I would have sat down and watched them all before the expiration date.
When I flopped down on my couch last Friday night all ready to hear Rick laughing at some ridiculous offer made by a customer before I went to bed, I was met with a significantly sparse Netflix page. At first I thought Netflix had been hacked. I had to seach Google News to find out what happened. To date, Netflix has yet to release an official statement on the deletion of 800 hours of content.
Netflix attracts customers like me by offering a catalog of worthwhile shows. If those shows can disappear at any moment, it fundamentally changes the nature of the relationship. Perhaps Netflix thinks its safe to add and drop content at the drop of a signature and keep customers in the dark about the resulting disruptions. After all, the company has few competitors. Frankly though, I'm ready to take my business elsewhere.