Why Streaming Services Are Removing Their Own Movies & TV Shows

Ever since the advent of popular streaming services in 2013, audiences have seen shows come and go in the blink of an eye; released to great acclaim and popularity, only to be discretely pulled and never seen again. Though platforms have routinely canceled original content for the best part of a decade, this makes sense – if a show or film has an expensive production but isn’t pulling in the numbers, then it is fiscally prudent to cancel it. Removing it from the platform entirely, however, seems much more insidious. No longer does the public have any access to a certain IP, and possibly forever.

It’s also fairly common knowledge that streamers make limited-time deals with studies. For example, a landmark deal signed by Netflix and Sony in April 2021 meant that all of Sony’s feature films arrive on Netflix in the coveted pay-1 window (six months after they debut in theaters). Streamers are unlikely to depend that much on their own original content – and this is especially true of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Nonetheless, this doesn’t necessitate that any low-valued original content needs to be eradicated from the public sphere entirely. In a world where physical media is becoming less prevalent, the loss of films and shows from streaming platforms has consequences.

Streaming Services Save Money By Cutting Content


One of the great promises of streaming services was the notion of ephemeral media; access to films and television that wouldn’t physically age, and that would be at the push of a button for as long as the service was around. Yet by 2023, Disney+ has removed its one season of Willow (2022), a sequel series to the popular 1988 film of the same name. Warner Bros. Discovery has done the same with Westworld on its platform Max. The lack of clarity surrounding the licensing mechanisms that streamers incorporate has led many consumers to question their methods – why are popular projects removed altogether?

Popular shows go primarily because it’s a quick way for parent streamers to avoid residual payments (which would go to the cast and crew) and licensing fees (Netflix typically spends around $2 million for the streaming rights alone on a movie – even those that are Netflix originals). Not only that, but poorly-received content on a platform can undermine its popularity and stock value. Consequently, streaming companies have the potential to save tens of millions of dollars if they remove enough content, which can then be better spent on developing more lucrative IP. Warner Bros. Discovery spent $425 million on the rights for Friends (1994-2004), and that money had to come from somewhere.

Related: Warner Bros. Historic Music Catalog On Sale For $500m, Includes Purple Rain, Batman & More

The Problems With Streaming Services Removing Content

Warwick Davis in Willow season 1 finale

Though streaming libraries were initially marketed and touted as the eventual replacement of physical media, the decisions of their parent companies have gradually re-increased the desire for DVDs. When shows and films are removed from these libraries, they are at risk of becoming lost forever – at least to those who can’t afford the great costs that it would take to track them down. The culture of disposable media that this creates devalues the medium entirely, while the new distrust that consumers feel toward streamers will discourage them from investing themselves in future content. No longer are shows and films the perennial works of art they once were, but rather expendable content from the assembly line.

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