On the rising problem of “disappearing content” from online video sites

Gotta give some props to Greg Sandoval (pictured at left) at CNET News who did a great piece this week on the seemingly random removal of content from Netflix and iTunes. (see TV has license to kill movies at iTunes, Netflix | Digital Media – CNET News).

If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that “disappearing content” is par for the course. One of my most read posts in the history of this blog is my piece on Why CBS Pulled The Mentalist From CBS.com. I also briefly covered how Sony Pictures apparently pulled certain of its films from Netflix only when viewed through the Xbox 360 (you can still watch them elsewhere). 

I know it’s easy to start throwing snowballs at these guys for not understanding the power of the online channel. I have a few of those snowballs in my arsenal as well. But I have to confess, I consider these stops and starts a good sign.

What? That’s right, this is a good sign. Because if the corporate heavies had their way, none of these movies or TV shows would be available on Netflix, iTunes, CBS.com, the Xbox 360 (you get the picture) in the first place. The fact that they threw too much up there, then realized they didn’t quite have full permission to do so and have had to retrench is a sign that they’re experimenting. Importantly, the fact that they only pulled a few and didn’t just rip the whole thing down is also a good sign. Remember, danger lurks in darkness of media executives’ souls. They’d rather not do the right thing. But the dynamics of the market are forcing them to. Huzzah for us. 

Let them have their fits and starts, let them figure it out as they go along, as long as they keep moving forward.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in.

6 Responses to On the rising problem of “disappearing content” from online video sites

  1. Chris Maxcer says:

    The thing that gets me is that Apple and its iTunes store either don’t care . . . or don’t have a mechanism to warn their consumers that something is going to be yanked. I’ve run into this a few times with music, but also with TV shows and movies (I use the shopping cart to hold stuff I’ll most likely buy when I have time or decide it’s worth it.) It’s definitely irritating to find a movie gone. I rented Transformers . . . and several months later wanted to buy it to have for easy portability on the iPod, iPhone, etc, for traveling, etc. It had disappeared from iTunes. No explanation . . . it was just gone. And gone from Amazon.com, too. So, as a consumer, what choices did that leave me? Buy the DVD, and if I wanted it in electronic form, I’d have to rip it from the DVD. Now . . . I’m pretty sure that’s what the executive bad boys really wanted — more DVD rippin’.

  2. James McQuivey says:

    Chris, thanks for raising a powerful — and plausible — point. Is it possible that after fighting so hard to stop people from ripping DVDs, the industry just might have turned a corner and realized that the way to keep people buying DVDs is letting them (legal or not) rip them!

  3. Willie says:

    I actually just read Greg Sandoval’s article from the MSN front page. I immediately came here afterwards to try and figure out a way to leave a comment to get your take on the situation — lo and behold, you already had an article up about it a week ago.

    So is there anything that needs to be done from a consumer point of view to keep things “moving forward?”

  4. James McQuivey says:

    Willie, you raise a good question: can consumers have an influence here? One would like to think so. Imagine if being “customer focused” was a virtue that content producers aspired to. Frankly, it isn’t. It hasn’t been historically because programmers put TV shows up in time slots and forced consumers to deal with the schedules. Even though DVRs and online video have been with us for a few years now, broadcasters have not yet learned to have a “customer first” mentality. The fact that CBS still has yet to make a public statement about taking down the full episodes shows just how new they are to this. I’m still hoping they (and Warner Bros Television) will come around on this one.

    One of my favorite ironies is that on CBS’s Mentalist homepage, it has a section called “What Fans are Buzzing About” which ignores the fact that on its own forum, one of the things fans are buzzing most about is the takedown of the episodes. I know this because hundreds of those fans have come from that forum to this page to find answers. This is a very motivated fan base, they’re posting comments, writing complaints to CBS and WBT. We’ll see whether the people can make a difference in that one case.

  5. […] far, the industry gets this, but as I have documented on this blog, there are some exceptions, such as when Warner Brothers TV pulled down episodes of The Mentalist from CBS.com. Interestingly, […]

  6. […] the tricky bumps in a relationship. It doesn’t ultimately solve the problem, however, that content has been disappearing from sites for the last several months as content owners continue to change their minds about their […]

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