Starz to Introduce 90-Day Netflix Delay for Original Series


NEW YORK -- Another premium network has decided to keep Netflix subscribers from immediately accessing its original series online.

Starz said Thursday it is introducing, as of next month, a 90-day delay on the availability of new episodes of original series for users of its Starz Play broadband service, which it offers in arrangements with Netflix and telecom giants Verizon and Qwest.
 
Starz said that exclusive first-run movies will follow suit at a time that wasn't immediately disclosed. Starz has movie deals with Disney and Sony. Starz's current streaming deal with Netflix runs through early 2012.
 
The news of the delay comes after another premium network, CBS Corp.'s Showtime, said earlier this week that it will keep original series that are currently airing on Showtime off Netflix starting this summer. Netflix is increasingly seen as a fast-growing rival to premium networks.
 
"Beginning with the April 1 premiere of the new original drama Camelot, new episodes of Starz originals will now be available on the Starz Play services 90 days after they debut on the network, with exclusive first-run movies later following suit," a Starz spokesperson said Thursday. "Past seasons of Starz series, including Spartacus, and previously aired movies will continue to be available for streaming. Authenticated Starz subscribers will still have full access to all current network programming through Starz Online." 
 
Netflix's arrangement with Starz ends in the middle of next year, according to insiders. A new deal is expected to be worth at least five times more to Starz than Netflix currently pays, and some industry insiders suggest the new 90-day window is a goodwill negotiating tactic on the part of Netflix.

Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey noted the window doesn't impact its access to movies supplied by Starz and that when it comes to TV, Netflix subscribers don't much care about new episodes, just as long as they eventually have access to every episode of a series.

Swasey declined to say whether the new window required payments between the two parties or even changes to the existing contract. 
 
The future of the Starz-Netflix relationship has been a key focus for industry observers since Starz was an early content provider to Netflix, whose streaming subscriber figures later started to take off. Executives of Starz and its owner, John Malone's Liberty Media, have said they have been in talks with Netflix about a possible renewal of the relationship, but they have been looking for improved financial and other terms.
 
Thursday's news of the delay in availability of originals was seen as a sign that Starz would want such delays in case of a new Netflix deal.
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