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Joe is a writer, bad musician, broadcasting type guy, and all around human. He writes things for The Hudsucker, and anywhere else that will publish him. And twitter @slothraps

Netflix: Decoded

In a world where more and more people are looking for more and more ways to watch their favorite TV shows and movies, Netflix stands atop the proverbial hill. All (read: both) of my friends have Netflix, and many of the other people I come into contact with on a regular basis all speak of if in reverent tones without thinking for a second that anyone in the conversation may not have a subscription to the service. It’s quite the ubiquitous service. But like a lot of things that people use, many people don’t actually know how it works. Because of this there are often complaints levied on Facebook or Twitter that people make about Netflix where the burden of guilt should not be placed on its shoulders.

Screenshot via Netflix

Screenshot via Netflix

Complaint number 1: Netflix always takes the movies/shows I want to watch down the day before I want to watch them.

Complaint number 2: Netflix doesn’t have the movies that I want to watch.

I’ll address the first complaint first, as it’s slightly different than the second complaint in that it has a several easy solutions. Generally Netflix will tell you when a show or film will be taken down. They even give you a few weeks notice. There’s a little date in gray under the icon that you would click on to watch whatever it is that you want to watch. I’ve also noticed that if that show or film is on your list ( formally known as your instant que) Netflix will bump that piece of sweet, sweet cinema closer to the top of the list so you know. It really just takes some paying attention. And when Netflix decided not to give you warning, there is a pretty good way to go about doing things. Netflix often takes down movies during the last week or so of a month, and puts new ones up in the first week or so of the month, so if you really want to watch a movie and are paranoid that it might disappear, watch it before the end of the month.

I don’t mind seeing people complaining about their film streaming services, or anything they spend money on for that matter. How else would those that provide services or goods know how to improve if we don’t tell them what we don’t like? It’s just that I find it counter productive to blame the wrong party when there is indeed a party in need of blame. I also don’t mind people being unhappy that they can’t watch The Notebook on repeat, it’s a beautiful film (or so I’ve been told, I’ve never actually watched it – much to the dismay of my girlfriend). I just want you to know who to write letters to – because I’m sure people still do that – about not being able to see Ryan Gosling actually be a romantic lead on Netflix (do see Only God Forgives though. It’s a fantastic work of art).

Now, as for the second complaint. According to Netflix’s website, this is how they get their content: “Netflix partners with content providers to license streaming rights for a variety of movies and TV shows. We also produce our own content, called Netflix Originals (like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black).” There you have it folks. Right from the horse’s mouth. Article over.

My Netflix List

Okay, I’ll actually do my best to explain what this means for you, the viewers. Netflix talks to whatever production company owns The Notebook (New Line Cinema), and offers to host the movie on their site. New Line Cinema asks for some money. They haggle and eventually a deal is made. Then a contract is written up, it says a whole bunch of stuff only the two parties actually care about—and even then probably not—and has a start date and an end date. So in the end, New Line Cinema says that Netflix can host The Notebook, and all it’s “Gosling-y” goodness for four months, for the modest price of a few thousand dollars—or something. (I’m sure there’s actually some algorithm that NLC has that takes in to account everyone’s royalties, what they’ll be losing on potential DVD sales—if anything- and whatever else they can think of, to offer a fair price). And actually Netflix usually makes deals with distribution companies for a lot of films not just the Ryan Gosling ones.

Why do some films suddenly disappear and reappear at seemingly the most inconvenient times? Well it could be that for some reason that’s in the contract. Or, and more likely, it could have to do with discrepancies in the contracts. I imagine lawyers that work for companies—and corporations and other “business-y” things that start with the letter “C”—function a lot like 24 hour news networks. That is, when there is nothing really going on they have to find something to keep themselves busy. I imagine that for lawyers that entails having herds of unpaid interns scour scores of contracts for anything that may be amiss. This leads to you not being able to watch Congo (or some other Michael Crichton adaptation movie) one week, but having no trouble the next.

So in the end, there is very little Netflix can do when you make a Facebook status asking them to increase your Gosling intake. Even if you take them. Or use a hashtag. Sure it lets them know that there is consumer interest, but if the distribution company has no interest in sharing Ryan with the rest of us, there’s nothing Netflix can do. So if you really want to make your partner cry over the most beautiful love story Nicholas Sparks has had adapted into a screenplay this month: find the distribution company, and tag them in your status. With a hashtag.

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