Is Viacom pulling content from Netflix?

The bulk of Viacom content currently available on curated Netflix streaming website Instant Watcher, Xbox Live and Google TV lists May 22 as its expiration date. However, those expiration notices are absent when you access Netflix from a web browser.

If Viacom content does expire, it would mean shows produced by Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and a few others will no longer be available online for Netflix subscribers.

The only consistent expiration notice seems to be the Southpark series, which is already available for free in its entirety on the official Southpark Studios website.

Streaming contract agreements between TV networks and Netflix have expired in the past only to be renewed weeks (or sometimes days) later, but recent actions by Viacom and its parent company CBS may suggest a more permanent halt to the contracts.

If Viacom chooses not to renew its arrangement with Netflix, it may be because it recently inked a deal with Hulu, which allows Hulu’s premium service subscribers to watch new episodes of programs as well as a backlog of old television shows.

Since Hulu shares advertising revenue with content partners, it would make more sense to cut Netflix out of the picture so Hulu Plus is the sole platform on which viewers can watch Viacom programing. Otherwise, Viacom’s cut of the ad revenue may suffer due to viewers choosing the commercial-free stream on Netflix.

It’s unlikely content would be removed from Netflix because Viacom was asking for more money. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said many times that they are willing to pony up the cash to provide as much content to subscribers as possible.

However, if Viacom does want significantly more money, Netflix could opt to negotiate individual deals for certain programs that may fare better than others. This is more or less what happened when Viacom’s parent company CBS reworked its Netflix deal for Showtime programming, which revised the terms of streaming for shows like Dexter and Californication. I’m sure if Netflix wanted to pay for the projected loss of Showtime subscriber revenue, a deal would have been forged.

Either way, it’s definitely in Netflix’s best interest to retain the bulk of the Viacom library that is listed as expiring — especially all of the children’s programming. If Netflix wants to roll out family subscription plans, not having Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues in its streaming library would be a huge blow.

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