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Netflix Signs New Deals With Fox and Universal

9 Apr, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix April 9 said it inked new comprehensive distribution deals with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which for the first time offers Fox and Universal prime time television content and movies to the Los Gatos, Calif.-based online DVD rental pioneer’s Watch Instantly streaming service.

The streaming license includes complete prior seasons of "24," "Bones" and "Lie to Me," and Universal domestic films such as Gosford Park and Billy Elliott and library films including The Pianist, Being John Malkovich and Do the Right Thing.

The agreement also calls for a 28-day delay for new release DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and USHE, which like other studios, are creating a retail window at the expense of rental and specifically $1-per-day kiosks.

Among the first DVD/Blu-ray releases under this arrangement will be Fox's Avatar, which will be available to Netflix customers 28 days after its April 22 street date. The first Universal release covered under the new agreement is the comedy It's Complicated, which will be available to Netflix subscribers 28 days after its April 27 street date.

"A key aspect of our content delivery strategy is to provide consumers with attractive options to view our movies and television shows across a broad range of media, windows, and business models," said Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, co-chairmen and CEO's Fox filmed entertainment. "This expanded relationship with Netflix offers our audiences more choice and convenient access to a wide variety of our content."

Indeed, speculation is that Fox and Redbox will also announce a separate deal prior to the bow of Avatar, widely considered to be one of the biggest packaged media releases this year. The studio earlier this week inked a revised deal with Blockbuster.

The deals between Netflix, Universal and Fox mirror in many aspects the former’s recent revised deal with Warner Home Video, including access to greater catalog, superior copy depth on all titles and expanded digital content.

"We're extremely pleased to have reached this mutually beneficial arrangement that will allow Netflix subscribers to continue enjoying Universal's film content on DVD and Blu-ray," said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment.  

Netflix, which generates 70% of its rental turns from catalog, has sought to increase availability of new release movies and expand its digital offerings.

The service, which offers streaming as a value-add to subscribers to a variety of consumer electronics devices and all the major video game platforms, has acknowledged the need to upgrade the content quality of Watch Instantly.

"We believe the Fox deal, which brings some of the studio's great TV franchises and a library of both contemporary and classic movies to the growing percentage of Netflix members who are watching instantly, is a win all around,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. "Our intent is to forge agreements that make sense for the companies involved and that, on the whole, improve the consumer experience and the movie ecosystem. We believe the Universal deal accomplishes that."

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