Allthingsd is reporting that Warner Bros. has struck a deal with Netflix and Redbox to double the release window of their DVDs and Blu-Rays to almost two months, or 56 days. So, if you want to catch upcoming Warner Bros. films on disc, and you're a Netflix subscriber, you can expect to have to wait quite a while before you view them, at least compared to the time by which you could pick the disc up at Amazon or Best Buy. Warner Bros. claims the move is part of an effort to revive flagging home video sales, which have fallen precipitously over the past five years or so.
In 2010, Warner Bros. was one of the many studios that Netflix cut a deal with: in exchange for delaying the disc availability for 28 days, Netflix would gain access to more of the studios' back catalog for streaming purposes. Allthingsd says that there isn't any such benefits to the deal this time around:
Two years ago, Netflix was able to argue that by delaying access to DVDs, it was able to get its hands on more streaming content, and lower prices for the discs it did buy. This time around, though, Warner won’t be granting any additional digital rights to the studios. It will simply be offering them the ability to buy discs in bulk, at a significant discount to retail pricing, like they already do.
So, the real question here is: why agree to this deal at all if you're Netflix? I'm sure that that bulk discount is significant when you're talking about stocking tens of thousands of discs of every Warner Bros. release, but still, I can't imagine why Netflix wouldn't at least argue for more streaming rights on a deal like this. A month delay wasn't too bad, but two months to wait to watch a movie? That's when you start getting downright inconvenient.
In the end, Warner Bros. can decide who they want to sell discs in bulk to, and there's not much Netflix can do about it. Netflix always has the option to buy the discs retail and offer them for rental that way (as they were recently forced to do when HBO, a Time Warner subsidiary, announced that they'd stop selling discs directly to Netflix), even though it'd be massively expensive; theoretically their need to retain access to the streaming library that Warners is offering them is what is making them agree to this deal.
Since they caved here, don't be too surprised if the rest of Hollywood gangs up on Netflix and asks them for the same window within the next few months. I guess the question is, do you care? I've never particularly minded the 28-day window on Netflix, but when we're talking about two months...that's a chunk of time, there. It might have a slight effect on DVD sales, but I'm betting that a more likely outcome will simply be to increase piracy of movies. Does this affect your opinion of Netflix, or your opinion of the Hollywood studios?