The freshest movies on Netflix Watch Instantly come via Starz Play, an arrangement where Starz resells Netflix their movie licenses. As predicted, studios are playing hardball with Netflix, and Disney movies could be the first to poof from instant streaming.
Disney's currently in negotiations with Starz for the rights to its movies over the next few years, and it wants a lot more money from people who watch Starz online—like through Netflix—and if things go badly, it could mean no more Disney or Dreamworks movies on Netflix streaming, according to Bloomberg. (Of trivial, probably inconsequential, note: Steve Jobs is the single largest shareholder of Disney, owning 7 percent of the company, so there is a mild conflict of interest.)
It looks like a rough patch for Netflix and its ambitious plans for Watch Instantly, now obviously the focus of its business. (Why else would Netflix give up a whole month for new releases from Warner Bros. in exchange for better streaming rights? And notice the switched tab arrangement on the Netflix homepage, putting Watch Instantly first.) Expect these battles for streaming rights to repeat themselves with basically every major studio, and expect them to get bloodier. Nobody's conquered internet video, at least not the way iTunes wrapped its arms around digital music, but Netflix is, in many ways, damn near the closest, a fact not lost on the major studios. And they're not going to make it any easier for another company to wield that kind of power. [Bloomberg]