Family Encyclopedia >> Entertainment

Why are streaming services removing shows?

Have you ever gone to your favorite streaming platform looking for a movie or series you wanted to watch, only to find that it was no longer there? Why does this happen?

ContentsHow Streaming WorksUnderstanding LicensingUnderstanding Residuals and Production CostsWhy is this show down?Cost of ProductionLicensing IssuesLicensing Costs and RevenueAttractiveness and UsabilitySeasons and SeasonalsStreaming is a complicated world

There are a number of reasons why streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu can't keep titles available forever. Moreover, these reasons become more numerous and complicated as streaming becomes more competitive. Let's see why this is the case.

How streaming works

To understand why a series or movie may not be available forever, it helps to understand how it becomes available on a streaming service in the first place.

Understanding licenses

Some of the main reasons streaming services don't always host content have to do with licensing. Licensing is basically the right for a distributor, like a streaming service, to distribute content that belongs to someone else. Most of the content available on the average streaming service is actually owned by an entity other than that streaming service.

When you scroll through your favorite streaming platform's offerings, you can see movies from groups like Sony, as well as TV shows from companies like Fox and the BBC. As explained by MPLC, these offers are available on streaming services because these services pay the companies licensing fees for the titles.

The exception is original content. Most streaming services have content that they created themselves, which they obviously own. Examples include The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu and Stranger Things on Netflix.

Understanding residues and production costs

This raises its own interesting question. If streaming services don't have to pay licensing fees on original content, why bother removing it?

Even though streaming services don't have to pay themselves to distribute their own content, the bill is coming due. Most actors, in addition to the upfront money they may initially receive for working on a movie or series, are also paid what is called residuals. Residuals are the payments that distributors make to actors.

Usually, the residuals represent part of the license fees paid by a distributor. But in the case of “in-house” produced shows, those bills still have to be paid.

Also, not all "originals" are produced in-house. According to Netflix, some of its original content is produced by someone else who has exclusive distribution rights. For example, the series Peaky Blinders is labeled as a Netflix Original, but is produced by the BBC, Tiger Aspect Productions and Caryn Mandabach Productions.

Streaming sites also have to bear the cost of producing a movie or a season of a series. This is a direct influence in the case of films and series produced in-house. However, if the streaming service produces content in-house, that production cost is still reflected in the license cost.

Why is this show down?

Now that we have a better understanding of how content gets to a streaming site in the first place, why does it have to go down?

Cost of production

As Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told Variety, “A big, expensive show for a huge audience is great. A large, expensive show for a small audience is difficult, even in our model. »

When it comes to original programming, a single title can make the difference. Especially since, as Newsweek pointed out, sites like Netflix are investing more money in original programming than ever before. Plus, with more streaming services to compete with, everyone wants to have an edge over the others.

License issues

According to Netflix, one of the main reasons for the removal of a title is the availability of licenses. It's a growing part of the picture as more and more streaming services appear.

Streaming services want to have exclusive content. This is especially true when content producers like Disney and NBC create their own streaming services (Disney+ and Peacock, respectively).

In many cases, when content providers launch their own streaming services, they stop licensing that content to other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. This is in order to make themselves more competitive.


As mentioned above, even when streaming services aren't creating their own content, it's costing them money to host someone else's content. If they pay for content that no one is watching, it hurts their bottom line.

Obviously, streaming services like Netflix make their money from subscriptions. So no title is going to make them a lot of money or lose them a lot of money when you look at the big picture. However, if they're paying for content that isn't attracting and retaining subscribers, they need to rethink that.

Streaming services like Hulu also have another thing to consider:ads. These platforms don't just make their money from subscriptions; they also make money by selling advertising space, just like regular TV stations. But advertisers won't pay (or pay as much) for ad space if there aren't enough people.

Regardless of their business model, streaming services get more for their money when they support the most popular content. This means looking for the best licensed and original content, while weeding out the less popular content.

Attractiveness and friendliness

There was a time when streaming services didn't compete with each other — they competed with cable. Many people were tired of constantly changing channels and finding nothing to watch. So they switched to streaming.

Of course, back then, there were only one or two streaming services. Now, streaming services often find themselves in competition with each other. And they fear that users will have the same experience on their streaming platform as they had with cable:scrolling too long and watching too little.

Streaming services usually offer free trials. During these free trials, they want to wow potential subscribers with the quality of content available. This means minimizing the amount of content that fewer people want to watch. Even paying subscribers, if they have trouble finding interesting programs, can take their subscription money elsewhere.

Seasons and seasonal

Most streaming services also reduce licensing fees by hosting content only when it will get the most views. They often host this content in special categories with names like “seasonal favorites.” Consider additional (or different) horror movies around Halloween or festive titles around Christmas.

Hulu, which hosts more network series still in production than Netflix, has an additional system for handling long-running series. Hulu calls this "continuous availability." With continuous availability, only a handful of recently aired episodes are available on the platform.

There are a number of reasons for the continued availability, including encouraging people to watch the show as it runs and potential licensing issues.

Streaming is a complicated world

Streaming services have come into our lives to simplify the process of finding quality content. And to the user, that's often what it looks like. That is, until a favorite show or movie dies.

The truth is, streaming is anything but simple. Streaming platforms face legal and marketing challenges that can only truly be overcome with a revolving door for content.

The good news for viewers is that, in most cases, that movie or program hasn't really gone away. He just moved somewhere else.

Image credit:takeapic /Pixabay

.item-num::after{content:""; }

About the author