Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Netflix drops Sponge Bob Square Pants (and why it matters)

Netflix is on a roll. They had the first big "made for the Internet" drama, House of Cards; they are by far the largest source of North American Internet traffic and their stock price and subscriber rolls are growing.

But, when my grand daughter and I settled down to watch an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants yesterday, it was not available! (It still turns up as a search choice -- a tantalizing bug for fans of The Sponge).

A quick Google search turned up this quote in Netflix' bullish April 22nd, 2013 letter to shareholders:

As we continue to focus on exclusive and curated content, our willingness to pay for non exclusive, bulk content deals declines. At the end of May we’ll be allowing our broad Viacom Networks deal for Nickelodeon, BET, and MTV content to expire.
That sounds good in theory, but in practice, they zapped Sponge Bob, one of the leading entries in the frequently-viewed list in my house. We are still a long way from ala-carte TV.

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Update 6/5/2013

Sponge Bob is back -- Amazon picked up the children's programming that Netflix dropped.

This is a strange market -- -- we have two (three if you count Hulu) buyers and one seller (more if you think of the item for sale as TV content in general).  Kind of an oligopsony, but not.