The new release rental is officially dead. As expected, Netflix has signed new deals with Twentieth Century Fox and Universal Studios Home Entertainment — similar to its deal with Warner Bros. — that delay new release rentals by 28 days and add new titles to its streaming collection.
Both deals go into effect later this month; Netflix will start the 28-day hold for Fox titles with Avatar’s release and Universal flicks with It’s Complicated.
Both studios are throwing in new streaming content to sugarcoat the deal. Included in the deal are Fox shows like Arrested Development and 24, and library content like Being John Malkovich and The Pianist from Universal.
Of course the deals are designed to force your hand, but consumers have already proven with their pocketbooks that they’re not interested in rushing out to buy a new release DVD. Avatar may be the exception to the rule. As the most popular theatrical movie of all time, the 3D movie is perhaps the best candidate to see sales positively impacted by the new rental restrictions.
In the bigger picture, however, the entertainment industry will likely not recoup lost movie sales by force-feeding consumers with the buy-it-now-or-wait diet. Essentially the industry has just unofficially expanded the window between theater release and rental release by 28 days. People will continue to buy the DVDs they want to keep for nostalgia (Avatar), wait until the rentals are made available to their service of choice and now stream even more free library content from Netflix. Given that iPads (soon iPhones) are able to stream Netflix titles for free, subscribers may be content to trade new releases for more online content.