BBC Shows Expiring From Netflix is Apparently the Worst Thing Ever

By  · Published on January 14th, 2015

BBC America

Movies come and go from Netflix Watch Instantly every month, and we’re normally fine with the idea. It’s not that different from the decades-long tradition of movies coming and going from premium cable rotation. If anything, it gives us meaning in our lives to have expiration dates to plan our lives around. That last weekend of any month is an occasion for marathoning those titles about to leave our queues (yes, I still call them that). But there’s a difference between movies being purged from the service and TV shows getting the boot.

Netflix subscribers go ballistic when whole series expire, and it might as well be the end of the world if multiple series from one network are headed out the door. I’ve seen people get upset in the past over Discovery, Learning Channel and ESPN 30 for 30 programming going bye-bye. It’s nothing like what I’m seeing over the current expiration notices for all of BBC’s shows, which will apparently no longer be available after January 31st.

So long, Doctor Who (the classics and the new run), Torchwood, Red Dwarf, Little Britain, Luther, the original House of Cards and old favorites like Fawlty Towers and Black Adder, plus 14 other titles. Unless, that is, the arrangement between Netflix and BBC is renewed. This is actually quite normal practice for the service and its content. A lot of deals are revisited at the end of their contracted period, and many aren’t settled until the last minute. Movies, too, as was seen last year with Hoop Dreams.

Even BBC series have been threatened in the past. If you think the current online petition to “save” Doctor Who from expiring from Netflix is a new thing, see this other one from three years ago that mentions prior dates slated for its removal. And given how big a deal this latest promised purge has become for fans and subscribers, we can bet that both the BBC and Netflix will be coming to an agreement, whether that was to happen anyway before all the hoopla or not.

And if it was a power play, as The Mary Sue suggests, the BBC should be victorious in squeezing more money out of Netflix with this proof that they’re in huge demand with the latter’s customers. Subscribers like to depend on these quality series, and others, while Netflix Watch Instantly continues to have a bad reputation when it comes to its offering of movie titles (not including all the great docs, of course), so any TV network/distributor is going to have an upper hand. Hopefully this won’t lead to the streaming service seeing a pricing increase as a result.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.