What does Netflix’s shrinking library mean for film history literacy?

Even with our collection of 14,000 DVDs, we’ll all admit to watching things on Netflix and Hulu all the time. Streaming subscriptions are convenient, and we’re realizing that it’s their primary way that many incoming students watch movies and television now. But we’re concerned about how that narrows what movies and television people can watch.

According to a report by Exstreamist, Netflix’s library has shrunk by 50% in the last four years. As Netflix has pursued its own original shows and movies, the company has started cutting back on titles by other studios. Today, by Exstreamist’s estimates, Netflix has lost over 5000 titles since 2012, and the ones that are left aren’t exactly the greatest.

This could have a serious chilling effect on what people watch. Consider the Indiana Jones movies. None are available on any American streaming service unless you pay for a rental. If media consumption habits become more and more reliant of what’s available to stream immediately, that cuts off a massive amount of film and television history. And what about independent films that can’t break onto a streaming platform?

We hope there’s a change in viewing patterns soon. But the library’s collection will always have physical copies that won’t be removed at the end of the month.

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