Back episodes of Showtime hit series Dexter and Californication will be returning to Netflix’s streaming library, thanks to a new deal with CBS. But U.S. fans won’t be able to view them, as the rights are for Canada and Netflix’s new Latin America market.
Earlier this year, Showtime pulled prior seasons of some of its most popular shows from Netflix’s streaming library in the U.S., in part due to concerns that viewership online might eat into viewing by subscribers. The fear is that could lead some subscribers to quit. As a result, only shows currently still on air were pulled; back episodes of cancelled programs like The Tudors are still available through Netflix streaming.
It appears that the main reason CBS and Showtime are fine with making those shows available in international markets is that they’re not as widely available there. Unlike in the U.S., Showtime doesn’t sell subscriptions in Canada or Latin America, so it’s not necessarily competing against itself in the same way that it would in the U.S. By striking a licensing deal for content in those areas, though, it’s driving incremental revenue that it wouldn’t have seen otherwise. (An added bonus is that viewers in those markets will no longer have to pirate those shows.)
In addition to current Showtime hits, international viewers will also get a wide range of older content from CBS, including shows like Numb3rs, Sleeper Cell and Twin Peaks in Canada, as well as old episodes of Star Trek and Charmed in Latin America.
While it’s good that international viewers will get easier access to these shows, that’s little comfort to the Dexter fan who might want to watch an episode or two while waiting for the next season to be available on U.S. cable. There’s an argument to be made that the availability of back episodes on a streaming service like Netflix will allow viewers to “catch up” on prior seasons and build interest in the current season of a show’s run.
That, after all, is exactly what Lionsgate is doing with Mad Men. The first four seasons of the critically acclaimed show appeared on Netflix streaming today. That will give new fans and old fans alike the chance to catch up on all of Don Draper’s philandering ahead of Season 5, which will premiere early next year.