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Netflix (s NFLX) and Disney (s DIS) announced today that the online movie rental company will make earlier seasons of hit shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy available via its “Watch Instantly” streaming service.
Under the agreement, Netflix will stream the first five seasons of Lost (the first four are available now), seasons four and five of Desperate Housewives, season five of Grey’s Anatomy, and seasons one and two of The Legend of the Seeker. The deal extends the streaming relationship the two companies have had since last fall when Netflix started streaming Disney cable programming such as Hannah Montana and The Wizards of Waverly Place.
This is the second high-profile streaming move for ABC, which used to keep its shows locked up tight behind a walled garden on its site. Earlier this year, Disney bought an equity stake in the premium content portal Hulu, and since then shows from ABC have been trickling onto the site. Netflix and Hulu are two different beasts, since Hulu doesn’t require a subscription (but does have ads) and will get current season episodes. But, if you’re playing catchup with the series, Netflix has more episodes of both Lost and Desperate Housewives, plus you can watch them (in HD!) on your big-screen TV, something you can’t do with Hulu.
For its past two earnings calls, Netflix has repeated how content acquisition for its streaming service is a top priority for the company. With today’s announcement, the company has three of the four major broadcasts networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.