TNT’s Leverage and Netflix: Did A Smart Show Do A Dumb Thing?


UPDATED: Let’s start this off with a little story. The day was New Year’s Eve 2009, and I was enjoying a lazy afternoon on my couch with my newly-acquired PS3 and Netflix’ Instant disc. In the mood to try something new, I decided to watch the first episode of the TNT caper series Leverage, which I’d heard good things about online. And, as it turned out, I dug it — well-developed characters, fun plotlines, sharp dialogue.

It took no time at all for me to catch up with Seasons 1 and 2 over the next month, even though the latter was still airing on TNT at the time, because every episode was available via Netflix Instant, and new episodes were made available the day after their airing. And compared to using my clunky Time Warner DVR to capture episodes, watching via Netflix Instant was a dream: on demand and commercial-free via an easy-to-navigate interface, and (depending on my clunky Time Warner Internet) usually in HD quality.

This is why I am mad that the third season, which premiered Sunday night on TNT, is not going to be available on Netflix Instant as the season runs on TV — and that the previously available Season 2 has been taken down and is now only available through the service on DVD.

According to a Turner representative, decisions about Leverage‘s online distribution are made not by TNT, but by production company Electric Entertainment. UPDATE: Both executive producer Dean Devlin and show creator John Rogers confirm that Turner owns the streaming rights, not Electric entertainment. The Turner representative was incorrect when making that statement.

A representative for Electric confirmed that the third season would not be available, but declined to go into further detail.

Leverage is viewable online via’s “DramaVision” player, and in all honesty as play quality goes it’s not too bad (plus, some behind-the-scenes clips are embeddable). But only three episodes are available from the second season — the only way to watch new episodes from the third season is via iTunes or Amazon VOD.

Of course, I do have my (clunky) DVR to capture new episodes. But my issue is this: In an increasingly crowded content marketplace, it just seems flat-out stupid to decrease the online options available for a show, since the more opportunities people have to discover the show, the greater the likelihood of bringing in new viewers.

This goes double in the case of Leverage, for while on the surface the show might not look like it appeals to the web-savvy, that’s definitely not the case. Creator John Rogers has been blogging since 2004, most of the cast and crew are active users of Twitter, and for the geekier viewers, there are subtle Doctor Who references and former Star Trek cast member guest appearances.

The only good reason I can see for limiting Leverage‘s distribution options is this: A Netflix representative wouldn’t comment on any specific deals that it makes with studios or networks, and thus it’s not possible to say how much Electric Entertainment and/or Turner receive for an episode watched on Netflix Watch Instantly. But if the amount wasn’t enough, and Electric Turner was concerned that by having other viewing options available, it was damaging its Nielsen placement, then it could have been decided to leave the first season on Netflix (so that newcomers to the show would be able to at least get a taste of the series) but otherwise focus on increasing the show’s ratings on cable as well as more potentially lucrative deals.

And I can see the logic there, I suppose. It’s just frustrating that when I recommend Leverage to friends, the answer to the question “How can I catch up?” has gotten a lot more complicated.

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