Netflix’s (s NFLX) dominance when it comes to streaming films is unquestioned, but in early April it’ll have an edge on Hulu, its chief competitor in the TV streaming business. That’s because CBS (s CBS) announced that in early April “dozens” of its shows will become available on Netflix streaming. This maintains CBS’s status as the only major network to keep its content off Hulu, and gives Netflix subscribers access to a wealth of shows previously unavailable online.
The bulk of what CBS is giving Netflix is back content from its library, but that does include some notable additions to the Netflix catalog. Some of the shows that will become available for streaming, including Cheers and Frasier, are completely unavailable on any other platform; others, such as Twin Peaks and Family Ties, have been limited to distribution on TV.com or Fancast.
The release also promises that “all generations” of Star Trek will be available, which is good news for any fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, as those shows have never had full online distribution beyond iTunes. (s AAPL)
However, while this deal adds new depth to Netflix’s selection, it doesn’t give it a huge advantage when it comes to Hulu’s primary specialty: current TV. For recent series, at this point CBS is only promising Netflix Medium (which was just officially canceled) and Flashpoint, a Canadian import that CBS airs during the summer.
So it seems unlikely that new hits like the network’s Hawaii 5-0 reboot (only available via the CBS site, iTunes and TV.com) will join Netflix. However, the original Hawaii 5-0 will be available.
What the deal indicates is that CBS, like other members of big media, sees Netflix distribution as a serious competitor to the still-lucrative syndication market. Some of the shows that Netflix will be streaming, such as Cheers, have been in syndication for decades; their value to the secondary TV market doesn’t compare to a more current show like NCIS: LA, which USA picked up last year for $2.5 million an episode.
In short, don’t expect to see The Good Wife on Netflix anytime soon, but as Netflix promises to shell out larger licensing fees, more and more classic television may find a home there.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: (subscription required)