Netflix to Stream Starz Movies

Movie-rental service Netflix and premium cable programmer Starz Entertainment are announcing a deal Wednesday under which Netflix’s “instant streaming” online-movie service will now carry the roughly 2,500 movies, TV shows and concerts offered by Starz’s “Starz Play” broadband subscription-movie service (formerly known as Vongo), as well as a live streaming feed of the Starz TV network.

The Starz content should be a significant boost to the Netflix streaming service, which is available to Netflix DVD-rental subscribers paying $8.99 per month and up and which can be can be viewed on PCs, laptops or living-room TVs through new media-extender devices made by Roku, LG Electronics and Microsoft.

While Netflix currently offers more than 12,000 choices of movies and TV episodes for instant streaming, including new primetime fare from CBS and ABC, its movie selections draw heavily from independent and foreign films.

By doing the deal with Starz Play, Netflix is now offering instant-streaming of 1,000 Starz titles, including Spider-Man 3, Ratatouille, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Superbad, No Country for Old Men and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert.

Since launching Vongo in 2006, Starz maintained that running a successful online subscription-movie service would require doing deals with premium programmers like itself and HBO because of the rights to movies, or “windows,” that the premium networks own.

For example, Starz’s first window for major movies begins 9-11 months after theatrical release and lasts about 18 months. That is followed by about five years in which the movie is only available electronically on broadcast or basic-cable networks. Then Starz’s second pay TV window begins, lasting another year-and-a-half.

“It’s not just the first window,” Starz spokesman Eric Becker said. “You can’t get access [on a subscription basis] until about nine years after theatrical release.”

While Netflix could obviously rent physical DVDs of popular movies during that time frame, it couldn’t make them available through an online-subscription service -- a model it is trying to shift its business to in order to keep pace with pay-to-download services like Apple’s iTunes.

For Starz, the Netflix deal gives it a mainstream presence online for Starz Play, which is currently marketed by telco Verizon Communications through its FiOS fiber-optic service but hasn’t yet struck deals with other multichannel operators to market the service. In addition to making it part of the “instant streaming” lineup, Netflix said it will offer a Starz Play-only subscription, without the ability to rent physical DVDs, for $7.99 per month.

Netflix is also teaming up with Starz Play to offer a sneak preview of the first full episode ofCrash, the Starz original series based on the hit movie, in advance of the Starz primetime premiere Oct. 17 at 10 p.m. (EST/PST).

“The coupling of Starz Play with our growing library of streaming content is an important step forward for both companies and for consumer choice,” said Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, in a statement. “Our deal reflects the creative ways we are working with content partners to expand the profile and the number of choices our subscribers can watch instantly over the Internet, in addition to the 100,000 titles we offer on DVD through the mail."