Thor hits Netflix as content drought eases

Gigaom

After a fallow period that saw few big movies debut on its U.S. streaming service, Netflix finally has some blockbuster titles to put on its marquee.

Starting on Saturday, the company’s nearly 24 million domestic subscribers could stream the Marvel-produced action film Thor, which grossed about $450 million at the global box office last summer.

Also read: Netflix stock spirals as company enters tricky stretch

And starting next month, under the same licensing agreement with premium cable provider Epix, Netflix will also gain streaming access to two other big-grossing titles distributed last year by Paramount Pictures: Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.12 billion global box office) and Captain America: The First Avenger ($368.6 million)

Immortals, a men-in-gladiator-tights-themed movie that grossed $227 million worldwide in November, will also be available in July under a another deal signed with Relativity Media.

Separately, Netflix announced Monday that it’s reached a deal to stream ABC Family series Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game. That content pact is notable, given that both series are produced by Warner Bros. Television, division of Time Warner Inc., a company that hasn’t been too comfortable with Netflix’s all-you-can-stream subscription model.

Both of these youth-skewing shows will debut next year — on oft-heard, forward-looking refrain from Netflix, as it has, in the last year, signed pay TV licensing deals with DreamWorks Animation, the Weinstein Company and Open Road Films.

In between older deals ending, and newer ones ramping up, there’s been a little lag.

Netflix’s deal with Starz ended in February. That took high-profile movies from Disney and Starz off the streaming service at a time when fresh blockbuster titles yielded under newer agreements with Epix and other suppliers were months from arriving on Netflix.

How much has this impacted Netflix? I think a lot.

Anecdotally, as I’ve spoken in recent months with executives steeped in the motion-picture business, I’ve heard more than on several occasions that there just isn’t that much to watch on the service these days.

There have been a few notable indie-film debuts: like Nicholas Winding Refn’s ultra-violently stylized Drive, starring Ryan Gosling as a Hollywood stunt man moonlighting as a getaway driver; and Open Road’s Killer Elite, a shoot-em-up pairing Jason Statham and Clive Owen.

But there hasn’t been that flurry of big titles that drives subscription renewals and sign-ups.

And, of course, it’s that lack of subscriber growth that’s been an issue for investors, who have collectively halved the value of Netflix stock since April.

On Monday, the company’s share price dropped another 3.75 percent to $63.18.

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