The customers of Netflix who want to see “Avatar” or “It’s Complicated” on DVD will have to wait for over just their mailman. 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures have signed new distribution deals with the DVD-by-mail service including a 28-day delay on new releases.
The agreements are similar to one which was signed by Warner Bros. with Netflix in January. As with that agreement, the Fox and Universal deals give Netflix more favorable financial terms on new releases in exchange for the delay.
The company is using the savings to acquire more movies from the two studios for its Internet streaming service, which is crucial to the future of the company because more consumers switch from DVDs to watching movies online.
Moreover, Fox will offer some of its TV shows to Netflix for Internet streaming for the first time. Fox, Universal and Warner have taken the lead in publicly lambasting DVD kiosk company Redbox, which argued that low-cost new-release rentals undercut the home entertainment business.
Fox and Universal are still embroiled in a legal battle with Redbox, while last month Warner signed a deal with it that also included a 28-day delay for new releases. Fox and Universal want to impose a similar delay on Redbox.
Customers expect other studios to follow the leads of Fox, Universal and Warner, and sign similar deals with Netflix and Redbox in the future. That will set up a situation in which consumers can rent DVDs only when they go on sale from physical retailers including Blockbuster, which recently signed deals with Warner, Fox and Sony Pictures that guarantee it can provide new releases at launch.
The first new movies covered by the new Netflix deals are the most popular ones released by Fox and Universal in theaters around the 2009 holiday season: “Avatar” and “It’s Complicated,” which will go on sale April 22 and 27, respectively.