UPDATE 5:20 p.m.: To include Sony statement
There's a lot being written about the disappearance of Sony films from Xbox's Netflix streaming service, and most of it is wrong.
Several blogs have suggested that Sony pulled movies from Columbia Pictures, owned by Sony, because it has a problem with Microsoft or the Xbox. That isn't the case. It turns out that Netflix simply didn't get a licensing deal done with Sony that included the Xbox or some of Netflix's other distribution partners, according to sources close to the situation. This is a bad goof on Netflix's part.
"This issue is not specific to Xbox or any other individual platform," Sony said in an e-mail statement on Wednesday evening. "Sony Pictures is currently in discussions with the relevant parties to resolve certain licensing matters related to the distribution of its motion pictures. Given the ongoing nature of these discussions, we don't think it is appropriate to comment further at this time."
Steve Swasey, Netflix's spokesman, refused to discuss any specific studio licensing deals but did say that titles "come in and out of licensing all the time." He acknowledged that some movies once offered as part of the Netflix streaming service on Xbox aren't there anymore. He said the company hopes it's only temporary.
Netflix has done a great job of moving streaming movies from the Internet to TV sets with the Netflix Player from Roku and by partnering to offer its streaming service via Xbox.
But one of the main complaints I have with the streaming service is that it's still light on titles. If Netflix loses those they already have, they're frustrating customers and hurting themselves. This is the kind of basic blocking and tackling the Netflix guys are typically so good at.
(Note to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: Don't flub this kind of thing. I'm sure you're aware some of the studios were lukewarm about Xbox offering Netflix and would have preferred to see Microsoft build its own film offering).