The end of April suddenly became very stressful for Netflix subscribers, as it was widely reported that nearly 1,800 titles would be disappearing from its Watch Instantly service in the US. Unfortunately, it likely caused a lot of tension in Los Gatos as well and tonight the company revealed it's changing its policies. Quickly dubbed "Streampocalypse" or "Streamageddon," some blamed it on competition like Warner Archive Instant, despite many of the listed titles actually being related to Netflix's agreement with Epix. As we now know, on May 1st the sun rose once again and there are still some movies and TV shows to watch on Netflix streaming, but for just a few hours you might have thought that would not be the case.
The list came from the third-party site InstantWatcher, which we've long recommended to help users sort selections in ways not supported by the official page and apps including by year, Rotten Tomatoes rating or New York Times Critics' Picks. Starting today however, that will not include the ability to list "expiring soon" titles. As Daniel Jacobson posted to Netflix's API developer blog, it will stop including expiration dates in the public API. While we're sad to see the amount of data available to the public reduced and are still peeved over the public API being shelved entirely, after last week's incident we can certainly understand why. Netflix did not directly reference the incident in its statement (available after the break), but one can certainly connect the dots -- read on for more information.
With the frequent, often last minute, changes in content flow the title expiration data available through our API has been inaccurate, so we have decided to no longer publish this information.
While long time watchers of Netflix's streaming catalog are more used to the movements of content in and out -- it's not at all uncommon to see titles on the expiring soon list end up not expiring due to deals simply being renewed -- casual viewers may see massive changes listed and not fully grasp what's going on, leading to mass confusion. Netflix had previously removed "coming soon" data from its API and pulled the RSS feed that listed newly added titles every day. Now, it's moving towards methods like push notifications in its mobile apps, Facebook integration and the upcoming rollout of individual profiles to keep recommendations relevant for specific household members. What we'd like to see are tools from Netflix that allow us more direct access to the data and ability to browse as we see fit -- as good as it says its algorithms are, sometimes we're in the mood to do the choosing in our own way.