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Netflix denies it was forced to pull The Bodyguard following Whitney Houston’s death [Updated]

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Reports that Netflix was forced to pull The Bodyguard from its streaming library following the death of the film’s star, Whitney Houston, are false, according to Netflix. This directly refutes an account by Dan McDermott, a long-time journalist and host of the Web show Google Plus Week, who said a Netflix representative told him that “the production company” pulled Netflix’s rights to stream the 1992 film because “there was an opportunity to make really a very large amount of money on the DVD sales” due to a surge in publicity after the singer’s death on Saturday, February 11.

“It’s just not true,” said Steve Swasey, Netflix Vice President of Corporate Communications, in an email with Digital Trends. “Netflix has [The Bodyguard] on DVD but not streaming. We haven’t had it on streaming since the license expired last year. Nothing to do with Ms. Houston’s unfortunate and untimely death.”

McDermott says he went to watch¬†The Bodyguard on Netflix on Saturday night, but found that it wasn’t available for streaming. “This was interesting since it is 20 years old,” wrote McDermott in a post on his Google+ page. “I checked the comments under the movie post on netflix.com and saw a bunch of complaints saying that it had been available for streaming until her death.” (Those comments do, in fact, exist.)

So, McDermott called Netflix to see what had happened. According to McDermott, this is what a Netflix representative told him: “Okay Dan, I just went and talked to my main supervisor as to why the movie had been pulled and the reason it was pulled was the production company pulled the streaming rights from us because all the publicity after Whitney Houston’s passing there was an opportunity to make really a very large amount of money on the DVD sales of her movies. So they’re going to pull all the streaming titles we have of Whitney Houston so they can make more money off the DVD sales of her movies.”

Despite Netflix’s claims to the contrary, McDermott stands by his story.

“I publish three newspapers and first started in news when I was news director at WLVA in 1987. I was aware of the sensitive nature of the story and was cautious and responsible,” McDermott told us via email. “The quote I printed is accurate. I cannot speak to whether the Netflix representative was telling me the truth but I asked him to verify what the Netflix users were saying (that it was pulled after her death) and the guy came back and said what he said. I tripled checked to get the quote accurate.

“He said that he had checked with two supervisors and that the ‘main’ one told him why it had been pulled.

“Personally I believe that the kid told me what his supervisors said. I can’t imagine that they were pulled after her death in some bizarre coincidence.

“Also, it is important to note that Netflix is not the bad guy in this. Unless they lie now.”

UPDATE: After being contacted by your author, McDermott has published a new post, gracefully admitting that Netflix’s claims are true. Web cache shows that The Bodyguard was available for streaming as of December 2011, but as of January 1, 2012, was only available on DVD.

“My post about Netflix losing streaming rights to The Bodyguard after Whitney Houston’s death was 100 percent accurate. It was also 100 percent wrong,” writes McDermott. “The rep I spoke to and his two supervisors had bad information.”

He continues: “The fact that so many commenters reported seeing it available for streaming right before her death and the fact that the rep spoke to two supervisors and specifically said that the rights were pulled after her death was enough I thought. But if I had thought to check the cache files I wouldn’t have proven them wrong.

“I humbly apologize.”

Last week, Sony was forced to apologize for raising the price of two of Whitney Houston’s albums on the UK version of iTunes just hours after her death, sparking a flurry of outrage from fans. Sony says the price hike was a mistake.

 

At present, The Bodyguard is still available as a free streaming title for Amazon Prime members.