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Why is Netflix’s U.S. catalog shrinking?

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For all that we hear about new developments at Netflix, size — at least not terms of its catalog — is rarely a topic of conversation. The streaming service has been rapidly growing by other measures, namely the number of countries it’s in, its massive subscriber base, and expanding library of original series and films. A new analysis by AllFlicks, however, has examined Netflix’s U.S. catalog and concluded that the streamer has shed 31.7 percent of its titles in under two and a half years.

All in all, AllFlicks finds that the service has gone from 8,103 titles (6,494 film and 1,609 TV shows) in January 2014 to 5,532 titles (4,335 movies and 1,197 TV shows) as of March 23, 2016. Yet while it’s a sharp drop, the streamer’s shrinking catalog clearly hasn’t had a negative impact on subscriptions overall. At the end of 2015, Netflix was poised to soon cross the 75 million-member mark and within weeks, the company could say that its service had launched in virtually every major market aside from China.

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A smaller streaming selection is clearly not necessarily a death knell. In fact, Netflix seems to have found a new recipe for success that even HBO wants to emulate. By coupling international expansion with increased focus on (and funds for) original content, Netflix aims to make its investments more efficient. The streamer can create content for its global audience rather than having to wrap itself up in numerous geographic location-specific deals.

Another priority for Netflix has been content quality over quantity. The company has nabbed several high-profile projects, plus garnered critical acclaim with multiple projects over the two past years. Like HBO, the streamer is aiming to hook subscribers and make its service feel like a necessity.

As much as originals appear to be paying off for Netflix, we don’t expect the catalog to be pared down Netflix-only content anytime soon; originals will continue to increase, while the number of licensed titles will continue to decrease. It will be a give-and-take, and though we’ll undoubtedly miss some of the content we lose, we’ll be able to console ourselves with the likes of House of CardsDaredevilOrange is the New Black, and much, much more.

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Stephanie Topacio Long
Stephanie Topacio Long is a writer and editor whose writing interests range from business to books. She also contributes to…
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