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Netflix in Canada comes up short

Netflix on the Xbox 360

Earlier today I was a few mouse clicks away from signing up for Netflix here in Canada, but I started doing a little research that changed my mind pretty quickly.

For those of you who don’t know about it, Netflix is a service that lets you stream movies and TV shows over the web, or through certain devices like the PlayStation 3. There’s no limit to how much you can watch, the service just comes with a monthly fee that’s currently set at $7.99 in Canada. It just launched here about a week ago, but it’s been operating in the United States since 1997 where it started by renting out DVDs through the mail.

When I started looking at available titles in Canada though, I realized it just doesn’t make much sense right now, at least not for me.

If you browse through the shows and movies they have available, it’s an oddball collection that clearly only represents a fraction of what you would get in the United States.

While the service did have JCVD, Lie With Me, Lost In Translation, and Terminator 2, there were a lot of searches that came back with “[That item] is not available”. I looked for Lost, Citizen Kane, Highlander, Spider-Man, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Burn Notice, MacGyver, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; none of them were available in Canada.

Instead, I got suggestions for an assortment of lesser-known and completely unknown shows and movies that I probably wouldn’t pay to watch unless I was really, really out of other ideas. I’m talking about Brick Lane, which came up when I looked for Citizen Kane; or the BBC adaptation of The Color of Magic (which I’ve already seen), which came up when I had searched for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

The problem I’m sure, which is what happened when the Xbox 360 started offering movies in Canada through Xbox Live, is that Netflix needs to re-licence any content it wants to make available in Canada with this country’s licence-holders. In the United States The Lord of the Rings movies were distributed by New Line Cinema, but in Canada Alliance Films owns the rights, so Netflix needs to get Alliance Films on board before The Lord of the Rings is streamable here.

In a few months maybe Netflix will make more sense for me (especially once it is available on my Xbox 360), and I’m at least glad the service has finally made it north of the border. The price is certainly a great deal, even if I only end up watching two films each month. I just can’t justify paying for a service that doesn’t at least come with Citizen Kane, Highlander, and Lost.

P.S. The image for this post came from the Netflix website under the media section, but it’s probably an American image since it shows Let the Right One In which is also not available in Canada. Instead, Netflix suggests you might want to watch something called Terribly Happy.

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