Netflix seals 'me too' licenses with PBS after Amazon

In the latest content tit-for-tat, Netflix broadens its pact with the public broadcaster a week after Amazon's Prime Instant Video does, though wildly popular "Downton Abbey" remains at the online retail giant.

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Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

If watching PBS ever felt like eating your vegetables, then Netflix and Amazon are squabbling over who gets the brussel sprouts. Amazon, however, has already scored the real PBS treat at the table -- runaway period hit "Downton Abbey" -- and it's not sharing.

Netflix, the Internet's top video streaming service, said Wednesday it has expanded its licensing agreement with the public broadcaster to include a swath of past content, such as children's shows like "Wild Kratts," "Caillou," and "Arthur;" documentaries from Ken Burns including "Prohibition" and "Central Park Five;" and past seasons of non-fiction series like "Nova" and "Secrets of the Dead."

That's a week after Amazon broadened its own content agreement with PBS for its Prime Instant Video service. It included many of the same programs, among them "Nova," Ken Burns documentaries, "Caillou," and "Arthur."

Netflix's pact includes programs that are exclusive to it as subscription video on demand, which alongside original content is getting more investment from streaming sites as they endeavor to become true peers to traditional entertainment providers like HBO, rather than giant libraries of old shows.

But Netflix's exclusives in the latest PBS deal -- one appealing to adults, the other kids -- don't hold a candle to Amazon's score of "Downton Abbey." Beginning this fall, Netflix will get all seasons of "The Bletchley Circle," a British murder mystery that's scored high with critics. Next year, Netflix gets "Super Why!," a PBS KIDS preschool series.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to luxuriate in "Downton Abbey," which is PBS's highest-rated drama of all time. Amazon Prime last month became the only place to stream the latest, third season of "Downton Abbey," in an agreement announced earlier this year that also covers season 4 and, if it's produced, season 5.

Prime Instant Video is also set to become the exclusive video subscription home for all seasons of "Downton Abbey" later this year. Both were blows for Netflix and television-focused Web-streaming outfit Hulu, both of which had "Downton Abbey" in their libraries.

That said, don't let the the shouting matches between Netflix and Amazon over who scores what content drown out the fact that, in most cases, the entertainment they're tussling over has been readily available by other methods of delivery for a long time.