Netflix won't renew movie licensing pact with Epix

Move is part of the streaming service's efforts to use original programming to attract new subscribers.

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Steven Musil
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Netflix users in the US will soon have to find somewhere else to get their fix of "Hunger Games" and "World War Z."

The streaming service announced Sunday it has decided not to renew its movie licensing deal with Epix when the current contract expires at the end of September. In the announcement, the streaming service said it was putting a greater emphasis on original content.

"We've enjoyed a five-year partnership with Epix, but our strategic paths are no longer aligned," Netflix said in a statement. "Our focus has shifted to provide great movies and TV series for our members that are exclusive to Netflix. Epix focus is to make sure that their movies will be widely available for consumers through a variety of platforms."

Netflix customers will soon lose access to Epix movies.

Epix did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The joint venture of film studios Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate has reached a licensing deal with streaming service Hulu that is expected to launch in October, said a source familiar with the deal.

The decision underscores the streaming service's efforts to set itself apart from other subscription movie and TV services with fresh, original content. The move is part of Netflix's ongoing transition from a by-mail DVD rental company into a major provider of streaming television programming.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, noted that because of the concurrent licensing periods, many of the popular Epix movies available to Netflix customers were also available on other subscription services. By creating its own content, Sarandos wrote, Netflix lets its customers avoid the wait for movies to make their in-home debut after their theatrical release.

"We hear from our members that you wish we had newer movies," Sarandos wrote in a blog post. "Studio licensing practices means it often takes more than a year before consumers can watch a theatrically released movie when and how they want. Just like we've changed the game for TV watchers by releasing entire seasons around the world at the same time, we have begun making movies that will premiere on Netflix globally and in some cases, simultaneously in theaters."

The post highlighted some of the original movies coming to Netflix in the coming months, including Cary Fukunaga's "Beasts of No Nation," Adam Sandler's "Ridiculous Six" and Brad Pitt's "War Machine."

Sarandos also noted that Netflix's exclusive access deal with The Walt Disney Company will kick in next year. The groundbreaking deal, signed back in 2012, will give Netflix subscribers access to first-run, live-action and animated feature films from Disney, including Pixar, Lucasfilm and Marvel.

"The majority of these films will arrive on Netflix faster than traditional arrangements had previously allowed," Sarandos wrote.

Netflix has been using an ever-growing library of original programs to lure new customers to its streaming-media service. The Los Gatos, California-based company touted original programming such as "Orange Is the New Black" and "Sense8" with helping add 3.28 million new subscribers in its second quarter, easily beating its own projection for 2.5 million new subscribers.

Time will tell whether original movies will help Netflix attract more customers. Netflix expects to bring in 3.55 million more members in the current quarter, with most again coming from international markets.