It was announced last week that hundreds of films from the beloved DVD label Criterion Collection, would soon find their way onto Hulu’s subscription video service Hulu Plus. Not only will the films slowly launch on the streaming service (many launched with the announcement) but this also means that Criterion Collection will not re-license their titles for the Hulu Plus competitor, Netflix Watch Instantly. It’s a major shot across the bow from Hulu, because before this, the Hulu Plus movie offering wasn’t all that exclusive. Now, with the Criterion deal, Hulu is able to get cinephiles to more easily justify a $7.99 monthly subscription to its Plus platform. You won’t be able to access many of these films online, through any other method. It’s a no-brainer as to why Hulu would want this arrangement, but many have wondered why Criterion made this deal. Over on the Criterion blog, company head Peter Becker comments: “Why Hulu? In short, because they get it. As their regular viewers know, the Hulu user experience is exactly what it should be: simple, elegant, and focused on the content. Hulu has built their brand on letting the shows and movies take center stage. Nobody does it better, and we’re honored that they see Criterion as a good match for their audience.”
In a statement to Time magazine’s Techland blog, a Criterion spokesperson added “From creating a Criterion-specific space on the site, to making searching for titles a snap, Hulu is right in line with Criterion’s mission of making classic and contemporary films available to those interested in discovering or rediscovering them. An experience like the one Hulu has created for Criterion is not possible on Netflix.” So, in many ways, this came down to navigation and branding. You can’t get a standalone Criterion page on Netflix, but you can on Hulu. Don’t believe this is the last you’ll see of a Hulu/Netflix tug-of-war. An important note, though: Criterion Collection doesn’t control subscription VOD rights on all its DVD titles. In other words, many of the more contemporary Criterion DVD releases (movies from the major studios, auteurs like Wes Anderson, or indie companies such as IFC Films) will remain on Netflix Watch Instantly and not migrate to Hulu as part of this arrangement. So, if you’re worried about losing all Criterion DVD releases from Netflix Watch Instantly, this deal will primarily impact older catalog titles like the Janus Films library (with a few exceptions). That’s still hundreds of amazing classics, though.