Old TV hits streams: Available, at a cost

Over the last few weeks, I’ve looked at availability of recent movie hits and recent TV hits on online services. A couple of weeks ago, we’ve also looked at how older movie hits were faring. But what about older TV series? This week, I turn my lens on the Top 25 hits of 2011 and check what their availability is on online services.

A word on methodology

As I did with earlier posts, the model here assumes that a TV series runs over the course of a 12 months period. In this case, it’s shows that ran between January 1st, 2011 and December 31st, 2011. This usually encompasses two seasons, unless a show is cancelled. Availability is assumed when all the episodes that ran that year are available. Partial credit is given if some of the episodes are available.

I’ve decided to focus on the top 25 titles as the pattern appears to be the same whether you go deeper into the catalog or not.

For this search, I looked at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime as subscription services and at Amazon VOD and iTunes as Video-on-Demand (VoD) services. Subscription services generally cost around $7.99 per month for an all-you-can-eat approach. VoD services, when it comes to these offerings, sell episodes for $1.99 per episode or sometimes bundle whole seasons for $35-$45 or roughly the price one might see for a DVD box set for that season.

The list

So now, on to the list

Rank Name Netflix Hulu Amazon Prime Amazon VOD iTunes
1 NCIS No No No Yes Yes
2 NCIS: LA No No No Yes Yes
3 The Mentalist No No No No Yes
4 Criminal Minds No No No Yes Yes
5 CSI No No No Yes Yes
6 The Big Bang Theory No No No Yes Yes
7 Body of Proof No No No Yes Yes
8 The Good Wife No No No Yes Yes
9 Two and a Half Men No No No Yes Yes
10 Blue Bloods No No No Yes Yes
11 CSI: Miami Yes Yes No Yes Yes
12 Hawaii Five-0 No No No Yes Yes
13 Modern Family No No No Yes Yes
14 Desperate Housewives Yes Yes No Yes Yes
15 Harry’s Law No No No No No
16 Bones Yes No No Yes Yes
17 Castle No No No Yes Yes
18 Grey’s Anatomy Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
19 Mike & Molly No No No No No
20 CSI: NY No No No Yes Yes
21 $#* My Dad Says No No No No No
22 The Defenders Yes No No Yes Yes
23 Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior Yes No No Yes Yes
24 House No No No Yes Yes
25 Glee Yes No No Yes Yes

The first thing you may notice is an interesting pattern. For the most part, shows appears widely available on VoD services but the inverse appears true on subscription ones. Of the top 10 TV hits of 2012, none were available on subscription services while iTunes had complete availability and Amazon was missing one.

As you delve deeper into the catalog, things get a little better, with Netflix getting 7 out of the top 25 titles (Hulu manages to carry three titles and Amazon Prime does not seem to offer any of that content).

All and all, it appears the industry has moved to a model where you can get most older TV shows legally on the internet if you’re willing to pay for them. This should help stem some of the piracy around this type of content while creating new revenue sources for content owners.

But what do things look like when you compared to the availability of that content last year?

Year Netflix Hulu Amazon Prime Amazon VOD iTunes
2011 8 2 5 20 22
2012 7 3 1 21 22

Looking at those numbers, we see that this type of content is still difficult to get on subscription services (and getting progressively worse) but that availability on VoD services is pretty stable. So if you want to catch up on TV, your best best is to pony up and purchase the content. Subscription services like Netflix and Hulu are not the place to go to if you’re looking for broadcast TV hits.

Subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime offer relatively poor back catalog of popular content. Having looked at movie hits from this year and last, as well as TV hits from this year and last, we see that the distribution of popular content is not something they are looking at very seriously. On the other hand, that content is increasingly legally available for purchase online. This is a vast improvement over what we’ve seen in the past and points to hopeful signs in terms of accessibility to legal streams of popular content.

So the great jukebox is the cloud exists but it will cost you a pretty penny for it to sing its sweet song.

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