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Disney strikes content licensing deal with Netflix

Some shows, like "How I Met Your Mother" and "White Collar," will be available to Netflix subscribers for more than a year.

Some shows, like "How I Met Your Mother" and "White Collar," will be available to Netflix subscribers for more than a year.

The logo of Netflix appears on a smartphone. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
The logo of Netflix appears on a smartphone. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Walt Disney Company and streaming service Netflix have struck a short-term content licensing deal that will allow both companies to share non-exclusive rights to certain general entertainment titles.

The deal mainly involves past episodes of Disney-owned series, including those that the company acquired through its purchase of certain intellectual property from the former 21st Century Fox (now Fox Corporation) several years ago.

Among the titles that will be licensed to Netflix through an 18-month window are the USA series “White Collar,” the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and the Fox drama “Prison Break,” along with past episodes of the sports docuseries “30 for 30” from ESPN.

As part of the deal, Netflix and Disney will also share rights to the ongoing medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” to include all episodes from the show’s prior 19 seasons. Netflix has long served as the domestic streaming home for the series; Disney will incorporate the show into its general entertainment streamer Hulu next March, the companies announced. The show’s 20th season is expected to debut on Disney-owned ABC in March 2024.

Disney and Netflix have enjoyed co-licensing opportunities in the past. Its most-recent deal with Netflix ended around 2012, when digital distribution rights of Disney-owned movies went to Starz. Netflix began offering Disney titles again through a unique arrangement of its own with Starz several years later, and continued holding rights to certain 21st Century Fox-produced shows and movies following Disney’s acquisition of the studio in 2019.

Last month, Disney CEO Bob Iger affirmed the companies were discussing plans to deepen its content licensing arrangements, but did not offer specifics.

“We’re actually in discussion with them now about some opportunities, but I wouldn’t expect that we will license our core brands to them,” Iger said on the company’s quarterly earnings conference call last month. “Those are real, obviously competitive advantages for us and differentiators. Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, for instance, are all doing very well on our platform, and I don’t see why — just to basically chase bucks — we should do that when they are really, really important building blocks to the current and future of our streaming business.”

In other words, while Disney is opening to licensing out some of its back television catalog, core assets like Pixar-produced films and its “Star Wars” shows and movies likely won’t be offered to Netflix or anyone else anytime soon. Instead, those titles will probably remain exclusive to Disney’s core streaming services, Disney Plus and Hulu, in the years to come.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).