Netflix Negotiating With Disney For ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Streaming Rights

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Back in 2012, Disney and Netflix struck a deal that would allow all of Disney’s films — including Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars properties — to stream exclusively on Netflix Instant, starting on January 1, 2016. As that date approaches, many have speculated openly about the Star Wars films finally coming to Netflix. There were even rumors recently that Netflix was prepping their database for the Star Wars movies, though Netflix denied those reports. While they have yet to comment specifically on the existing six films in the Star Wars library, Netflix did confirm that, as of now, they do not have the rights to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but are currently in negotiations to bring that title to their streaming library.

Because it opens in theaters in 2015, The Force Awakens is the last title included as part of Disney’s previous home entertainment deal with cable channel Starz. That deal expires at the end of the year, but as of now, Starz still holds the exclusive rights to that film. On getting the rights to The Force Awakens for Netflix Instant, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, “It’s up to Disney […] It’s an ongoing discussion.”

It may be up to Disney, but Starz has some say in this matter as well. They hold the rights and likely Disney can only re-acquire them by buying them back, which they may be inclined to do if they were looking to make a big splash with all seven Star Wars movies arriving at one time on Netflix Instant. But, Starz may not be willing to budge.

In the meanwhile, Disney and Netflix are planning to make the five Star Wars films Disney has the distribution rights to (all expect A New Hope, which is still controlled by 20th Century Fox) available on Netflix Instant in Latin American countries, in an effort to boost awareness before The Force Awakens opens in theaters. (If they want to make A New Hope available, either on DVD, VOD or streaming, they’d have to make a new deal with Fox.)

There does not appear to be a concerted effort on Disney’s part to get the Star Wars films on Netflix in other markets (like the U.S., Canada or the U.K.), primarily because Star Wars awareness is already high, and the studio is focused more on iTunes sales, where each digital copy of the film goes for $20.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters on December 18.

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