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Netflix sews up streaming rights for CW programming in deal worth $1 billion

Netflix has secured streaming rights to The CW Network's catalog, at a cost of up to one billion dollars.

Gossip Girl
Gossip Girl

Wish you could easily revisit your favorite moments with Chuck and Blair, or the Winchester brothers? Get ready to love Netflix, because the company is making a statement: it's signed a deal for the streaming rights to The CW Network's entire catalog of programming, that according to an analyst cited by Deadline, could be worth up to one billion dollars. Under the terms, Netflix will have the exclusive on streaming full seasons of guilty-pleasure dramas like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries for at least the next eight years — and the deal covers not just past programming, but shows produced up through the 2014-2015 season as well. Netflix has been facing considerable heat lately due to controversial price hikes and schizophrenic naming snafus, but the most consistent complaint has been a lack of streaming content. With some of The CW's shows going live today, the deal looks to start addressing the concern immediately.

Such an all-encompassing deal could be seen as a major victory for streaming services in general, but those waiting for the cord-cutting revolution shouldn't get too excited just yet. CBS Corporation and Warner Bros. Television Group have hedged their bets quite carefully: shows won't be available online until seasons have finished airing, other on-demand services will still be able to show certain episodes, and the programs can be sold into traditional syndication. Syndication rights are where many programs are able to truly cash in — The Big Bang Theory recently sold to TBS and Fox for two million dollars per episode — so the reticence of the networks to go all-in on streaming is understandable. If anything, we're seeing them move further away from the notion of online as a cable replacement, with overall deals like this looking simply like second-tier syndication, delayed availability included. Still, by digging deep Netflix is sending a real message about the money being left on the table if networks don't embrace streaming services. Now if it could only stop alienating its customers...