What do SVODs have against Hollywood classics?


It’s something Bill Collins would probably be up in arms about.

Netflix, Presto and -to a lesser extent- Stan are offering subscribers very little in the way of “Classic” Hollywood films.

Want to see Anchorman 2, Snakes on a Plane or Crazy Stupid Love? Sure they are there.

But you could be waiting a long time for All About Eve, Bridge on the River Kwai or Casablanca. They are nowhere to be seen.

Most of the content on the three new streaming players focusses on post 1970s. Stan does have a Classics genre section with 34 movies including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Children’s Hour, West Side Story and The Graduate. But even 34 classics across decades of Hollywood cinema falls short.

New Netflix subscribers are asked to complete a whiz-bang taste profile that will personalise the library to their interests. It drills down far beyond genres into the tone of movies, the style of filmmaking and the decades in which films were produced. But it fails to offer Classics as a genre. The oldest film listed under Critically Acclaimed movies appeared to be 1966’s The Good The Bad and the Ugly. I couldn’t even find any Musicals, unless you count South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut as a musical (I don’t).

Evidence suggests it only offers the genres in which it has sufficient Search results. It was a question their friendly Customer Service could not explain.

“I did pass the suggestion to add those search functionalities. And we are a very feedback driven company,” they advised.

Presto also does not offer a Classics genre. Like Netflix, a small amount of oldies are found under other genres such as Drama, Romance etc. In their Red Carpet Pictures Winners the oldest flick is 1981’s Chariots of Fire. That’s despite Foxtel having entire channels such as TCM dedicated to Hollywood cinema. So is this a rights issue?

A Presto spokesperson told TV Tonight, “Our classic era movies isn’t as deep relative to the rest of the content we have, but it is a priority for the content team looking to acquire a stronger library of classic era hits.”

A Netflix spokesperson said the team were also working on this part of its content (The US Netflix store has some 7000+ more titles than the Aussie store).

Critic and presenter Andrew Mercado told TV Tonight, “Including classic movie titles – as well as some nostalgic television- could be a real point of difference for someone. A good movie is a good movie, regardless of what year it was made. But everyone is so caught up in the now, nobody has time to see value in the past.”

Marc Fennell, Film Critic for SBS & triple j , said, ‘The rights to these shows are likely to be very low in cost and they could potentially help attract a vast array of older viewers who haven’t yet seen reason to sign up to these services.

“Y’know the interesting thing about these services? They’re model is to be all things to all people. Take Netflix for example: they’re producing and acquiring high end prestige dramas like House of Cards, action series like Marco Polo & Daredevil, Comedy like Kimmy Schmidt, Young Adult entertainment like Between. If they truly want to lock off the full spectrum then they should rightfully chase classic movies and tv from before the 1960’s. Great television and cinema existed then and these new streaming services are the perfect platforms to reintroduce them and I would love to see them use their pushing power to reintroduce eras of cinema worth revisiting.”

Stan currently out performs its rivals in the Classics range, but while subscribers are paying a fee it’s disappointing so much history is being overlooked by so many.

Just don’t anybody dare tell Bill Collins.


  1. Surely all providers would skew much younger in terms of audience. Netflix has intelligent systems to follow viewer behavior. If you want classics watch what ones they have. They will see old films are being watched and look to add more.

  2. Its good you rbought this up, I have just about every major older classic on blu ray or DVd so personally I couldnt care, but the lack of respect for these great films by these networks is appaling.I still think a free to air station could do well with a Golden years programme once a week, but the commercials would have to be limited.

    • Maev....Sydney

      I use to love Bill Collins Golden Years and all the little tid bits he use to explain about the movies….when we just had 4 channels….

  3. I’m appalled by some comments above re classics. I don’t like GEM and others because there too many commercials and also they don’t show remastered versions of the movies. Netflix could add them to the library and would cost them a pittance, because they already have them in their library (US). Don’t tell me it’s too early. Netflix stream their movies from overseas, unlike (probably) local VOD, who still need to build a proper server capacity. The only thing Netflix needs to do is to sort out licencing for those movies and that is all.

  4. Maybe just give them a chance to get the content to make it available. How long have these services been running? Rome wasn’t built in a day. Granted, perhaps they should have had a more even spread of content available to all ages in the inception, but lesson learned. I’m thoroughly enjoying Netflix at the moment and look forward to when they have the classics available.

  5. Yep have to agree. Disappointed about the lack of ‘classics’. I watched ‘The Apartment’ on Stan, but as the article said…very lilmited choices. I has hoping for Marx Brother’s movies, or Laurel and Hardy movies as I have fond memories of watching some of them on FTA many years ago.

  6. GEM/WIN played Casablanca last weekend, complete with hideous bright purple logos and 50mins of commercials for irrelevant businesses a thousand km from where I live. Thanks to my local public library most of these titles are available. No so from Blockbuster next door who say they remove “old” movies as new ones come in. Quickflix also has Casablanca and many older titles.
    It’s not a b&w -v- colour thing as many older films are in colour.

  7. I would just like less of the same type of shows from netflix, I mean most there in house made shows are over the top with sex, swearing and nudity which I fine time wasting. daredevil was the first one that is tamed back and that’s gret but need more of that,

  8. Networks could be tapping into this resource far more than they are for their multi-channels. GEM seems to cycle through the same list of movies on a fairly high rotation. There must be a heap of classic movie/TV content they could be accessing.

  9. I made the same complaint on a forum recently regarding netflix I was very disappointed in there classic offerings particularly in our region however checking other regions and found that its not much better there. More westerns are offered in other regions but as a whole the catalogue is a little thin. I found that a little perplexing so many of the good classics have been remastered for bluray and look gorgeous you would think they would be perfect for streaming being older one would also think that they would be cheaper to acquire.

  10. You raise a very good point with this story,David.I would love to see some of these older classic movies on video streaming services.It’s interesting that the U.S. version of Netflix has a vast library of classic movies in their catelogue,but the Australian version of Netflix has none.Hopefully this will change over time,as Netflix increases its catalogue here.

  11. They don’t appeal to most downloaders and aren’t scarce. Casablanca, Bridge on the River Kwai and All About Ave etc. screen on Gem or 73 at weekends half a dozen times a year.

    But as they point out, once they have targeted early adopters the streaming services will broaden their range.

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