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Want to Stream Something in 2020? Watch It While You Can!

Logos for streaming services like Apple TV+, HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Prime Video.
DANIEL CONSTANTE/Shutterstock.com

Before the rise of streaming, you had to watch shows and movies as they aired on broadcast television. Now, you can watch things whenever you want—well, that’s not completely true. Movies and TV shows regularly vanish from streaming services.

HBO Max’s Launch Titles Are Already Vanishing

Harry Potter movies on HBO Max

HBO Max had a star-studded launch at the end of May 2020. HBO promised—and delivered—movies like the entire Harry Potter series and a variety of Warner Bros movies, including many Batman movies and The Hobbit trilogy.

It’s pretty nice to have all those movies available for streaming, right? Well, it would be.

Warner Bros pulled all those movies from HBO Max on July 1, 2020, meaning you really only had the month of June to watch them. Who thought so many of those big-name launch movies would only be around for a month?

Now, all eight Harry Potter movies are about to leave HBO Max on August 25, 2020. At least HBO subscribers will have had three months to stream them.

Back in 2018, Warner Bros signed over the rights for Harry Potter to NBCUniversal through 2025. People are speculating that all eight Harry Potter movies might pop up on Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service.

Blink and You’ll Miss It

Everything in life is temporary, especially movies and TV shows on streaming services. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock, and others buy rights to stream movies and TV shows for a limited time.

If a streaming service wants to renew those rights, there’s another negotiation. The rights holder may ask for more money and the streaming service may balk. Another streaming service might bid up a popular show to make itself more essential. (Friends is popular, and it’s only on HBO Max! The Office is huge, and it’s only on Netflix!)

A streaming service might also just decide that there’s no point in paying for the rights to keep streaming a movie for another year when most of its interested subscribers have already watched it.

More Streaming Services, More Competition for Content

Every company wants its own streaming service. Why sell your content to companies like Netflix and Hulu when you can launch your own streaming service? That’s why we’ve recently seen the launch of services like Disney+, NBC’s Peacock, and CBS All Access.

With companies launching their own streaming services, they’ll be looking to pull their own content off services like Netflix and Hulu and onto their own.

Meanwhile, the competition encourages rights holders to shop around for the best deal—why give Netflix another year to stream your series or movie when HBO Max or Hulu might offer you more money to exclusively stream your content?

With more and more streaming services launching, we’ll only see even more competition for content and more media popping up and vanishing on different services.

Exclusives Are More Dependable

The Irishman on Netflix

This is one big reason why companies like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO are focusing on creating their own unique shows. Netflix isn’t going to lose Stranger Things and HBO isn’t going to lose Game of Thrones any time soon. They don’t have to renegotiate to keep the shows they created for themselves.

With streaming services focused on creating their own series and movies to be less dependent on paying for existing content, it’s no surprise that companies like Disney, NBC, and CBS see which way the wind is blowing and are launching their own services.

Of course, a service might one day give up the ghost and its content may move elsewhere—witness how Netflix and Hulu are both airing season six of Community, which was created for the ill-fated Yahoo! Screen.

But, as long as a streaming service is alive and kicking, its own content isn’t going to vanish. You might not be able to watch Harry Potter on HBO Max in a few months, but you’ll definitely be able to watch The Sopranos.

Watch Things While You Can

Last Chance titles on HBO Max

If you’ve been meaning to watch a TV or movie, it’s a good idea to watch it while you can. Don’t take it for granted that something will still be on Netflix or HBO a year from now. Not even if it’s a launch title that HBO proudly promoted.

Originals are different of course—Disney+ likely isn’t losing Disney movies any time soon, and Netflix isn’t going to lose originals like The Irishman.

We recommend keeping an eye on what’s vanishing from (and arriving on) services like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime—whichever you subscribe to. If you see that something you want to watch is vanishing in a month, you’ll know what it’s time to binge.

Many websites offer lists of everything arriving and vanishing from your favorite services. Check those lists once a month, and you won’t be surprised by anything vanishing.

Some streaming services also offer categories like HBO’s “Just Added” (for new things,) “Last Chance” (for vanishing things,) and “Coming Soon” (for arriving things.)

Don’t Pay for Every Subscription Forever

Ultimately, being more realistic about what you want to watch can even save you money. There’s no point in paying for a streaming service all year if you just want to watch a single show—you can subscribe for a month, watch it, and unsubscribe when you’re done.

Consider rotating your streaming subscriptions so you can save cash, and you’ll always have something new to watch. If you won’t be watching something on a streaming service this month, cancel your subscription for that service. You can always quickly and easily resubscribe when you want to watch something else.

RELATED: The Cheapest Way to Stream TV: Rotate Your Subscriptions

Rentals (and Purchases) to the Rescue

In the end, all that money you save by not paying for every streaming service every month can help you watch something even after it slips away from the streaming services you pay for.

Movies and TV shows don’t vanish from stores that sell rentals and purchases as often as they do from streaming services. You can still rent many movies for a few bucks on services like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and buying a season of a TV show you want to watch often costs about as much as a month of HBO.

Or, if you always want on-demand access to your favorite TV shows and movies, maybe just skip the streaming and buy yourself some Blu-Rays or a DVD box set.

Either way, you won’t be at the whims of a streaming service’s catalog.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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