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This Is Why You Won't See Oscar Blockbusters Streaming On Netflix

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This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo, shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Want to see "Gravity" or "12 Years A Slave"? How about "Dallas Buyer's Club"?

You'll have to go somewhere other than Netflix.

Not one of this year's -- or even last year's -- Best Picture nominees is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S. And only two Best Picture nominees are available from 2011, and two from 2012.

Movie studios wring big profits out of a new movie by keeping it in the theater for as long as possible, then selling DVDs, Blu-rays, and digital downloads to transactional video rental services like iTunes and Amazon Instant Video -- all of which charge for each film.

Netflix, which charges customers an $8 monthly fee to watch as many movies as they like, typically picks up streaming rights to movies from most major studios about two years after they've been in theaters.

That's why, on iTunes, you can already rent or download five of this year's nine Best Picture nominees, and all of last year's. And it's why, if you're one of the 6.9 million people who still subscribe to Netflix's DVD-by-mail service, you can rent many of the titles there, too.

"Over the years, Hollywood has worked out these distribution windows to maximize every last ounce of revenue from these different properties," said Jack Lerner, a clinical associate professor of law at University of Southern California and director of the school's Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic. "When you have a copyright over something, you have a monopoly over it, and the way monopolies work is to restrict supply in order to drive the price up and maximize revenue."

But Netflix doesn't actually want to be the place where you find all of the latest blockbusters -- it couldn't do that for a flat $8 per month. Instead, Netflix strives to offer a mix of titles you can't get anywhere else.

"With every title we add, we remain focused on our goal of being an expert programmer, offering a mix that delights our members, rather than trying to be a broad distributor," Netflix spokeswoman Jenny McCabe said in a video the company released last year. "We can't license everything and also maintain our low prices, so we look for those titles that deliver the biggest viewership relative to the licensing costs."

Over the last few years, Netflix has attempted to transform itself from a repository of content from outside companies into a media company. It's invested hundreds of millions of dollars in original and exclusive content that you can't stream anywhere else, which it hopes will keep members subscribing. Netflix also has licensed streaming rights to popular TV shows, like "Breaking Bad," "New Girl" and "Mad Men."

Still, the dearth of new movies on Netflix's streaming service is well known. Satirical news site The Onion has taken several jabs at it in the last couple months, posting a story with the headline "Netflix Instant Thinking About Adding Good Movie" and a video that introduces a new "Browse Endlessly" plan.

Netflix does have its share of Oscar-nominated content: Four of the five documentaries nominated for Academy Awards this year, as well as "The Croods," are available to stream on Netflix, and "The Lady in Number 6," which this year won the award for documentary short, will come to the service next month.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included a quote that incorrectly stated monopolies restrict demand. They restrict supply.

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