Why Has Netflix Removed Most of Its ‘SNL’ Library?

Back in September 2010, Netflix made the amazing announcement that they’d soon begin streaming every single episode of Saturday Night Live for “at least the next three years.” Well, those three years have come and gone, and over the past few months, huge chunks of classic SNL episodes have been slowly lifted from Netflix’s streaming selection.

As of today, the 1970s episodes are available as discs only, all 1980s and 1990s seasons are completely unavailable, and only seven seasons are streaming between 2000-2013. While temporary removal of shows on Netflix is pretty common, going from a full 38-season database to a measly 7-season offering paints a worrisome picture of the show’s future on the streaming service. So what’s going on?

Yahoo! recently obtained rights to SNL’s entire sketch library, so maybe the Netflix change has something to do with them? “I don’t think it’s associated with the Yahoo deal,” a source at Yahoo! tells Splitsider. “I’m not sure why this happened. SNL does offer full episodes for purchase on YouTube, maybe that could be something.”

So we asked Netflix. “There’s no specific reason for the changes,” a source said, “but we are keeping the more recent episodes of SNL so they are not all gone.” When asked whether that means we can hold out hope for the return of older episodes, the source said that Netflix is “unable to discuss that kind of detail on a piece of content,” which doesn’t sound very promising.

Finally, we reached out to NBC and Lorne Michaels’s distribution company Broadway Video – who made the recent deal with Yahoo! – to hopefully get an explanation. They have yet to return our request for a comment.

Why Has Netflix Removed Most of Its ‘SNL’ Library?