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Netflix Is SeaWorld's New Enemy

Rick Munarriz
December 16, 2013

SeaWorld (NYSE: SEAS) has had a rough year, and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is about to make things even rougher.

Blackfish -- the scathing anti-SeaWorld documentary that's being distributed by Time Warner's CNN Films -- has created rough waters for the operator of marine life theme parks. Attendance has been dropping at SeaWorld's gated attractions, and musical acts are canceling shows at the venue.

The ripple effect is building, and it may turn into a tsunami now that Netflix has made the movie available to its streaming subscribers.

Blackfish was added to the service's growing digital library on Thursday, and SeaWorld isn't going to like it. Netflix's more than 31 million domestic streaming accounts will now have access to the 80-minute documentary, which takes SeaWorld to task for keeping killer whales in captivity and exposes the dangers posed to the mammals' trainers.

Blackfish got off to a slow start when it debuted in theaters this summer. It grossed just $2.1 million in ticket sales during its cinematic run, never playing on more than 99 screens in any given week along the way. But then Time Warner turned to its own CNN to begin screening the documentary in October. This helped increase awareness of the movie, but not a lot of people are watching CNN these days.

Netflix is different. It has helped amplify the success of TV shows by streaming earlier seasons. Now it has the chance to turn