In the past few years, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) has dramatically increased its spending on original content in order to become a true competitor to HBO. This effort has been fairly successful so far. Netflix originals like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black have racked up numerous Emmy nominations (although they haven't scored many major wins yet).
On the other hand, producing high-quality original content is expensive. While Netflix has shown a willingness to expand its domestic content budget at a double-digit pace, it still can't afford to add all of these new shows without making some cuts elsewhere.
In 2013, Netflix had to let some of its most popular TV content expire to fund its expanding original content slate. Let's take a look at some of the top TV shows that have left Netflix's U.S. streaming video service in 2014.
The pioneering real-time thriller 24 is arguably the biggest loss for Netflix this year. During its original run, 24 garnered numerous Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, including a few key wins. Furthermore, 24 is an example of the serialized storytelling that is ideal for binge-watching.
However, 24 left Netflix at the end of March. Top Netflix competitor Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) also recognized the value of 24 for streaming audiences, and so it purchased exclusive streaming rights for the show effective April 1.
While serialized dramas are Netflix's sweet spot, the service has also been a hit with parents because of its large library of children's content. Last year, Amazon.com began to challenge Netflix in children's programming. It snagged the exclusive streaming rights for a host of popular kid's TV shows including SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.
Netflix lost another big kids show at the beginning of September: Sesame Street. A few days after the show disappeared from Netflix, Sesame Street's Facebook page stated that the show was likely to be back on Netflix within 2 weeks.
However, 2 months later, the Sesame Street episodes that disappeared haven't returned yet. Netflix still has a good selection of children's content, but there are definitely fewer choices than there were a couple of years ago.
Law and Order
Last year, I noted that Netflix had dropped the first 7 seasons of Law and Order: SVU in early 2013. While the show is pretty stale at this point, it was still the 13th most-streamed TV show on Netflix last year.
Not surprisingly, Netflix has continued its Law and Order purge this year. In fact, at the end of September, it dumped 5 more seasons of SVU. It also stopped streaming the original Law and Order series and the Law and Order: Criminal Intent spinoff, removing hundreds of episodes in the process. For now, it looks like the Law and Order era at Netflix is over.
A fourth key Netflix title that disappeared this year was the 2003-2009 version of Battlestar Galactica. This sci-fi series was very much in the mold of some of the dark dramas that have been extremely popular on Netflix.
A Change.org petition that garnered more than 800 signatures affirmed that Battlestar Galactica "is the ultimate binge-watching series." Nevertheless, the show ended its run on Netflix at the end of September.
Shows come and go
Fans of these shows can hold out hope that they may eventually return to Netflix's streaming catalog. While Netflix loses the rights to various movies and TV shows all the time, it is also constantly adding new content and bringing back content that it previously lost.
That said, the recent trend at Netflix has been toward less content overall but more originals and exclusives in that mix. In all likelihood, many of the TV shows and movies that have left Netflix this year won't be back.
Adam Levine-Weinberg is short shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Facebook, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Facebook, and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.