UPDATE: Deadline has learned that beginning July 1st, Netflix will cease streaming of season 1 of Downton Abbey. Hulu will continue to offer seasons 1 and 2 until an unspecified time near the end of 2013, at which point all streaming rights will belong solely to Amazon. When asked for comment, Netflix referred Deadline to statements made last week after their 2012 earnings were announced. The service stated it would “forgo or not renew content that doesn’t optimize for engagement and cost efficiency across the available content choices within the constraints of our budget.”
PREVIOUS: Seasons 1 and 2 are already available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service, and the company says the PBS drama is its most watched series ever. Now Amazon says that it will have exclusive streaming rights to the current season of the Carnival/MASTERPIECE co-produced series beginning June 18 — and will remain the sole streaming home for the series for next season and, if it’s produced, the one after. Later this year, it says, “no digital subscription service other than Prime Instant Video will offer any seasons of Downton Abbey.” Amazon Prime shows are available to people who pay $79 a year for a combination of services including the ability to have many products that Amazon sells delivered without an additional charge. The Downton Abbey announcement comes on the same day Netflix introduced its first original series, House Of Cards. Although the e-retailer is spending far less than the $2B or so that Netflix likely will pay this year for content, it “is likely spending more than $500M and, like Netflix, is growing increasingly focused on both exclusive syndicated programming and original programming,” BTIG’s Richard Greenfield noted this week. Amazon’s recent deals provide it with streaming rights to shows including The Closer and Fallen Skies, and A&E programming. It’s also ordering up original shows.