As the great Annie Lennox once asked with a plaintive, melodic wail: "Why?" I can only assume she was inquiring why dearly beloved shows like The O.C. and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aren't available to be streamed on the usual suspects (Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime). Well, in the interest of being more proactive and less melodically dramatic (because Annie Lennox already took care of that for me), I decided to investigate.
I looked into the case of two extremely popular shows that took a painfully long time to come to Netflix: The Wonder Years and Dawson's Creek. Fans of both shows zero in on the issue immediately now that the shows are available to stream: the music. It hits you in the face right with their theme songs. The Wonder Years' iconic Joe Cocker rendition of The Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" has been replaced by a nameless artist. On Dawson's Creek, Jann Arden's "Run Like Mad" has replaced Paula Cole's "I Don't Want To Wait."
According to the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post, those songs — and many others — "had only been licensed for the show's initial broadcast run." Not only was it cheaper to secure only those short-term usage rights, shows didn't have as much of an afterlife in the home entertainment market when VHS was the prevailing playback technology.
No one ever anticipated the rise of streaming services like Netflix. By the time it came along, many of the songs that were new, and thus much less expensive to license, during the original run of The Wonder Years and Dawson's Creek had become hits with much higher price tags. It also costs a lot more to buy the rights to use songs in perpetuity on a playback technology like Netflix that's available across so many different platforms.
We could all sit here crying over lost music, or we can rejoice over the fact that studio executives do hear our pleas. Netflix finally started streaming fan-favorites Friends and Gilmore Girls last year. The clamor to bring Seinfeld to a streaming platform has been rising steadily for the past few years, and Hulu finally ponied up almost $160 million to heed the call.
The point is: They're listening. So, to any studio executives out there reading this list: Please, please, please make these shows available to stream in the near future. In the meantime, we've got a few stealthy ways to watch them.