Netflix Says It Is Not Deliberately Cropping Videos

Netflix users in Canada have not been seeing the full widescreen version of Inglourious Basterds.

Netflix users in Canada have not been seeing the full widescreen version of Inglourious Basterds.

Even though most TVs sold are now “widescreen,” filmmakers still shoot their movies in a variety of formats, not all of which fit into the standard 16:9 aspect ratio of your average flat-screen. Thus, some titles are still letterboxed when they are broadcast by cable companies or streamed over the Internet. But some people claim that Netflix is re-cropping movies to remove the letterbox bars.

There’s an entire Tumblr devoted to comparing Netflix’s version of movies — especially super-widescreen films like There Will Be Blood and Prometheus — with what you’d see on a DVD or BluRay version of the same film.

Though many of the movies shown on that Tumblr are not — and have never been — available in the U.S. on Netflix, the comparisons do leave little question that a handful of titles are not being shown in their full glory to some customers.

The big question is whether this is Netflix’s doing, as the Tumblr and other sites have alleged (without asking Netflix, mind you), or whether this is just Netflix streaming what they are provided by the studios.

Having spent several years covering the entertainment world in a previous life, I had always been told that Netflix merely streams what it gets from the content creators. So if a studio sends the full wide-screen version of a film, that’s what you’ll get. This is the same reason why some foreign films have optional subtitles while others have the subtitles actually included as part of the print. It’s not Netflix’s choice; it’s what they are given.

This is also why Netflix’s old partnership with Starz had many non-HD and non-widescreen titles. Not because Netflix “cropped” them, but because that is what Starz provided.

For its part, Netflix wouldn’t point the finger at the studios, but did issue the following statement:
“We do not crop. We want to offer the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title on Netflix. However, unfortunately our quality controls sometimes fail and we end up offering the wrong version of a title. When we discover this error, we replace that title as soon as possible.”