Our world, one with an endless supply of streaming on-demand video content, is a magnificent place. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and dozens of niche platforms, it often feels like we can fire up whatever we want, whenever we want, on whichever device we want it. But if you listen very closely you can hear them—the faint cries of people tweeting one important question into the abyss, desperately hoping to be heard:
That’s right, it’s 2015 and you can watch every episode of Criminal Minds on Netflix (Oh look, another white woman is being tortured!) or click over to Amazon Prime to dig into four seasons of Suits to try to determine what it’s actually about, but you cannot legally stream episodes of The O.C., one of the crowning televisual achievements of the 21st century. (You can, however, pay for individual episodes/season passes on the iTunes and Amazon stores.) And the people of the Internet, they’re not happy about it. Even the quickest of searches returns numerous social media posts, listicles, and of course, Change.org petitions asking for the Fox teen drama to be added to Netflix Instant.
Hyperbolic petitions aside, The O.C.’s absence from streaming platforms is surprising because it’s tailor-made for the binge-watching era. The show’s rapid pacing and willingness to burn through seasons’ worth of story in a dozen episodes might have caused it to burn out quickly by 2007, but that formula would serve as the perfect fix for viewers who have binged their way through Pretty Little Liars, Revenge, or any other primetime soap currently online. Likewise, the show’s lasting cultural footprint is such that its arrival on any streaming site (it was briefly on Netflix Canada) would produce the same kind of euphoria that followed the news of Gilmore Girls’ arrival to Netflix in 2014.
But instead of simply bemoaning the show’s absence, I’m here to try to answer the question at the center of all those damn tweets: Why, exactly, isn’t The O.C. on Netflix?
Creator Josh Schwartz has only spoken about the issue once, in a 2013 tweet at the time of the show’s 10-year anniversary, where he encouraged people to seek it out on iTunes instead. Similarly, inquiries to The O.C.’s home studio, Warner Bros. Television, were not returned. But as I see it, there are three potential reasons, all of which are likely playing some role in keeping Ryan Atwood and his leather bracelet out of your queue.