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The New Canon
October 7, 2013 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Media Studies professor Anne Helen Petersen writes about the dominant role of Netflix in her students’ film and television consumption, and its effect on the lasting influence of works that are — or are not — available there:
Through this reliance on Netflix, I’ve seen a new television pantheon begin to take form: there’s what’s streaming on Netflix, and then there’s everything else…
Things that they haven’t watched? The Wire. Deadwood. Veronica Mars, Rome, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos. Even Sex in the City.

It’s not that they don’t want to watch these shows — it’s that with so much out there, including so much so-called “quality” programs, such as Twin Peaks and Freaks & Geeks, to catch up on, why watch something that’s not on Netflix? Why work that hard when there’s something this easy — and arguably just as good or important — right in front of you?
posted by mbrubeck (173 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
That snapping noise you just heard was everyone at Hulu biting off their own tongues.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:20 PM on October 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


Well, HBO has their own streaming service you can probably borrow a password for, but even as a subscriber I barely use it anymore because it seems to have technical issues for me all the time even in different browsers and it collapses at the peak use times where I am most likely to want to use it. Netflix just friggin works, and I think that is part of why so many people are content to use it almost exclusively (I guess Hulu is big here too) for their media consumption.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Veronica Mars used to be on Netflix. I never made through a re-watch of the first season before it disappeared, though. My brother recently wanted to show his young padawan the Star Wars movies, and he was kind of shocked he had to resort to searching out a functional Blockbuster location to do so. Did you know it's only $0.99 for non-New Releases for 5 days? And late fees are only $0.10/day! It almost makes Blockbuster seem like a viable option again, if it wasn't for the paucity of locations.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Drinky Die: Well, HBO has their own streaming service you can probably borrow a password for

Holy shit, I never thought of that. My parents have HBO, I think...
posted by Rock Steady at 2:23 PM on October 7, 2013


> HBO has their own streaming service you can probably borrow a password for, but even as a subscriber I barely use it

...because I have #@%*(!#$ Comcast.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:25 PM on October 7, 2013


I have Hulu but I can't seem to handle watching ads at all anymore, paying for the privilege is distasteful enough that I gravitate toward NetFlix even though there are newer episodes of some shows on Hulu.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:25 PM on October 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Yeah, my parents can't get their HBOGo to work on their computers but my friends, roommates, and I all can!
posted by c'mon sea legs at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hulu makes you watch ads even if you are a paid subscriber so obviously Netflix is preferred.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:26 PM on October 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


1. Add the disc plan to your streaming plan
2. Plow through The Wire in a couple months
3. Downgrade back to streaming only.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you want to watch Veronica Mars in the UK your best bet is to buy the German DVD import. Not really a Netflix problem here.
posted by biffa at 2:28 PM on October 7, 2013


And the big cable/internet companies (Comcast, AT&T, and Mediacom) are trying to figure out how to best penalize users who are canceling the cable part of their packages and moving to Netflix/Hulu by raising rates on the internet portion of their service and adding data caps those those already subscribed to their internet.

In short, they want you to feel so much pain by messing around with that streaming thing you flee back to those comforting arms of cable.
posted by sourwookie at 2:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I mostly use Amazon streaming because they have more shows I like but dear lord can it get expensive. I'd much prefer to use a Netflix type model.
posted by fshgrl at 2:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


That snapping noise you just heard was everyone at Hulu biting off their own tongues.

Who watches Hulu? The selection was ok, the interface horrible and you still have to watch ads. I'd rather re-watch something on Netflix than go through the trouble of dealing with Hulu.

No Deadwood or The Wire? Eh, there's Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. A friend has HBO and we have viewing parties for Game of Thrones.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is what I use my public library for!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:30 PM on October 7, 2013 [25 favorites]


If Hulu had an ad-free version, they'd make a killing. As it is, there's no way I'm paying AND watching ads. That's why I love netflix.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:31 PM on October 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Weren't people proclaiming that Netflix would soon fall to all the proprietary competing services offered by the major studios? While I have had some frustration in trying to find stuff streaming on Netflix (you have Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction but no Kill Bill?), I still consider it the best service I have encountered.
posted by Hactar at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2013


This is surely about price sensitivity. The full series of The Sopranos on DVD is over $200. About 2 years of streaming Netflix. I do not subscribe to HBO because of the cost - it is not personally worth it to me. Before Netflix, I did not have HBO, and I didn't watch The Sopranos then either.

The Millennials are kinda having trouble getting jobs that pay, or are reliable, or that give us enough time to watch a lot of TV. Watching what is on Netflix is easier in the sense that I don't have to choose between grocery shopping and my Netflix bill on any given week. My personal job situation is more stable now but I've gotten into the habit of not spending too much on entertainment because who knows what's next. I am sure I'm not the only one.

The one who really wins here is Comcast and other ISPs because they often have a near-monopoly in their service area. I don't pay $8/mo for Netflix, I pay $40 + 8/mo for the internet bandwidth I need to stream Netflix. It's still a better deal than anything else though, since I would be purchasing internet anyway, and paying to add cable would be $80/month, and so on.

This is probably why Google is getting into Fiber.
posted by ProtoStar at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


This is interesting...one of the things I wonder about the new media environment is whether there ever will be shared cultural touchstones to the same extent that there were in the mid-20th century. Like, I think MASH went off the air in prime time when I was a little kid, but I was exposed to it through after school reruns, enough to get references to it. I feel like things are so much more fragmented now that there's no guarantee that some other person in your cohort will have been exposed to the same influences, especially with the Internet.
posted by Diablevert at 2:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


Guess I am an honorary film student because this is exactly how I watch "TV."
posted by mattbucher at 2:33 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd love to use Netflix more, but they've got almost nothing in the hopper. At least the Netflix disc subscription had SOME movies I wanted to watch; Netflix streaming is all third-rate recent blockbuster-type films (only unsuccessful ones). If I wanted to watch Steven Seagal plod through some exploding-helicopter junk, I'd just jab chopsticks into my brain and get it over with. After "Arrested Development", I ran out of stuff to watch almost immediately.
posted by Fnarf at 2:33 PM on October 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


HBO has their own streaming service you can probably borrow a password for,

I dunno, last year we were using my friends girlfriends parents account, and now they've broken up I don't know who my closest hbogo connection would be.
posted by jacalata at 2:34 PM on October 7, 2013


Building a Netflix to-watch queue is so much fun. Unfortunately I usually end up watching X-Files and MacGuyver episodes instead of the stuff I've put on there.
posted by codacorolla at 2:35 PM on October 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


> This is what I use my public library for

I'm as big of a booster of my public library as you can find, but this is one area where it's just no good. Any popular DVD has a huge waiting list -- The Wire, to use an example from the article, currently has 118 people waiting for 12 copies of the first season -- and then when it does come in, I'd only have a week to watch all five discs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:36 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mostly use Amazon streaming because they have more shows I like but dear lord can it get expensive.

Wait, what? I just watched 4 seasons of Sons of Anarchy for free on Amazon. Is this a Prime vs regular account thing?
posted by elizardbits at 2:38 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weren't people proclaiming that Netflix would soon fall to all the proprietary competing services offered by the major studios?

HBO's site is actually decent, but my god trying to watch something on a network website does not instill confidence about their general level of competence regarding anything technical. It's not that hard to show people videos, yet they screw it up terribly.
posted by jjwiseman at 2:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


i know this sounds like an ad for amazon but i s2g i am not a paid amazon shill although i would be for free green tea pocky, call me amazon
posted by elizardbits at 2:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I cancelled my Netflix subscription after two solid months where I couldn't find anything On Demand that I (a) was remotely interested in; and (b) didn't already own. Amazon and Hulu do better with the recent stuff and have stable libraries, so they get my money.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:40 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be perfectly honest, as a tech-savvy millennial: if you want me to pay for things, make it accessible on services I use that aren't awful. Stop putting up roadblocks.

I don't have HBO, and I don't want to pay for HBO as part of some god-awful super-expensive premium platinum diamond mega digital package for cable TV; I don't want any of the other channels bundled in. Let me pick the ones I want, a la carte.

Don't put these shows on Hulu. I have the expectation that if I pay for a service at a reasonable price, it should be ad-free. Hulu Plus is not ad-free. Netflix, on the other hand? It is. So I'll watch things on Netflix, and ignore Hulu.

So how do I go about watching Game of Thrones and the like? Easy. I either go to a friend's house when they do viewing parties... or I torrent it.

You want my money? Put it on Netflix, or iTunes/Google Play/XBox Video, or Amazon Streaming, or YouTube. You want me to recommend it to people? Let me gush over it to a friend, and then send them a link to an episode they can view just by clicking on that link. And if I'm going to be really greedy, let me pick clips from shows and then send them to friends, too.

The music industry's started to figure this out, after lots of pain. With services like Spotify, iTunes Radio, Google All Access, XBox Music, and YouTube/Vevo, I can do just that. "Hey, have you heard the latest from ____? No? Well, here's the single. And this is my favorite song by them." "Oh, cool. The album's on sale? Bought."
posted by qcubed at 2:40 PM on October 7, 2013 [27 favorites]


So how do I go about watching Game of Thrones and the like?

Or you could get the Blu Rays from Amazon...
posted by Justinian at 2:41 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hulu makes you watch ads even if you are a paid subscriber so obviously Netflix is preferred.

On the plus side, when you quit Hulu, one of the default reasons you can give in the why-are-you-quitting survey is that you don't want to watch ads. So they're certainly aware of the criticism, and may introduce something that does away with them.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:42 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I should really RTFA and not bother to make this comment, but is the observation that availability often drives popularity really new or incisive? I don't have Netflix, but I've read a bunch of MeFi anecdotes of people lamenting that XYZ isn't available on Netflix, or it's not on streaming, or it used to be but now it's not, or something relatively old has finally come to Netflix, let's all watch it together! I spend a lot of time overthinking the question of what makes people like stuff, and this is a pretty naked illustration of the fact that things within easy reach are more likable, more popular, and literally more "accessible." You see the same thing in chain bookstores, where curated inventory and giant marketing displays narrow down the buyers' choices from a universe of things they might like to the smaller set of things that need selling.

In the bookstore example, a lot of people will make the argument that the things that get advertised are a priori more accessible, likeable, and popular. But it's a harder argument to make when the former giants of entertaining TV series (like The Sopranos) get less popular because all of a sudden, it's not what everybody else is watching. Like, right now, to watch The Sopranos, you have to specifically want to watch The Sopranos, not "what's on Netflix."

The reason I'm even making this comment is that I get a lot of "what's The Sopranos?" from younger coworkers. I used to think it was some kind of micro-generational thing, but apparently it's just "what's on Netflix."
posted by Nomyte at 2:42 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a subscription to Netflix and a vudu.com account. vudu has a bunch of HBO stuff (including Game of Thrones and The Wire) and it's where I went when Netflix and my local video store didn't have Speed recently.
posted by vespabelle at 2:43 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Game of Thrones isn't the sort of show you can just wait to come out on disc. You need to watch it as close to live as possible so you can cry over the same stuff at the same time as all your friends.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:43 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Netflix streaming is all third-rate recent blockbuster-type films (only unsuccessful ones).

It's really not. There are bunches of old movies and TONS of documentaries. TONS. I'm not saying Netflix has the selection that suits you personally, but no, there's no shortage of old movies or great movies on streaming.

And comparing Netflix to Hulu is apples and oranges. Netflix doesn't have recent episodes; Hulu doesn't have movies. There's overlap in past seasons of TV shows, but they aren't direct substitutes for each other at all.

Let me pick the ones I want, a la carte.

Sorry to be the old lady, but honestly, I don't always want to buy all the short stories in a book, either, but when that's how they're packaged, I either buy the book or I don't buy the book, and that's my choice. And if I don't buy it, I don't read the story.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I came prepared to hate, but the writer (in a very longwinded, typically navel-gazing way) makes some interesting points: the collapse of the rental market and monitoring of torrents means it is harder to find "art house" cinema and foreign films (at without buying them).

On the other hand, one thing that pissed me off about my friends during the first half of my undergrad was all they ever wanted to do was smoke pot and watch television (Red Dwarf, the Young Ones, Jeeves and Wooster), so I really wonder if things have changed all that much.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:46 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the things I wonder about the new media environment is whether there ever will be shared cultural touchstones

I wonder if that will be memes and viral videos instead. We all know the Fox video and Gangnam Style instead of all having watched M.A.S.H.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:47 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It totally helps me to have low standards, I guess, because I could possibly never run out of interesting things to watch on Netflix streaming among all of the documentaries, foreign films, and TV shows, not to mention the rest of what they have on offer. I'm kind of amazed in a way that for $9/mo people can't get value out of the streaming service.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm with Linda: I have something like 300 channels. I'm actually interested in maybe 15 of them. Would I like to only receive those channels? Sure. But that's not an option currently. It also wouldn't be as cheap as you might think by the sheer channel number since the channels I'd want are many of the most popular, and thus most expensive, channels. So the 15 channels I want might cost 80% as much as the 300 channels I have now. And if I wanted ESPN it would likely cost 96% of what I pay now for 16 chhanels.
posted by Justinian at 2:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


the collapse of the rental market and monitoring of torrents means it is harder to find "art house" cinema and foreign films (at without buying them).

There are approximately 800 Criterion Collection films available on a regular Hulu Plus account. I imagine it would have been a lot fucking harder to watch the complete works of Yasujiro Ozu or whatever even ten years ago
posted by theodolite at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Aside from a handful of shows I torrent to keep up with, Netflix does an admirable job of keeping me current on shows I can't be bothered to watch as they air (HIMYM, OUAT, etc.). And as we don't have cable, this particular medium--especially when using a proxy server--serves our viewing purposes perfectly.
posted by Kitteh at 2:50 PM on October 7, 2013


Maybe it just seems like that to me because I was on the inside, but Breaking Bad has felt more like a shared cultural touchstone than any other TV thing I've experienced as it was actually broadcasting - it has been virtually omnipresent for the last 2 months!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:51 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The last 30 movies I looked for on Netflix didn't exist via disc or streaming. I've basically paid for nothing the last 4 months. This service is only worth it for for people who haven't watched tv in the last 5 years. I'm canceling at the end of this month. I wish there was a competitor that focused on more obscure independent movies.
posted by any major dude at 2:52 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The term for companies which focus on obscure independent movies is "unprofitable".
posted by Justinian at 2:53 PM on October 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


I've watched so so many things on Netflix instant. I just re-watched The Wire on HBO go as well.

Anything that isn't on netflix, or maybe HBO Plus, I don't even know about.

Watching streaming video on a tablet changes the entire equation. I can just carry my ipad into the kitchen and cook.

Bluetooth speakers are another must have. I got the cheapest iHome speaker they make and they are loads better than the ipad speakers.

This is like, the future. Even if nexflix doesn't have the newest blockbuster films, who cares, it has got enough TV series that I doubt I can ever watch them all in a lifetime.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:54 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


We've been watching our tv via streams and downloads for so long, when our HTPC went down and we were forced to watch satellite, my four year old was weirdly defenseless against commercials. This makes sense I guess, since he'd rarely seen any. We've had urgent appeals for Rescue Bots, Glow Pals, and even Arm & Hammer with OxyClean ("It has twice the cleaning power of bleach, Dad!")
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:54 PM on October 7, 2013 [68 favorites]


Can't find what you want? There are "simple" ways to view the Netflix library from other countries which have a completely different set of titles.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:56 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish there was a competitor that focused on more obscure independent movies.

Insert elizardbits' disclaimer about not being paid by Jeff Bezos, but have you checked Amazon Prime's lineup? Whenever I go into the recent additions there are a ton of movies that are definitely not major-studio stuff but also not direct-to-DVD Steven Segal dreck. I don't follow indie films so I have no idea if they're actually getting a good set of films, but it could be worth looking.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:00 PM on October 7, 2013


I wish there was a competitor that focused on more obscure independent movies.

GreenCine focuses on independent, anime, and obscure films. They have 9000 such films available on demand.
posted by phoebus at 3:00 PM on October 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've been bitching about the selection of Netflix Instant ever since they uncoupled it from their disc offerings; it's a great supplement, but the selection isn't there to make me thrilled about paying for it AND discs. That said, I'm really okay with waiting a year for a new season of [x] to show up on Netflix Instant; watercooler conversations about last night's episode are not a make or break with me.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:01 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


1. Add the disc plan to your streaming plan
2. Plow through The Wire in a couple months a long weekend
3. Downgrade back to streaming only.


FTFY. Thanksgiving is in a week so you've got the perfect opportunity coming up.
posted by Mitheral at 3:01 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cease-and-desist letters aren't such a risk, and the reward for using torrent software to acquire otherwise unavailable films is great.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:02 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh, that's the opposite of what I do. There is rarely anything on Netflix Streaming that interests me while I have an unending queue of Blu Rays that I want to watch, so I stay with the physical plan most of the time and upgrade to a physical+streaming plan when, say, a new season of one of the Netflix Original Series is released. I plow through that in a couple days and get rid of streaming again.
posted by Justinian at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2013


Hulu doesn't have movies

Except for the Criterion Collection. And other movies.

I feel like I'm the only person who really doesn't mind the ads on Hulu. In one episode of The Daily Show I might have to watch a whopping 4 ads, totalling about 2 minutes of my time. If I paid for cable, I'd be paying at least 3x more than Hulu Plus ($8/mo for Hulu Plus, looks like cable's going for $40/mo for the first six months for new accounts). And I'd be watching way more ads. (And if I chose to watch TDS and The Colbert Report through their websites, for free, it would be laggy as fuck and more ad-laden, to boot.)
posted by palomar at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the things I wonder about the new media environment is whether there ever will be shared cultural touchstones

I don't subscribe to cable, let alone Netflix, yet Breaking Bad and Miley fucking Cyrus have been pretty much unavoidable for the past month, so I think it's safe to assume that shared culture will be around for a looong time.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:05 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


But what's even better than Netflix, and free? I've got the Wire, the Sopranos and Morse. No ads. It's the library.
posted by john wilkins at 3:05 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have the same problem with Netflix that I did with the old VHS rental paradigm...I go to the store, browse the titles, and can't get enthused enough about any of them to bother watching. It just never seems like the right day, to watch "Santa Sangre"...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 3:06 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


It just never seems like the right day, to watch "Santa Sangre"..

...we lead a very different life.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:09 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Considering you had both the show creator and cinematographer of Breaking Bad publicly thanking Netflix you know there's a change to how people watch TV.

If I can't pay for it and watch it within a reasonable time of broadcast it doesn't exist to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


But what's even better than Netflix, and free? I've got the Wire, the Sopranos and Morse. No ads. It's the library.

... but you need to put on pants to go to there.
posted by peripathetic at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Netflix is pretty good for kids' TV; actual kid channels are a screaming gush of toy commercials and candy commercials. Instead my kid has gotten obsessed with Billy and Mandy and the 90s Goosebumps series (my little Goth child) and we find a fair smattering of good movies. We've watched Emperor's New Groove and Lilo and Stitch, some other classic stuff. They have all the Digimon and Power Rangers stuff.

I teach a Sunday class for 12-year-olds, and there are twin sisters in it who are obsessed with the X-Files, thanks to Netflix.
posted by emjaybee at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry to be the old lady, but honestly, I don't always want to buy all the short stories in a book, either, but when that's how they're packaged, I either buy the book or I don't buy the book, and that's my choice. And if I don't buy it, I don't read the story.

I'm with Linda: I have something like 300 channels. I'm actually interested in maybe 15 of them. Would I like to only receive those channels? Sure. But that's not an option currently. .

But just because that's the way things have been doesn't mean that's the way they should remain. Twenty years ago, if I wanted a song from an album, a song that hadn't been selected as a single, I'd have to buy the whole album or do without, right? Remember buying entire albums on the strength of one or two songs, only to learn you'd wasted your $24.95 because you didn't even want the rest of the content? Thank goodness for iTunes and the like, allowing us to preview the entire contents and select, track-by-track, what we do and do not want!
posted by erlking at 3:10 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love my Netflix. It fits me and my spouses tastes perfectly, but we're not of the type to keep up on the latest new thing either. It's got a bunch of great TV-Y7 for the boy with no commercials. No Commercials. This has been great as we haven't had commercial television since he started watching TV so he's been basically unexposed to BUY THIS! his whole life. I truly believe this has reduced the possible number of in-store meltdowns over needing some toy or other and he really thinks about what he wants. But, could be his personality, who knows?

As for me, I like to watch old sci-fi from the nineties and catch up on sitcoms from the last decade. I missed The Office and Parks and Rec when they first came around. And as others have said, foreign films and documentaries. If you don't watch a whole lot of TV in the first place, Netflix is a good way to go.
posted by Roger Dodger at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not a tech-savvy millenial but I am a dude that doesn't have a ton of free time so when I want to watch something I want it to be there, waiting, in my Netflix account because I don't have the inclination/money to join 10 other sites and I'm not buying anymore DVDs because I'm trying to get crap OUT of my apartment. And if something's not on Netflix, I have a queue full of other stuff that's ON Netflix that I'd like to watch, so sucks to be the non-Netflix show I guess.

I hate using the word "entitlement" since it makes me think of old white dudes talking about how poor people want to stay alive and it's CRAZY but it seems like a lot of the old media complex thinks they're entitled to my eyeballs/attention/time in whatever crazy format they choose.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


there’s what’s streaming on Netflix, and then there’s everything else…

I remember the days when there was what was broadcast, and... everything else.

I think this netflix situation is better.
posted by anonymisc at 3:13 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


But what's even better than Netflix, and free? I've got the Wire, the Sopranos and Morse. No ads. It's the library.

Unless you live in the Silicon Valley, where patrons of the library are required by law to rub every DVD they check out face-down on their driveways. Checked out Carnivale, got 15 minutes into the first episode, skipparoo. Checked out copy 2 of the first season of Carnivale, made it half an hour into the first episode, unplayable (not just episode 1). Checked out copy 3 of the first season of Carnivale, looks like someone kept this on the floorboard of a minivan for a month. Borrowed it on Netflix and watched two seasons without a hiccup.

I love the public library and maybe yours has the kind of patrons that know how to take care of DVDs so other patrons can watch them, but mine doesn't. You're making me jealous, patron of awesome library.
posted by phoebus at 3:15 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I recently read that HBO has canned their head digital strategist and the first thought that came to me was, "HBO has a digital strategist?!"
posted by dobbs at 3:15 PM on October 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't want any of the other channels bundled in. Let me pick the ones I want, a la carte.

That will never happen. (At least until the cable companies totally implode and are forced to start from scratch)
posted by ShutterBun at 3:16 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everything listed as being unavailable in the OP is available on Netflix by disc. I signed up for disc only back when my internet connection was too crappy and limited to use for online video, and now that I have a cable modem I still find myself more comfortable with the ritual of the queue. With two discs out at a time and alternating series discs with movies I get through a season of TV in 3-4 weeks. I find this a good pace and have personally acquainted myself with The Wire, Deadwood, and Rome this way. As well as Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, and I am now working my way through Babylon 5. All of which I missed when they were first aired because I have never seen the value in paying for TV that mostly has ads too.
posted by localroger at 3:19 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


After using a lot of streaming, watching a series on DVD is a painful experience. I have the complete box set of The Wire, and I'm working my way through it. I've got about 40 discs to keep track of, and I have to get off the couch to swap discs every few episodes. I can't imagine physical media being with us for too much longer.
posted by fridayinjune at 3:22 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the library.

... but you need to put on pants to go to there.


I only wish that everyone thought the same way about this that you do.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [30 favorites]


Just wait until the cable companies start metering bandwidth. That'll put a damper on streaming.
posted by Justinian at 3:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The term for companies which focus on obscure independent movies is "unprofitable".

I do not watch very much online, but I can only assume the streaming services' bottom line view is the same cunning strategy that led Blockbuster to always have 65 copies of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie in a massive rack but nothing made before 1975 unless it had a few Oscars and nothing that made less than $50 million in domestic box office. That worked out exceedingly well, I gather.

Note: there are no Blockbusters in Canada any more.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:24 PM on October 7, 2013


Sorry to be the old lady, but honestly, I don't always want to buy all the short stories in a book, either, but when that's how they're packaged, I either buy the book or I don't buy the book, and that's my choice. And if I don't buy it, I don't read the story.

Cool story, lady.

I don't mean to be dismissive, here, not exactly. I will, however, point to the move by the music industry to start releasing more and more singles from the same album, and their move to allow people to purchase songs from albums a la carte. At $0.99 a pop, it seems cheap, until, in some cases, you realize you've bought twenty songs that might've been bundled for $14.99 or so.

The games industry got in on it too. Maybe I don't want my female LoL character to run around in a completely impossible, barely-covers-anything costume. But hey, there are three awesome costumes that do cover everything, and they're only 850 points! I don't know how much that is, but why not? 2550 points spent! Still cheaper than the six-costume pack that included two of those costumes for 3500! (Holy crap, I just overpaid for them, didn't I? Oh well, it's like, what, $35 for 5000 points or so? Hard to keep track.)

Some authors have done the same thing. I bought John Scalzi's serial of the Human Division at $0.99 a pop. That's 13 short stories, totalling to about $13. If he ever releases a collection, I guarantee you that it will be priced at around $10 on the Kindle--at a lower cost than what I paid.

It's a sneaky bit of salesmanship, that kind of microtransaction, that I'm completely complicit in and completely willing to accept, at least until I check my bank account--online. And it makes, quite literally, bank.

Unbundle the channels. I guarantee you that many of those channels will be snapped up a la carte and prices above what they'd be paid for in a bundle, because it seems cheaper than the bundle itself. When you make things look cheap, to the point where they can be justified as impulse buys?

Netflix, for me, even with the DVD subscription, is only $15 or so a month. It's "cheap", has a lot of things, and does its job well. I would pay at least $10, and no more than $15, for HBO Go access. It seems fair to me.

Let's look at cable: I pay $60 or so for top-notch speeds, and another $14 on top of that for basic cable services that I never use. If I want to get HBO, I also have to pick up another 250+ channels that I will never watch, and fork over $99 for the privilege--meaning that I'm essentially paying a little under 50 cents for just HBO, and $98.50 for crap I don't want. Seems like a bad deal for me and HBO.

Now see how much I'm willing to pay just for one channel. $10-15. $10-15 that goes directly to HBO, doesn't have to be reduced and cut by Comcast, doesn't have to be shared by grossly misnamed channels (History, Discovery, The Learning Channel) or channels deliberately destroying our society (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC).
posted by qcubed at 3:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


With the caveats that I barely watched tv before anyway, and also that 'user experience' can be an overdeployed buzzword, the overall UX for Netflix is far better than the competitors. They have really (I think) thought through what it means to deliver streaming content online.

On the other hand, I have purchased dvds of stuff that I tried to watch on Hulu but the viewing experience was too goddamn awful. That is $$$ that Hulu could have had, if they designed their platform to be anything other than a crappy drm/ad-laden front end for their db.
posted by carter at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I cut the cable over a year ago and subscribe to Netflix and HuluPlus, and my Amazon Prime account gives me Amazon Prime Video so that's three on-demand services for around $20/month. There's a lot of redundancy between Netflix and Amazon, but you could say much of the Amazon Prime subscription was always more about the delivery service than the video service, so my video costs could be seen to be more like $15/month plus the $60/month for 20/2 broadband service.

Netflix and Hulu tend to have very different TV show collections, with Netflix heavy on complete collections for ended shows and Hulu giving me access to current shows (I can live with a one day delay). I also run a TV tuner on the HTPC with WMC, which gives me a DVR for OTA sports and CBS. MCEBuddy converts the RAW WMC video into MP4s sans commercials and they get served to the Roku via Plex.

Sometimes I browse my physical library and when I spot a movie or show I want to watch I first check to see if it is available to stream. Using the disc can be a pain, especially if it's one of those Disney discs where you have to go through a dozen trailers and commercials before getting to some flash title screen that takes 30 seconds to show a menu. At this point I'm only willing to go through that with a Blu-Ray disc, as those I own because they are movies that I'd like to see in the best quality possible (basically, I endure the Disney crap to watch a Pixar film).

If it's not streaming, I'll not bother unless I really, really want to watch it. Then other things happen, like Justin.TV for sports.
posted by linux at 3:31 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine physical media being with us for too much longer.

The main reason it will is the Doctrine of First Sale. Once a DVD is pressed it's a physical object which can't be taken back or cancelled. So while I can't use my Netflix Disc account to watch an entire season of a series in one weekend, I can use it to watch all those shows that have slipped maddeningly out of availability due to the rat's nest of licensing arrangements which govern such things.

the same cunning strategy that led Blockbuster to always have 65 copies of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie in a massive rack but nothing made before 1975 unless it had a few Oscars and nothing that made less than $50 million in domestic box office.

The streamers do this because of the licensing headaches; for some older material it's hard to even find out who has the rights. Again, though, I can count on my fingers the number of discs I've asked Netflix for which they won't provide -- and that's with one hand in my pocket.
posted by localroger at 3:34 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


After using a lot of streaming, watching a series on DVD is a painful experience. I have the complete box set of The Wire, and I'm working my way through it. I've got about 40 discs to keep track of, and I have to get off the couch to swap discs every few episodes. I can't imagine physical media being with us for too much longer.

I hear from so many evangelists of new technologies on the blue, it is hard to know how much irony was intended here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:35 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hannibal isn't on Netflix, just Amazon, so I may be forced to tie my friends to chairs and make them watch it that way.
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2013


Don't forget about RedBox!
posted by Brocktoon at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


and I have to get off the couch to swap discs every few episodes

Most of The Wire DVD's had four episodes. If it is really that troublesome to get up once every 3 hours to change a disc, you might need to consider getting more exercise.
posted by localroger at 3:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


After using a lot of streaming, watching a series on DVD is a painful experience. I have the complete box set of The Wire, and I'm working my way through it. I've got about 40 discs to keep track of, and I have to get off the couch to swap discs every few episodes. I can't imagine physical media being with us for too much longer.

Physical media will be with us for quite a while, especially for those of us who are interested in having a core collection of frequently watched media, either on physical media or non-DRMed digital files on a physical drive (not in the cloud). Streaming is great, but if the internet goes down, you're out of luck.

I never found switching discs every few episodes to be that much of a problem. I mean, I'm going to have to get up to go to the bathroom every once in a while anyway. Maybe I guzzle more beverages than you, but your stamina is quite impressive. I don't know anyone who can sit and watch five hours of TV without getting off the couch.
posted by phoebus at 3:41 PM on October 7, 2013


Just wait until the cable companies start metering bandwidth. That'll put a damper on streaming.

As of September 17 of this year that's how Mediacom in southwest MO is doing things. And you better believe it's in response to cord-cutters. And just in time for winter nesting season, too.
posted by sourwookie at 3:45 PM on October 7, 2013


I've got Netflix on my Apple TV, but my torrent collection of 400 or so films far outshines whatever is available on Netflix (I'm using Plex running on a Mac Mini). I've deleted most of my TV series as they are available on Netflix, but I'd be hard pressed to think of a single film I've deleted because of Netflix.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 3:45 PM on October 7, 2013


Help me out here: Why do people with Apple TVs use Plex rather than convert the video file to (or rip DVD to) an iTunes friendly format? Seems easier to keep it all in one place.
posted by sourwookie at 3:50 PM on October 7, 2013


Cool story, lady.

I don't mean to be dismissive, here, not exactly.


You failed.
posted by Kwine at 3:51 PM on October 7, 2013 [17 favorites]


Why do people with Apple TVs use Plex rather than convert the video file to (or rip DVD to) an iTunes friendly format?

Converting files is a chore.
posted by Null Pointer and the Exceptions at 3:52 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was so hungover a few weeks ago I watched The Autobiography Of Nicolae Ceausescu on Netflix.
posted by PHINC at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine physical media being with us for too much longer.

There is a lot of stuff that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu do not offer through streaming media. Some of what they do offer is often greatly compressed and the video and audio quality suffer as a result, sometimes even worse than 480i DVD. Until the US as a whole gets faster Internet and less-greedy licensers, I'll bet that physical media still has some legs in it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:54 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


> I'm as big of a booster of my public library as you can find, but this is one area where it's just no good. Any popular DVD has a huge waiting list -- The Wire, to use an example from the article, currently has 118 people waiting for 12 copies of the first season -- and then when it does come in, I'd only have a week to watch all five discs.

Ah, our library must be better than yours. More copies for better holds ratios, and the lending period is three weeks on complete TV seasons!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:55 PM on October 7, 2013


The otherwise good library system here in Wake County, NC (Raleigh and suburbs) does not carry any DVDs or even CDs. Just books. When we first moved here they looked at me like a crazy person just for asking where the videos were.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:01 PM on October 7, 2013


Converting files is a chore.

You did mention 400 torrents. I see why.
posted by sourwookie at 4:01 PM on October 7, 2013


I've been watching Veronica Mars by renting the DVDs one-by-one from my local Hastings. It's a pain to have to drive across town to get another disc, but it does give it a nicely defined interval: I'm going to watch 4 episodes, then call it a night. It's not so bad.

But yeah, I wish it was on Netflix.
posted by jcreigh at 4:01 PM on October 7, 2013


There is a lot of stuff that Netflix, Amazon and Hulu do not offer through streaming media. Some of what they do offer is often greatly compressed and the video and audio quality suffer as a result, sometimes even worse than 480i DVD. Until the US as a whole gets faster Internet and less-greedy licensers, I'll bet that physical media still has some legs in it.

Also, honestly sometimes you want the special features. Streaming media doesn't even have consistent subtitles, and if you want to listen to a commentary track or a trivia track or watch a making-of, you're SOL. I mean, I love Netflix (new episodes of Oddities!) but we still hit the library every few weeks, or the bargain bin at Target every month or so.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:03 PM on October 7, 2013


We just got Netflix here in the Netherlands, and I like it. Watched all available seasons of Californication, but I had to torrent the last season.

And part 2 and 3 of the Lord of the Rings is available, but not part 1.
posted by Pendragon at 4:09 PM on October 7, 2013


Why do people with Apple TVs use Plex rather than convert the video file to (or rip DVD to) an iTunes friendly format?

Also, unless you hack the AppleTV you can use Plex to add channels you otherwise could not have.

Physical media will be with us for quite a while, especially for those of us who are interested in having a core collection of frequently watched media, either on physical media or non-DRMed digital files on a physical drive (not in the cloud). Streaming is great, but if the internet goes down, you're out of luck.

Sure, but it'll be like vinyl: for collectors.
posted by linux at 4:15 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


or the bargain bin at Target every month or so.

Speaking of Target, they also recently threw their hat into the ring with Target Ticket, a service that allows you to buy/rent movies and shows to stream/download. It looks like they're pushing hard right now too, giving away 10 free downloads if you sign up. So, I guess the field isn't saturated enough if even Target wants in.
posted by FJT at 4:17 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd love to use Netflix more, but I'm in Canada.
posted by jeather at 4:21 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is no Netflix in Ber Manor but Amazon Prime streams just fine. And as mentioned above, Hannibal is there in all its gory.
posted by Ber at 4:21 PM on October 7, 2013


I'd love to use Netflix more, but I'm in Canada.

Netflix Canada is slowly getting better, but a proxy server works wonders for Netflix US catalog browsing. I love it.

(I also love browsing Netflix UK's catalog as well as that is where most of my interests lie.)
posted by Kitteh at 4:24 PM on October 7, 2013


I cling to the DVD subscription because I like getting things in the mail. If I run quickly enough to the mailbox, I don't even have to put on pants.
posted by book 'em dano at 4:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched the Wire by periodically bringing a laptop to my local library and copying the discs right there. I had to make four or five trips to get the whole series because some discs would inevitably be checked out, but I got them all eventually. Then I just deleted them after watching. These days I'd likely just torrent instead.

Netflix usually has enough content that I feel I'm getting my money's worth every month. I've often been surprised by the quality of obscure shows and movies I never I never would have considered if I wasn't bored and they was so easily available. Gems from our neighbor to the north like Trailer Park Boys and Continuum (the second season has been much better than the first) spring to mind.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2013


Unbundle the channels. I guarantee you that many of those channels will be snapped up a la carte and prices above what they'd be paid for in a bundle, because it seems cheaper than the bundle itself.

The marginal channels are currently profitable for the networks because they are bundled. If they were unbundled they would no longer be profitable. ESPN would do just fine. The Science Channel and FX would likely cease to exist. You, as you point out, would not end up paying significantly less money. How is this win-win again? Where you end up paying 10% less for 50% or 60% less content?


I don't subscribe to cable, let alone Netflix, yet Breaking Bad and Miley fucking Cyrus have been pretty much unavoidable for the past month, so I think it's safe to assume that shared culture will be around for a looong time.


No, I wasn't trying to suggest that all of culture will die, or anything. There will still be things that will be shared moments, big events. But even though Miley's huge now, I think it's even money whether she'll still be a reference everybody will get five years from now --- Could be Cindi Lauper/98 Degrees, could be Madonna/NSync. Either way, I don't think celebrity will ever die. But I think that 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, there was stuff that you could sort of depend on everybody your age knowing, like Harry and Sally watching Casablanca together in their own beds. There are a some films from the more recent past that still have that kind of reach --- the godfather, say. The most recent I can think of is maybe The Shawshank Redemption? Maybe Avatar?

That kind of knowledge means Casablanca works as more than a reference to a name or a line --- you can play off a whole scene, an attitude, an aesthetic and give them new meanings, the same way Shakespeare and Dickens could use Greek myths and Biblical parables. For that kind of doubling to work you have to be able to presume everybody knows something. If what the author's saying is right, then despite The Soprano's greatness maybe a joke about Tony and Carmela or Uncle Junior will simply never work for a lot of people like a joke about Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker still does, because contemporary mass culture is too fragmented for anything but the most ephemeral faddish stuff to get that kind of wall-to-wall mindshare.


On the other hand, I just used mindshare in a sentence, so I'm probably full of shit.
posted by Diablevert at 4:31 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I understand this because I find great shows that I otherwise wouldn't watch on both Hulu and Netflix. I also like being able to watch a show WHEN I want and WHERE I want. Start the Daily Show in the kitchen, move the bathroom and then in the bedroom as I'm getting ready for work. On demand is also nice for watching multiple episodes in one day.

Hulu has gotten outrageous with the frequency of their adds. I'm watching it less and only for a few shows.
posted by ITravelMontana at 4:33 PM on October 7, 2013


ProtoStar: "This is surely about price sensitivity. The full series of The Sopranos on DVD is over $200."

You know you're allowed to sell them when you're done right? Owning a massive collection isn't a requirement. Right now, based on going prices, I'd say you're looking at 25-30 bucks if you buy from amazon, watch them, and sell them on.
posted by pwnguin at 4:40 PM on October 7, 2013


Maybe this isn't on point, but I'm not sure how I feel about the new Netflix-originating shows being released an entire season at a time. If they are good, and at least Arrested Development and Orange Is the New Black were excellent, the temptation is to semi-marathon them. I'm hesitant to discuss them with people that haven't seen the whole season because we're at different points. After we are all done, it's on to something else. I don't watch many shows currently being shown an episode at a time, a la network shows, and I miss the opportunity for discussion over time.

TLDR: I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth.
posted by Morrigan at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I keep my Netflix disc subscription because the picture quality is just so, so much better. Am I the only one who notices this? When I watch on streaming, it's good maybe half the time, sorta noisy a third of the time, and not infrequently covered in pixelation. That's fine for The Daily Show or something, but not how I want to watch a movie, or even a TV show that's reasonably well shot.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are approximately 800 Criterion Collection films available on a regular Hulu Plus account.

The ads totally and completely wreck the entire movie. I watched Koyaanisqatsi on Hulu a few months ago. And pretty much every 5 to 8 minutes there was an ad, and that's definitely not the sort of movie that is ripe for selling laundry detergent and Big Macs.
posted by FJT at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


Just wait until the cable companies start metering bandwidth. That'll put a damper on streaming.

No, it'll make Google lay fiber like mad and get crazy rich.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, honestly sometimes you want the special features.

That is true. I have noticed that iTunes has included special feature materials with some season passes (Veep, Breaking Bad) — but these are downloads, not streaming, per se (unless you go through the iCloud route). A few die-hard fans want this stuff, but it would probably hurt Hulu and Netflix's bottom lines if they went through the trouble to offer it via streaming. So that's another advantage of physical media.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:58 PM on October 7, 2013


You can rent Koyaanisqatsi on iTunes for $4.99 (or buy it for $9.99). Same price as Blockbuster, guaranteed to be available, no commercials and way more convenient (although some people are allergic to iTunes).
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:58 PM on October 7, 2013


My wife watches a lot of Netflix and has seen a lot of classics... and some things that are similar to classics, like the 1998's Psycho ("not bad"). Kind of breaks my heart that she knows Anne Heche instead of Janet Leigh.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:17 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one who notices this? When I watch on streaming, it's good maybe half the time, sorta noisy a third of the time, and not infrequently covered in pixelation.

This is probably because your internet connection is not fast enough (or not consistently fast enough, at least). I am very, ahem, particular about video and audio quality. Blu-Ray is undeniably better than any of the streaming services. But most of the Netflix material I watch is quite acceptable, and it's virtually never pixelated. However, I have 30mbps internet service, and the devices I watch Nextflix with are connected via ethernet (wifi is technically plenty fast, but more prone to interference and other variations).

My first choice is Blu-Ray, but I do watch a lot of streaming content. To my eye, Vudu has the best quality, but I also use Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, Amazon and HBO Go pretty regularly. Netflix and HBO are the usually the first choices only because they're already paid for in the monthly subscription (I have Amazon Prime, but it seems like none of the stuff I want to watch is ever in the free tier, or it's not the HD version which isn't acceptable to me).
posted by primethyme at 5:18 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also the little problem that Netflix isn't exactly the most attentive custodian of film culture. Skimming through Holy Motors to show a friend the accordion scene (previously) I was more than a little shocked to see that one scene in the film had been censored. (It was complete in the U.S. theatrical release and on Blu-ray.)

I'm one of the olds, but I'm totally into my Blu-ray discs. That iTunes version of Koyaanisqatsi is standard-def, which, no. The version of Koyaanisqatsi (Pruitt-Igoe: eponysterical) on Blu-ray has not only much better picture quality than streaming versions, but also a ton of fascinating extras — including excerpts from an early version of the film that had extemporaneous chanting by Allen Ginsberg (!) in place of the Philip Glass score. You also get to hear about the time Godfrey Reggio and Stan Brakhage were in the same room. On the other hand, you have to buy it as part of a trilogy, and that gets expensive. (And that third film is, um, not so good.)
posted by Mothlight at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume Netflix's business plan is to start sending out threatening letters to all the parents of toddlers: "It would be a shame if that episode of Fireman Sam you seem to watch at least once a week went missing... Be sure to prevent that by upgrading your account to the Hero Next Door package - only an extra 5 bucks a week!"
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It looks like you can rent a HD copy, but you're right, buying it for $9.99 gets you SD. Weird.

Pruitt-Igoe: eponysterical
I did actually have the movie, and Philip Glass's soundtrack, in mind when I picked this name. Incidentally I regret picking it now. I don't know enough about the story of those housing projects, or St. Louis in general, or urban poverty issues in the US, although I am learning.

posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:37 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, they pulled that with Dora, but the joke's on them! We just ended up giving Amazon a bunch of money for the episodes Netflix took away!

If we can hold out until 2015 when Netflix gets the whole Disney catalog we're golden.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:38 PM on October 7, 2013


Netflix Canada is slowly getting better, but a proxy server works wonders for Netflix US catalog browsing. I love it.

I don't really feel the need to pay for Netflix and then to pay extra to actually be able to use Netflix.
posted by jeather at 5:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really feel the need to pay for Netflix and then to pay extra to actually be able to use Netflix.


It's not a lot. I pay 4.95 a month. You get more then just Netflix with a proxy service. It allows you to get pretty much any content from the US that's blocked, things like US major nettworks and comedy central and music sites like Pandora. (No more not being able to watch US based clips posted on Metafilter). Same with the UK. I've been watching BBC shows straight off the BBC player network site which I can't do without it.
posted by Jalliah at 5:46 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to recommend CanIStream.It

It solves the problem I've had is trying to figure out if something is on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime (the free streams). It which will let you know which services you can stream it for free, pay to stream/download it, get a Netflix DVD, buy a DVD, and more. It also lets you set up email alerts when things become available in your preferred format.
posted by ShooBoo at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The ads totally and completely wreck the entire movie. I watched Koyaanisqatsi on Hulu a few months ago. And pretty much every 5 to 8 minutes there was an ad, and that's definitely not the sort of movie that is ripe for selling laundry detergent and Big Macs.

If you pony up the $7.99 a month you get all of the Criterion titles ad-free. And some of the others movies too, I think... but I'm not 100% on that because I'm a snob and almost exclusively watch Criterion titles.
posted by MiaWallace at 6:00 PM on October 7, 2013


If you pony up the $7.99 a month you get all of the Criterion titles ad-free. And some of the others movies too, I think... but I'm not 100% on that because I'm a snob and almost exclusively watch Criterion titles.

Unless things have changed over at Hulu, this isn't quite true. I was pretty jazzed about the Criterion thing too, when I signed up, but there were some big holes. For instance, The Sweet Smell of Success is unavailable. It doesn't seem to be on any streaming service, but claiming that they have the entire Criterion collection now strikes me as kind of lame.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2013


I'm a reasonably, perhaps unreasonably, voracious devourer of film -- easily 250 a year. And I keep my dual-mode Netflix subscription, but also supplement it with Amazon Prime and the library (and the very occasional Redbox). I'm inclined toward deprecating judginess, de gustibus and all that, but I don't get people who think there's "nothing on Netflix that interests me" when I can see Hellboy and The General and Helvetica and 30 Rock and SNL: the 1970s, just to pick some wildly different examples. I mean, you're only allowed 500 movies in your physical queue, and I fight a losing battle to keep mine topped off at 499, because then I can add other stuff to my saved queue -- although I'm more hopeful about future releases than that obscure 1960s comedy, mind you.

It's apparent they are investing less in the DVD-by-mail silo. More and more things are showing a "long wait" indicator, things that I had in my queue are popping into my saved queue (because all the discs got broken in transit, I gather).

But basically, I follow a sort of process like this: If Netflix has the Blu-Ray, I prioritize getting it that way. If Netflix has the DVD and the library does not, I get it that way. If the library has the DVD, though, then I borrow it instead of holding a place in my queue. I try to watch as much on streaming as possible and now have over 100 items in "My List", but they usually are not things that are priorities on my physical list. But I've watched some really interesting stuff that way.

I have Amazon Prime, too, as noted, but it doesn't fit into my process very directly. I use that to watch what I can, but there's surprisingly few chances for me to open up a Netflix queue slot by using Prime instead -- maybe 1 in 20. I also watch stuff a la carte on Amazon, such as Party Down or Downton Abbey (since Netflix hasn't gotten the newest seasons). I try to keep that under control since it is an extra expense (whereas I've easily saved my Prime subscription in shipping costs alone).

All that said, I think the original article here has a point. It can be difficult, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair, to persuade someone to change their viewing habits when their beer money depends on it. What really disappoints me about the current situation is how diverse it is, and how challenging it can be to go outside that easy streaming ecosystem. I've recently begun watching Community thanks to the library, and it's a real chore to deal with a TV series that way (especially if you hate to binge-watch).

So, this film buff finds some of the Netflix model working pretty well, and its limitations are able to be worked around with some effort. (I also don't particularly blame Netflix for those limitations, since rights are notoriously hairy, and the studios and cable channels that own the content are definitely trying to either screw Netflix for as much money as they have, or deny them the rights to special goodies just because. I don't rail at Reed Hastings when there's a hole, because I figure that's something the studios just won't sell him at a price he can afford (on the sub price that the audience can afford). There are actually other holes that bother me more, like why I can't get Blake's 7 anywhere for love or money (at least they finally released The Lieutenant as promised years earlier). Given the "rerun" motif explored in the original post, I'm surprised more stuff like this isn't available on streaming, like those "beloved but cancelled" sitcoms. I know the concept of the long tail has been somewhat debunked, but this still remains the promise -- the unlimited digital library. So I'm pissed off at the marketplace for not delivering.
posted by dhartung at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


A stadium crowd cheers, "Torrents! Torrents! Torrents!"
posted by planetesimal at 6:34 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


So not that I encourage stealing media, but surely her students have heard of BitTorrent?
posted by 256 at 6:39 PM on October 7, 2013


BitTorrent and dtella both require work and some degree of nerd cred. Fun graphs like this one suggest that much more bandwidth is being dedicated to real-time streaming than file sharing. Why try harder?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2013


I don't get people who think there's "nothing on Netflix that interests me" when I can see Hellboy and The General and Helvetica and 30 Rock and SNL: the 1970s, just to pick some wildly different examples.

The Netflix lack-of-selection complaint always reminded me of certain classmates on school field trips who'd trudge sulkily around zoos and museums and fascinating historical landmarks, moaning about HOW BORING and LOOK AT ALL THIS DUMB STUFF and WHO CARES ANYWAY, and meanwhile they just walked past a giant Claes Oldenburg lipstick container on tank treads without even giving it a second glance.

Now that all of the great old mom & pop indie video stores are at least 15 years gone (I used to haunt the one at my university), I feel like streaming video is starting to regain some of that feeling of random discovery that had been lost when Blockbuster took over. The weird boutique horror and cult-movie channels on Roku definitely give me the feeling of flipping through photocopied box covers at the old Video Spectrum...
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:16 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


The marginal channels are currently profitable for the networks because they are bundled. If they were unbundled they would no longer be profitable. ESPN would do just fine. The Science Channel and FX would likely cease to exist.

Yeah, that's the argument from cable providers we keep hearing over and over, but presenting it as The Way It's Always Been And Thus The Way It Always Must Be isn't helpful or realistic. Let's see the experiment. Let's loosen it up and at least *try*. There's no reason to believe that an a la carte channel experiment wouldn't result in at least a few new and interesting business models - analogous to Andrew Sullivan's subscriber model for his blog, e.g. It's already a brave new world for newspapers, right? Why can't that apply to cable channels as well? Why the desperate need to protect an old business model instead of opening things up and seeing what blooms among the new ones?

This Forbes piece is one antidote to the "but we must keep the current model at all costs!" crowd: Unraveling The Cable Industry's Spin On Unbundling
The a la carte doomsayers will tell you consumers would suffer...That’s a smokescreen...[Here's] the model of the big programmers over the last decade: Use your muscle to get carriers to offer a new channel; seed it with one or two high-investment shows; fill up the rest of the schedule with syndicated reruns or movies or cheap reality programming; repeat...

So the idea that more channels is automatically good for the consumer is a fallacy. 21st Century Fox COO Chase Carey, whose interest in upholding the bundling regime is as strong as anyone’s, acknowledged as much during the conglomerate’s investors day Thursday. In the same presentation wherein he declared “A la carte is a fantasy,” he also blamed the proliferation of weakly-programmed channels for the runaway cost of pay TV. “Consumers have more than enough choice,” he said. “The priority should shift from quantity to quality. We’d rather have a bouquet of great channels than acres of mediocre channels.”

Funny. So would consumers.
At this point, the assumption that channels like FX and Science Channel couldn't survive unbundled is just that: an assumption. And what's really being protected first and foremost is the ridiculously inflated profit margin of channels like ESPN, and the egos/profits of major networks who really, really don't want to know how many people are actually willing to pay for their shitty offerings. It may turn out to be true that ESPN will flourish and Science will wither and die, but it may not, and it's worth pointing out that folks who insist on maintaining the status quo are at odds with major cable and content providers, who increasingly appear to be open to the idea.

It needs to happen sooner rather than later.
posted by mediareport at 7:34 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


netflix movie selection is still heavy on the b-grade garbage tho. it's really irritating. i don't need new releases right when they hit DVD, but even mainstream titles from like 1 or 2 years old are rarely on there. meh.

but Parks & Rec season 5 is on there. i'm trying really hard not to burn through it in a day.

amazon prime video is really good, too. although for paying for prime, i don't know why there's still content you have to pay for. the choices for prime/ not prime seem random.
posted by ninjew at 7:59 PM on October 7, 2013


No Commercials. This has been great as we haven't had commercial television since he started watching TV so he's been basically unexposed to BUY THIS! his whole life. I truly believe this has reduced the possible number of in-store meltdowns over needing some toy or other and he really thinks about what he wants.

This is something I need to ponder.

Since my child was born, her viewing options have basically been limited to PBS and whatever my wife and I choose for her on Netflix (which is mostly PBS retreads or nature/educational shows).

No Dora, no constant toy tie-ins, no Disney princesses, and we have no problems with melt-downs in the toy aisle as well.

As you say, a lot of it is probably personality and the fact that we aren't big toy buyers to begin with.
But certainly, the ease with which we can control programming choices with streaming services makes a parent's life easier.
posted by madajb at 8:02 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


And the big cable/internet companies (Comcast, AT&T, and Mediacom) are trying to figure out how to best penalize users who are canceling the cable part of their packages and moving to Netflix/Hulu by raising rates on the internet portion of their service and adding data caps those those already subscribed to their internet.

I've tried to cancel my cable account, but every single time I call up comcast, they finagle my cable and internet bill so it's just that much less than getting internet on its lonesome.

Instead, we just don't hook up the cable to the TV. For some reason we've never been able to figure out, we get NHK world service over the air and not through cable, and our household has found it to be the perfect random background noise.

Also, we'd usually lose the NASA channel if we hooked up the cable, but the government shutdown took care of that for us

Personally, I've found Netflix + VUDU for when I really want to watch a very particular thing has worked the best. I occasionally still buy things off Itunes if they're available the day after airing and not on hulu, but I've also found that it's really frustrating to try to figure out how to then share that awesome DRM-laden thing with other people or even a good, cheap way to get the files to appear on my television. The last time I tried, my last ditch attempt to set up a VGA cable crashed my television, and I ended up just torrenting another copy of Orphan Black to share.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:14 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, dinty, I ended up using Amazon Video to get the Legend of Korra this year instead of iTunes like I did last year for that very reason. Little screen just isn't as good, and making itunes play with my TV was just too much work. But we got a Wii last year and now we're golden.
posted by emjaybee at 8:28 PM on October 7, 2013


This seems relevant. Now people can get HBO shows a la carte! Are people willing to pay for what they say they're willing to pay for? We'll see!
posted by Justinian at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2013


Seven HBO originals now available are: “Game of Thrones” season 2; “Boardwalk Empire” season 3; “The Newsroom” season 1; “True Blood” season 5; “Girls” season 2; “Veep” season 1; and “The Wire” season 5.

So, basically everything you have already been able to get on Apple's iTunes for a while, now. Except no current lineup.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Woops yeah its still not letting you get current seasons. NEVER MIND CARRY ON.
posted by Justinian at 9:14 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Remember folks, the best way to watch The Wire is by starting with that absolute classic season 5. The earlier stuff is just warm up filler to get there.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:15 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


From outside the U.S., gah. Torrenting is pretty much my only option (other than a VPN). Hulu has arrived in Japan, but it's only programs that are years old. For example, available on Hulu in Japan, season 1 of Sons of Anarchy.

Meanwhile, DVD rentals are still the norm here, TV shows included. Game of Thrones came out on DVD here this summer. Season 1. This summer.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:18 PM on October 7, 2013


Netflix streaming isn't THAT good yet, still. I keep the streaming plus discs plan, but I only sporadically use my streaming. There's a few things here and there that are streaming-only, but in general, I can't just drop in and see anything I want at random by using it. Plus I LIKE renting the discs so I can see the extras and commentaries on them, which streaming doesn't do.

Netflix is not only streaming yet, guys.

*goes back to watching Leverage season five on Netflix DVD now*

posted by jenfullmoon at 9:22 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I frequently do Netflix on a small screen (my iPod touch takes it around the house) or in miniature when I'm doing other stuff on the computer, so the quality doesn't bother me much. I have Netflix and Amazon. Amazon still thinks I am a student for some reason so I get Prime super cheap.
posted by NoraReed at 10:56 PM on October 7, 2013


one of the things I wonder about the new media environment is whether there ever will be shared cultural touchstones to the same extent that there were in the mid-20th century.

The amazing thing is that what is happening is that the shared cultural touchstones are now all happening through Netflix.

I see my friends cycling through the same Netflix-able TV series, for example. It seems everyone my age has watched all of Roseanne and The X Files, tons of Star Trek, Twin Peaks, Friday Night Lights, The West Wing, stuff from the Whedonverse, Parks & Rec (and to a lesser extent, The Office), 30 Rock, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, How I Met Your Mother, and Doctor Who. And now with Netflix original content, add Orange Is The New Black and House Of Cards.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how Netflix is driving the 90s aesthetic comeback by putting focus on 90s TV series like Roseanne.

Meanwhile, as it concerns broadcast TV where previous seasons aren't available on Netflix? Community is the only show I can think of that I know multiple people who watch religiously and talk about it a lot, and it's sort of a "shared cultural touchstone" in the same way as OITNB and Breaking Bad have been within my (millennial, techy, socially liberal) circle.

My assumption is that anyone else watching broadcast TV and not heavily supplementing with Netflix must be really old and watch a lot of CBS.

I actually think HBO is seriously missing the boat on this, though I understand why their business model is what it is. The only series I think they have right now that is still culturally relevant is Game Of Thrones, and I'm curious how long they can really sustain that, especially since the Red Wedding is over and now we're getting into the boring stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can only assume the streaming services' bottom line view is the same cunning strategy that led Blockbuster to always have 65 copies of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie in a massive rack but nothing made before 1975 unless it had a few Oscars and nothing that made less than $50 million in domestic box office. That worked out exceedingly well, I gather.

The awesome thing about Netflix is that it's actually kind of the opposite. Every once in a while they'll score a major coup and get a recent big release, but mostly it's obscure back catalog stuff. One of my favorite things is when I discover that Netflix has some random old movie I love, or always wanted to see, or heard about but never actually came across a physical copy.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 PM on October 7, 2013


At this point, the assumption that channels like FX and Science Channel couldn't survive unbundled is just that: an assumption.

Assumptions made by big, important people with a vested interest in the outcome of those assumptions = you might as well consider it "truth."

Funny thing about Metafilter when it comes to TV. The ideals about socialism and majorities supporting minorities (i.e. popular, moneymaking channels allowing niche channels to survive) just goes right out the window when it directly affects their monthly bottom line.

Think about how much love PBS gets around here, when there are so many other channels that are (for better or worse) filling the exact same public desire?

And those of you who think "I won't subscribe to HBO, I'll just pick and choose which series to follow later," I must remind you: it's us monthly subscribers (guaranteed revenue) that allows HBO to have the balls to produce these kinds of shows.

We already know what happens when the general public is allowed to "pick and choose" what movies to support. Look at any published lineup of upcoming movies to see the consequences.

You want a bunch of top-quality, critically acclaimed programming to enjoy? Please be prepared to have your dollars also go towards a bunch of crap you'll never watch.

Socialism works; or am I wrong?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:17 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only series I think they have right now that is still culturally relevant is Game Of Thrones,

For the moment, yep. AMC seems to be riding high with (decedent) Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Walking Dead. I'm guessing a few people around that network are trying to figure out what the next cash cow will be.

But ya know what? None of those shows would have been allowed to happen unless cable companies (and their subscribers) agreed to "subsidize" a whole bunch of other channels in the AMC "package." A bunch of shitty shows, with low viewership (and commercials!) whose overflow income (normally called "profit") inadvertently gave AMC (and Viacom or whoever the fuck owns them) the wherewithal to spend a million bucks a week on a zombie series.

At the risk of answering myself, I'll repeat/rephrase: a la carte pricing will not work for TV. We had 100 years of (nearly*) a la carte model for movies, and we broke it. I'd be very surprised to see TV willingly change courses to follow the movie industry into disaster.

*obviously, a bunch of shit goes on behind the scenes which helps decide what movies you see in theaters, beyond mere advertising
posted by ShutterBun at 12:36 AM on October 8, 2013


FFS Cable subscription bundling is not socialism. You can't just call every single thing that isn't balls-to-the-wall libertarian-fantasy-land socialism and then argue Metafilter is being inconsistent by not supporting it.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 12:51 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


None of those shows would have been allowed to happen unless cable companies (and their subscribers) agreed to "subsidize" a whole bunch of other channels in the AMC "package." A bunch of shitty shows, with low viewership (and commercials!) whose overflow income (normally called "profit") inadvertently gave AMC (and Viacom or whoever the fuck owns them) the wherewithal to spend a million bucks a week on a zombie series.

I said nothing about cable bundling and really couldn't care less about it. I don't know why you reduced my "reasons Netflix is culturally interesting" to "waaaaaaah cable companies bad!"

Though, seriously, if HBO doesn't at least start putting legacy content on Netflix soon, they're going to start losing market share among younger viewers.
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 AM on October 8, 2013


The Sopranos and Sex And The City came on over a decade ago. The smart thing would really be to release that stuff. You'd get a generation of new younger viewers who get a taste of HBO's brand. You get people talking about those shows again. And it's not like people are really going out and buying those DVDs anymore, so it doesn't really cut into their margins at all.
posted by Sara C. at 1:12 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


FFS Cable subscription bundling is not socialism. You can't just call every single thing that isn't balls-to-the-wall libertarian-fantasy-land socialism and then argue Metafilter is being inconsistent by not supporting it.

For the record, I was the one equating it with socialism, and I stand by my comparison. And I didn't "just" call it socialism, I gave it a lot of consideration, though admittedly that may not have appeared in my post.

I feel like I gave a few good reasons for comparison (unpopular programs paid for by the whole, enjoyed by the few, with the resultant "beneficial to all") but if you'd care to elaborate on how this is fundamentally not socialism (or indeed even worthy of comparison) I'm all ears, really.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:26 AM on October 8, 2013


netflix movie selection is still heavy on the b-grade garbage tho. it's really irritating. i don't need new releases right when they hit DVD, but even mainstream titles from like 1 or 2 years old are rarely on there. meh.

As I've pointed out, though, this is by design on the part of the movie studios. A couple of years ago Netflix filled that gap through a relicensing deal with Starz, but then the studios closed that door tight when the contract was up for renewal.

although for paying for prime, i don't know why there's still content you have to pay for. the choices for prime/ not prime seem random.

Again, licensing. These are decisions made at the content production end, not the distribution end. I have to imagine that there is a rational process here, although it may not be as rigorous as, say, setting a threshold of DVD or pay-per-view sales. It also may simply come down to original rights held by one or more parties dating all the way back to when the movie or series was made, and clearances that have or have not been obtained. So it may seem random but I doubt that it is actually random at all.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how Netflix is driving the 90s aesthetic comeback by putting focus on 90s TV series like Roseanne.

Well, it certainly isn't -- I don't think it is -- something that Netflix is consciously curating. I think it comes down to the same analysis I'm pointing to above, that is content-rights-driven, and where a lot of 90s content falls into a sweet spot of available, affordable, and audience-attracting. Which, as it not at all coincidentally turns out, are the factors that tended to drive syndication rights. Star Trek is an enduring property today because it was the perfect syndicated show in many ways.

We humans are a lot more predictable than we like to think we are.
posted by dhartung at 1:50 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


We humans are a lot more predictable than we like to think we are.

Now then, let's calculate how many people would have paid money to watch "House of Cards," sight unseen, on an a la carte basis.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:13 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Breaking Bad is a Netflix exclusive in the UK. I believe the first two series were on broadcast TV (maybe Channel 5?) and then they stopped showing it. So the only legal way to see anything beyond that here was to buy the DVDs until Netflix launched. (We only got Parks and Rec last year on TV too. Yet 2 Broke Girls was picked up by E4 pretty much as soon as it launched in the States.) The acres of press coverage the series is getting in the UK? It's for a series which you can only watch via an internet streaming service.

So for that reason, a LOT of people I know now have Netflix here, despite the common complaint that their film offerings in the UK are analogus to the Blockbuster bargain bin. Half my office seems to be working their way through BB or House of Cards (which is probably thoroughly tedious for those who have never watched either). I know a few people who don't actually own a TV set up for broadcast, because you can watch everything on iPlayer, 4oD or streaming services now.

I really hope they get Mad Men as it's only carried on Sky, and the final season starts on my birthday next year. And they need to sort out Hulu for the UK, if only because I still like watching The Simpsons.
posted by mippy at 3:17 AM on October 8, 2013


It's not a lot. I pay 4.95 a month. You get more then just Netflix with a proxy service. It allows you to get pretty much any content from the US that's blocked, things like US major nettworks and comedy central and music sites like Pandora. (No more not being able to watch US based clips posted on Metafilter). Same with the UK. I've been watching BBC shows straight off the BBC player network site which I can't do without it.

Seriously. With a proxy server filling some of my needs, I don't have to worry about having content I can't access because of where I am. This works great for the BBC and all other manner of websites I can't have in Canada because of licensing grounds.

If you're not willing to entertain other options than torrenting, it's just whinging for the sake of whinging.
posted by Kitteh at 3:46 AM on October 8, 2013


if you'd care to elaborate on how this is fundamentally not socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.
Do you and your fellow cable subscribers own your cable provider? What management decisions have you made recently?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Elementary Penguin: "
Socialism is an economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy.
Do you and your fellow cable subscribers own your cable provider? What management decisions have you made recently?
"

This, socialism refers to a specific kind of ownership/management structure either for a whole economy, or more loosely for any organization. Socialism is not a generic term for any system where one group subsidies another, nor does it make sense to cry inconsistency at those who don't see all such systems as equivalent.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 4:15 AM on October 8, 2013


But just because that's the way things have been doesn't mean that's the way they should remain.

Of course. If you want to convince people to sell things in a different way by refusing to pay what you consider an unreasonable price, that's totally fine -- I would be more than on board with finding out what individual a la carte cable would cost (though the idea that it would cost [your cable bill] * [number of channels you watch]/[number of channels you have] is a pipedream). I love new models, I love new ways of delivering content -- in fact, I love cord-cutters who replace their cable with subscription services or the library or whatever else works that's above board.

What I don't love is the idea that if you don't like the way something is being sold -- in other words, you don't like the business model -- you're entitled to decline to make the purchase and have the thing anyway, in whatever form. An indignant "if you want me to pay for things, offer terms I will accept, or else I won't buy" is absolutely and totally great and is just being a smart consumer.

Following that with "...and I will simply go and copy the thing for free, and it will be your fault for not offering terms I like" is where you lose me. I understand not being willing to pay for HBO. I support not paying for HBO. I do not, however, understand believing you're morally entitled to see Game Of Thrones, such that if the terms aren't to your liking, you can do whatever you want to obtain it. I fully understand that there are a lot of people whose ethical view on that is different, but that happens to be mine. If you're torrenting Game Of Thrones, you're only able to do that because other people are paying for it. Somebody is paying the actors and the lighting guys and the writers and the people who do craft service, and it's not you. You're participating in an unsustainable model, in that if everyone did it the way you do, it wouldn't work. It's basically (to me) like driving up the shoulder during a traffic jam: you can only gain an advantage because other people are following the dumb stupid rules. If everybody did it, nobody could do it. Torrenting because you think cable is too expensive has the same limitation.

So look, if you want to rely on what's on Netflix like the folks in this piece, or you want to rely on the library, or you want to rely on whatever, that doesn't bother me a bit. And if you want to opt out of cable altogether because (1) television is bad, or (2) cable is overpriced, or (3) bundling is evil, that makes sense, too. But the indignant "I take what I want and pay nothing because I don't like the price, and if they don't want me to just take it, they'll have to meet my terms" argument has just always sat very weirdly with me, because ethically, I don't understand how it wouldn't apply equally to helping yourself to anything else that's for sale as an alternative to paying an unfair price. Which, you know, for food when you're starving, sure. For Veep? Naw. Not to me.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 4:35 AM on October 8, 2013 [15 favorites]


My objection, as stated, was to paying for a limited version of Netflix, not to paying in general for content.
posted by jeather at 5:46 AM on October 8, 2013


You make a well-argued point, Linda. You've very nearly melted this wretched pirate's black heart. However, you're forgetting that there's a sizeable number of Game of Thrones torrenters (such as myself) who also buy the DVD/Blu-Ray/iTunes/etc. releases the moment those become available.

I show my support for the show by dutifully forking over my $60 for the box set every year; in fact, HBO could get my money a full six months sooner by releasing the Blu-Rays in September (three months after the end of each season) instead of March (one month before the start of the next season). Cable subscriptions are on their way out, and I've decided to use my money to signal to HBO which direction they need to take their business in.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:02 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're participating in an unsustainable model, in that if everyone did it the way you do, it wouldn't work.

But when you combine that with the fact that it is trivially easy and almost risk-free to torrent (or otherwise obtain) Game of Thrones, and it will always be trivially easy and risk-free to torrent (or otherwise obtain) Game of Thrones and whatever the next thing is, the lesson that I get is that maybe HBO would be smart to switch to a business model that's more sustainable.

That certainly seems more long run profitable than "Ignore that the current model is not sustainable" or "Attempt to change revealed human nature somehow" or "Legislate yourself back into sustainability, and then ignore that it was completely ineffective."

But the indignant "I take what I want and pay nothing because I don't like the price, and if they don't want me to just take it, they'll have to meet my terms" argument has just always sat very weirdly with me, because ethically, I don't understand how it wouldn't apply equally to helping yourself to anything else that's for sale as an alternative to paying an unfair price.

It doesn't apply to physical products because it's not trivially easy and risk-free to obtain physical products without paying. But no matter how they feel about it, or how you feel about it, or how unethical it is, that's the world the tv, movie, and music industries are stuck in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:09 AM on October 8, 2013


Apropos, Statute of Anne (early UK and US law): copyright protection of 14 years plus a single renewal if the author was alive.

Current EU/US copyright law: 70 years from the death of the author.

/shelves his Super Mario Bros 3 vs Alien Blade Runner magnum opus for 70+ more years.
posted by ersatz at 7:05 AM on October 8, 2013



ShutterBun: Now then, let's calculate how many people would have paid money to watch "House of Cards," sight unseen, on an a la carte basis.

People do this all the time with movies. Heck the cable companies all have the infrastructure in place to roll this out tomorrow; all they'd have to do is build on PPV. Digitally addressable boxes mean you can control the granularity of access to any division you want.

Cable companies could do a lot more in that direction actually. Imagine instead of getting a blank screen when you tuned to a channel you don't subscribe to you got trailers /teasers for what ever show was currently playing broken up by the ads in their regular slot. Or maybe activate all channels for the first 7 minutes of the hour.

Instead my cable company apparently needs to send an installer out to my house to expand my subscription from basic -> basic+tier 1. And they are oh so proud of the strides they've made to reduce the appointment window to four hours. It's fricken' ridiculous. They are barely taking advantage of the capabilities of their new hardware.
posted by Mitheral at 8:13 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't always want to buy all the short stories in a book, either, but when that's how they're packaged, I either buy the book or I don't buy the book, and that's my choice. And if I don't buy it, I don't read the story.

A business model where demand for a single item sustains a collection is very vulnerable to being eaten from underneath by competitors.

Does iTunes sell more albums or single tracks? Albums appear to have been a blip of the 70s through the 90s.

A second factor: there are folks making very decent livings on Youtube & Twitch.tv doing ad-supported single chanels. There are vlogs, science shows, cooking shows, short dramas, and e-sports. The best top over a million viewers per episode within a week. Some of these are so cheap to produce (the e-sports ones, for example), a single person can crank out one every day. Viewerships of 100k per channel are very viable today. Micro-channels work, supporting a range from individuals through small productions teams, full-time.

The landscape is ripe for a major hit to appear. Audiences are primed for that delivery mechanism right now. It's only a matter of time before a pewdiepie or a Jenna Marbles becomes a major cultural touchstone and a star, without ever having been signed to a tradtional TV contract.
posted by bonehead at 8:29 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


maybe HBO would be smart to switch to a business model that's more sustainable.

Oh, no argument. When people come at this saying, "Hey, it's bad business to keep doing it this way, because as long as people can simply take, they will simply take, and the failure to grasp that concept is kind of remarkable and makes them look dopey," I get that, and I don't disagree with it. (Though the solutions -- a la carte, HBO GO by itself, etc., are more complicated to implement than I think people believe them to be.)

It's the high-handed "it's my right to take, because it's their fault for having a bad business model; I am sticking it to corporations by downloading Game Of Thrones" that tends to stick in my craw. You can think businesses are being foolish, short-sighted, greedy and backwards and still not agree that having the technological ability to obtain things without paying for them means it's an awesome thing to do. Whatever you believe about torrenting a show -- and people of good faith differ wildly on this point, with lots of room for "yes to things you can't otherwise get, no to things you just don't want to pay for," as well as your point about not wanting to wait but planning to pay later, and so forth. I'm just saying -- whether it's easy or hard is one question, and whether it's ethical or not is another question.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:01 AM on October 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


What about people who listen to NPR and don't pledge?
posted by entropicamericana at 9:19 AM on October 8, 2013


Well, it certainly isn't -- I don't think it is -- something that Netflix is consciously curating.

Of course.

I didn't think it was.

I think my comments are being lumped into the cord cutter/"why doesn't Netflix have X type of content I wish they would have" discussion, when they're really not germane to that at all.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2013


It's only a matter of time before a pewdiepie or a Jenna Marbles becomes a major cultural touchstone and a star, without ever having been signed to a tradtional TV contract.

I think you're comparing apples to oranges there, though.

People with those types of channels aren't actors, and they would never be given a "traditional TV contract" (whatever the hell that is) for that reason.

If someone like Jenna Marbles were to become a household-name level celebrity, it would be much more in the vein of Kim Kardashian than (to name an example that relates to the Netflix conversation) Kevin Spacey. One of those weird figures from celebrity culture where nobody can explain why they're famous or what talent they are "famous for" aside from just being famous.

Of course, Kim Kardashian has a TV show. But it's not the kind of TV show we're talking about in this thread.

I'm much more interested to see what role shows like Orange Is The New Black play in the media landscape, or whether we'll ever see a hit narrative web series (outside of a popular series getting picked up by a broadcast network).
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2013


Hulu has said they're looking into adding an ad-free tier.
posted by drezdn at 10:23 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


But it's not the kind of TV show we're talking about in this thread.... I'm much more interested to see what role shows like Orange Is The New Black play in the media landscape, or whether we'll ever see a hit narrative web series...

I thinks that's a matter of degree, not kind, as you suggest. A youtube cooking show pulling higher viewership than a hit on the food network, or League of Legends geting more views than pro tennis torunaments are not impossible, perhaps even likely in the next 5 years.

I don't think drama (or comedy) is much different, just a different audience segment. People are already making their livings off of such things. It's only a matter of time before companies start making really big dollars this way.

Netflix's biggest competitors in a few years won't be the traditional channels, I'd bet. We'll be talking about Youtube affilitate networks instead, like vevo or machinima. HBO and Netflix each have subscribers near 30 million, while the Youtube affiliates are half that, and growing fast. Subscriber levels for things like twitch and machinima, in particular are not those of boutique dramas, but those of ESPN levels. The affiliate networks don't make anywhere near as much per person yet, but we're early days in the monetization models.
posted by bonehead at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2013


Isn't Netflix itself already an a la carte channel? It not only offers reruns and movies on demand, it also produces and airs its own original shows.
posted by rue72 at 11:07 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm just saying -- whether it's easy or hard is one question, and whether it's ethical or not is another question.

I'd even argue that right or wrong is irrelevant to the question of availability raised in the article. What's out there and being watched right now, legally or not, is what seems to be of concern to the productions companies. See for example, the recent near celebratory reaction to GoT setting a "piracy record". Torrenting stats are being used as rating numbers now.

A producer/showrunner could look at the legal/pirate viewer ratio as a function of how efficient a "channel", HBO, for example, is at converting demand into paying customers. It would be interesting to see similar numbers for House of Cards, say. If Netflix (or Youtube or whomever) is better at extracting the maximum dollar value from the customers, by actually reaching the customers instead of losing them to torrents, it's hard to see how HBO can survive. The morality of "stealing" is irrelevant.
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on October 8, 2013


Isn't Netflix itself already an a la carte channel? It not only offers reruns and movies on demand, it also produces and airs its own original shows.

Netflix is more like buffet/smorgasbord, in that you pay one flat fee and watch whatever you want with no limitations. A true a la carte TV system would be like a cafeteria, allowing you to pay as much or as little as you wish, depending on how many different programs you wanted to watch; this seems a bit more like iTunes or Google Play than Netflix.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:44 PM on October 8, 2013


Hulu has said they're looking into adding an ad-free tier.

Y'know, Hulu, there are alternatives. HitBliss is a service where you stream movies and TV shows. You can spend money, but you can also obtain credits by watching advertisements and deciding whether or not to release your search habits and history to advertisers. The ads are just as annoying, but at least the movie is kept whole.
posted by FJT at 3:02 PM on October 8, 2013


Beyond the commercial or even content differences between each OTT TV service provider (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, RedBox...), an important variable to understand the shift that TV is experiencing is based on the difference between the traditional linear broadcasting model in which the end-user assumes a completely passive role, and the new on-demand broadcasting model in which, for the first time, end-users are given an active role in searching and deciding what and when to watch.

This may seem trivial, but it's actually one of the greatest challenges for an audience that has been (mis)educated for decades to passively accept and consume pre-selected content. Are we -as an audience- ready to transition to a broadcasting model where we can actually assume an active role in freely deciding what to watch?

OTT TV service providers should focus on developing strategies to help audiences break this inertia that the traditional linear broadcasting model has built over decades.
posted by Frontlayer at 9:56 PM on October 8, 2013


entropicamericana: "What about people who listen to NPR and don't pledge?"

NPR has made podcasting so easy I have to assume they've already got the next funding model worked out. I can literally subscribe to just the weekly puzzle portion of the Weekend Edition.

My question is what happens when I get off my lazy butt and implement adblock for podcasts.
posted by pwnguin at 10:21 PM on October 8, 2013


Strange Interlude: A true a la carte TV system would be like a cafeteria, allowing you to pay as much or as little as you wish, depending on how many different programs you wanted to watch; this seems a bit more like iTunes or Google Play than Netflix.

I understand what you are saying, but in the context of alternate television distribution systems, the "a la carte model" is usually considered to be paying per each individual channel you want to have access to, not each program.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:17 AM on October 9, 2013


Inkoo Kang wrote "Why It’s Harder to Recommend ‘Buffy’ to Friends", agreeing with and expanding on the original article.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:00 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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