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"The brutal reality is Netflix’s bargain days for streaming movies and television is coming to an end."
December 9, 2010 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Is Netflix Streaming Its Way Towards Disaster? In the wake of last month's price hike, Edward Epstein (author of The Big Picture and The Hollywood Economist) explores a few issues with Netflix's turn toward streaming video. The licensing deals Netflix cobbled together before studios fully grokked the value of streaming are expiring in the next year or two, outlets like Amazon and HBO are starting their own streaming services, and the right of first sale, which allows Netflix to buy DVDs and then rent them over and over, doesn't apply to streamed content. Via this post from Slashfilm, which adds more links and info.

From the Reuters link:

Studio executives have expressed disbelief over some of Netflix's Hollywood content coups, like its 2008 deal with Liberty Media Corp-owned Starz to offer films from Sony Corp and Walt Disney Co for $20 million to $30 million. That deal put Netflix's streaming service on the map for a fraction of what cable operators had paid Starz.

"The deal Starz did to give those movies away for $30 million obviously makes no sense. There's a day coming shortly when that deal expires. How do Starz and Netflix address the next deal?" News Corp Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said this week at the Reuters Global Media Summit.
posted by mediareport (126 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember when I wish businesses understood the internet better. How naive I was.
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on December 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


Oh goodie! Studios are going to try to get a better license, fail, remove their videos from Netflix... and then try to start worse, higher-priced and splintered services which will inevitably fail. Then people will be back to downloading movies from torrents and whatever filesharing service is au courant.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:58 AM on December 9, 2010 [54 favorites]


The ultimate value of streaming is about what netflix is charging for it. I can get movies for free if I want. Netflix is easier.
posted by empath at 5:58 AM on December 9, 2010 [49 favorites]


I'd pay double, perhaps triple what I do today for NetFlix; it's easily a better value than Comcast's on-demand offerings. The only stuff I torrent at this point is BBC offerings that haven't made it to the US yet. Easy absolutely does beat free.
posted by verb at 6:00 AM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


If the studios pull all their content from Netflix except the real turkeys so they can start a half-dozen to a dozen separate pay-to-play streaming sites, I'll be sitting in my house happily watching Beastmaster 2 and Robot Jox.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:02 AM on December 9, 2010 [20 favorites]


I wouldn't mind paying more for Netflix streaming as long as they were able to increase the number of titles that were available. There's some great stuff for streaming if you're just browsing for something to watch, but nine times out of ten when my fiance wants to watch something in particular (like "It's a Wonderful Life" which she's never seen) it is DVD only.
posted by charred husk at 6:03 AM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


It's not a bargain for netflix, but for the consumer. I don't know what the cost of bandwith is for streaming but it must be trivial if Netflix can turn a profit at their current prices. If the studios force a higher price it will just be passed onto the buyer/renter and push them into piracy or back into the mail-in model.

Where Netflix can buy 10,000 copies of a major title for $150,000 to mail out, it will need to spend about $16 million to license it for streaming. Such a hundredfold increase in price can obviously be deleterious to profits especially since Netflix still has to maintain its mailing centers, and buy DVDs, for the subscribers who elect to continuing using the mail-in service either because they prefer DVDs’ higher quality and features or they don’t have the apparatus to receive digital streaming.

This is nonsensical and obviously there's something wrong with the negotiation process here. Why should studios charge 100x more for a product that's easier to distribute, and likely has higher demand? If it were me, I'd just take a reasonable percentage of Netflix's profits... An article out of Cornell suggests this answer:

Our findings suggest that private transactions in creative goods may face significant transaction costs arising from cognitive biases. These biases in turn drive the price that creators and owners of IP are likely to demand considerably higher than buyers will, on average, be willing to pay. This discovery does not mean, of course, that transactions in IP will not take place—we see such transactions happening every day. Our research suggests, however, both that IP transactions may occur at a frequency that is significantly suboptimal and that the baleful effect of cognitive and affective biases is likely to be more serious for transactions in works of relatively low commercial value or for which no well-established custom or pattern helps to inform valuation. These results have considerable implications for the structuring of IP rights, IP formalities, IP licensing, and fair use.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 6:03 AM on December 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Actually, if Netflix had a better selection, I absolutely would pay more for it.
posted by empath at 6:03 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I use Netflix's streaming all the time, but the quality is pretty lousy, even the HD stuff is lower-res (understandably) than DVD and WAY lower than Blu-Ray. But it's well worth the monthly fee, for sure. If it were a lot higher, though...I don't think so.
posted by biscotti at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


These biases in turn drive the price that creators and owners of IP are likely to demand considerably higher than buyers will, on average, be willing to pay.

I think, ultimately, what buyers are willing to pay on average is going to approach 0 for the vast majority of media.
posted by empath at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2010


I think what's driving Netflix right now is the sense that physical media is going away. If Netflix is going to survive at all, it has to make a huge play in the streaming arena, trying to make the incremental revenue it offers look really attractive to the studios. Also, while their cheapest streaming plan may be about eight bucks right now, I'm guessing they expect it to be more expensive later.

From my perspective, what Netflix is doing today seems unsustainable. I mean, it's a great thing for a movie lover to have on-demand access to the library of a somewhat-quirky-but-well-stocked video store without lifting ass from couch. But charging less than ten bucks for unlimited viewing of those titles constitutes a pretty serious devaluation of the films themselves. With a bump in image quality (which is generally still kinda poor relatively to a good DVD and especially Blu-ray) and an expansion of the streaming library, I can see myself paying $20 a month for this service and feeling like I'm stealing it. (But then I'm one of those people that tries to avoid unauthorized downloading unless the movie really is unavailable or out of print in region 1. Usenet devotees may find $20 to be outrageous for streaming movies. They're not likely to be a huge source of revenue for the industry at any rate.)
posted by Joey Bagels at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2010


I wonder if Netflix could "win" with a software seat-license type of model? (Wherein a licensing server limits the number of users to the number of licenses purchased.)

For example, they buy 100 DVDs of The Muppets Take Manhattan. This would allow them to stream 100 simultaneous viewings of this movie. If 50 of them are out on loan, this reduces the number of available concurrent streams to 50. It seems like they could claim that streaming is just a cheaper and more efficient way of distributing the rentals.

If Netflix is able to use doctrine of first sale to validate its physical service, the same doctrine would apply in this case.
posted by gjc at 6:08 AM on December 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


I won't mind if the price, the image quality, and the number of films available all go up together. But if instead the studios all pull out and try their own high-priced and fragmented deals, or if to watch a film I have to deal with three or four services (Netflix, Amazon, etc), I'll do something else instead. Netflix is awesome because the selection is decent, it is easy, and it's one-stop shopping.
posted by Forktine at 6:09 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


NFLX shares are at $188 right now...more than triple what they were 12months ago. You know, if short selling were still legal...
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:12 AM on December 9, 2010


I think very soon Hollywood is going to find out exactly how much their actors and actresses are really worth.
posted by spicynuts at 6:13 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


For example, they buy 100 DVDs of The Muppets Take Manhattan. This would allow them to stream 100 simultaneous viewings of this movie.

No, it doesn't work like that. There's no "first sale doctrine" for streaming movies.
posted by mediareport at 6:13 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Indeed, easy makes me happy. It also saves me money: if I had to torrent stuff, I'd need to drop five bills on more hard drives for my NAS so I could pre-download stuff I might watch. And, to be really honest, I don't feel a desperate need for "first run" movies on NetFlix. There's so many older movies and series I haven't seen that I'll never catch up. The right attitude isn't "does NetFlix have X" it's "does NetFlix have something like X" and odds are excellent it does. If you want first-run, well, get it from your library or go to a freaking movie theatre or pay five bucks to stream just one movie from Apple or whoever. Long Tail FTW.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:13 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Netflix is great now and I didn't mind the price hike, but I do fear for the future. The first 6 months of having Netflix streaming seems amazing! Then you watch all the good stuff and go back to waiting for discs.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:19 AM on December 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


For a vision of this future, just look to Canada. Netflix launched up here a couple of months ago, but without the selection you have in the US. Rogers, which holds a large number of licenses has refused to deal with Netflix to protect their own more expensive and broken RODO service. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you get the added frustration of seeing all the movies that you could be watching if you lived in the US.

In short, burn in hell Rogers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:20 AM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'll be sad if the DVDs go away, although I guess it's inevitable. I was an early adopter of Netflix, and yet I've never bothered trying to watch it via streaming. I've got an old TV, and the computer isn't in a comfy spot. Do you get the DVD "extras" with it?
posted by JoanArkham at 6:24 AM on December 9, 2010


NFLX shares are at $188 right now...more than triple what they were 12months ago. You know, if short selling were still legal...

Short selling is illegal?
posted by josher71 at 6:25 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should studios charge 100x more for a product that's easier to distribute, and likely has higher demand?

Because easier to distribute goes both ways- it reduces their own overhead, but it also reduces Netflix's overhead, and they therefore want a cut of that.

And because higher demand in this case does them (studios) no good. Unlike advertising supported media, where more demand means more eyes on the advertising, more eyes on a DVD erodes their marketplace. The number of people who will buy a DVD because they saw it on Netflix has got to be pretty low. Lower than the number of people who would have bought the DVD if the content wasn't available elsewhere.

The studios will of course exaggerate these numbers, maybe even by 100x, but the concept is real.

A counter argument might be for movies and tv shows that are still in production- maybe seeing Family Guy on Netflix means I watch more of it on TV, or seeing some movie on Netflix means I'll go out and watch the next sequel in the theater. But compared to the rest of their catalog, these instances are pretty rare.
posted by gjc at 6:26 AM on December 9, 2010


No, it doesn't work like that. There's no "first sale doctrine" for streaming movies.

I know. I was positing a way that they could change that.
posted by gjc at 6:28 AM on December 9, 2010


I got that gjc; sorry for not being more clear. I'm suggesting there's no way in hell the studios are going to be willing to open that door for electronic content.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 AM on December 9, 2010


I have been a long-time Netflixer. But I am not about to buy equipment so I can stream, cheap as the streaming might be. To shift customers over to their new streaming service, they raise the rates on what they had offered. What to do? Move down to a less expensive niche that they still offer rather than pay more to retain that which I had.
posted by Postroad at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2010


What surprised me recently was that Netflix and ABC/Disney cut a new content deal that will (if I understand it correctly) not only keep the streaming of Lost and other archive properties going, but also facilitate the adding of episodes of current shows, apparently ad-free, as soon as 15 days after they have aired.

I had come to understand Netflix as a sort of bait for more lucrative digital initiatives. The first four seasons of FOX's Bones are available for streaming on Netflix, but for digital copies of episodes from seasons 5 and 6 you have to go to iTunes (Hulu might have them, but my aversion to ads is such that I'd never bother to find out) and buy them for $1.99 a pop... which is exactly what I ended up doing following a marathon Netflix viewing session in which I watched all four initial seasons of Bones in like, a week.

Were my attentions not so substantially taken by a coding project, something similar would certainly have happened by now at least with Dexter and Merlin, despite the latter's trouble with dialogue and characterization.

In the wake of the Disney/ABC deal and absent news of an attendant hike in their streaming prices, I'll have to reevaluate my opinion.

(As a side note, while I pirated most of my media for reasons of convenience during the heyday of Napster and Kazaa, I have since become an exclusive user of legitimate media products and services... with one caveat: I will not purchase DVD or Bluray boxed sets. The media is fragile, the data thereon cannot be legally or easily backed up or archived, they seem to come in packaging that predisposes them to damage, and the publishers have no legal duty to replace the media when they do fail. I would rather pirate than have my investments held hostage to disc-based media.)
posted by The Confessor at 6:46 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've always been a little puzzled as to why streaming was basically added on to a regular Netflix subscription for free. It seems like a much higher-cost proposition given the current state of the law, even despite the lack of physical media to mail around.

I'm thinking the base model will probably shift to a bunch of physical media options with streaming tacked on as an extra cost.

I'd probably pay for both.
posted by valkyryn at 6:47 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Netflix rocks, I haven't watch so much tv in ages. And I can watch it on my TV, computer or iPod!! It's so full of win, it's almost insane not to have a subscription.

So yeah, of course someone is going to screw that up.
posted by nomadicink at 6:49 AM on December 9, 2010 [33 favorites]


To shift customers over to their new streaming service, they raise the rates on what they had offered.

Netflix has been slowly raising rates since the beginning, even before streaming. It's inevitable that rates will go up. They added a lower tier to attract a larger market.

But I am not about to buy equipment so I can stream, cheap as the streaming might be.

If you have a computer running Windows or a Mac OS, no extra equipment is required. Furthermore, people already buy extra equipment to watch a DVD, why is it strange to buy extra equipment for streaming?
posted by muddgirl at 6:51 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, between this and the end of all-you-can-eat internet in the most important markets for Netflix, the writing is on the wall. We are back to paying $5-10 a viewing in no time.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:54 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear Movie Studio Executives,

I like movies, I really do! I'll pay money to watch them. I like watching them online the best, and because of that, I have a Netflix steaming account. I'd be cool to pay more for that if it came down to it. But if you pull out of Netflix and start your own lame-brained thing, then I'm just going to go over and download movies for free. Because it is easier than having accounts in a bunch of different places. Y'all were cool with Blockbuster taking up most of the movie rental market in the 90s, so I don't think your motive is anti-monopoly or whatever, and I really don't have too much brand loyalty to Netflix - it just happens to be the one place that does it really well right now. Even if each studio rolled its own version of Netflix that did it just as well, the fact that I'd have to get an account from all of you is really dumb. Anyway, if you want my money, then please don't be stupid. And stop wasting your own money on stupid movies like the ones Michael Bay makes. Jesus.

Best,
A Valued Netflix Customer.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:56 AM on December 9, 2010 [24 favorites]


I'm tired of all the gaps in content. Shows like Primer (Inception for grownups) can be streamed, then it can't, or a movie will be rentable then disappear. We changed our Netflix subscription to streaming-only then added Hulu plus so we can use our portable devices, but it has spotty coverage too and is constantly apologizing about not having the rights to put a program on the iphone. This fragmentation and constant negotiation reminds me of endless, unsolvable geopolitical problems, except you can't torrent the Gaza strip. And speaking of torrenting, that playground is becoming less and less appealing as lawyers (who for some reason are a little better at sniffing out opportunities) start negotiating their own piece of the streaming pie.

Redboxen are ubiquitous in my neighborhood (we are a notoriously cheap culture) and it's not that hard to pick something up when I'm out running errands, except that again, first run movies are delayed and something like Get Low will probably never show up. My guess is we'll eventually get stuck with the higher prices but better quality of Itunes, at which point I'll just borrow copied DVDs from a family member who compulsively duplicates his Blockbuster rentals, or, I don't know, read a book from the library.
posted by mecran01 at 6:57 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I am not about to buy equipment so I can stream

Ok grandpa, we'll all get off your lawn. Did you type that out on a telegraph?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:58 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I use Netflix streaming almost exclusively, these days. I don't have much interest in mainstream first-run movies, so the catalog of indies and old junk is pretty great. I'm on the one-DVD plan, which sits next to the DVD player for at least a month or two before we get around to watching it, while we watch maybe 3 or 4 streaming movies in a month. I'm actually paying more, per movie, than I would with, say, Redbox, but the value is higher because of the catalog and the instant-watch convenience.

If it gets much more expensive, I'll have to drop it and, as empath notes, go back to pirating movies and TV. Plus I'd miss all the unusual content. Which would be a shame. Paying $5 or $7 or whatever the hell pay-per-view costs is pretty much a non-starter.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:01 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The splintering is what makes me mad. We've got Netflix on our Roku and pay the $8.99 a month or whatever; now, Hulu is available for my Roku, for another $9/mo -- and the HBO will move to on-demand, and somebody else, and somebody else; the problem won't be how much a monolithic Netflix costs, but the combined cost of everybody. Can any one streaming site live off of a $0.99/month rate because they've got 1/8th the content of Netflix -- or am I going to have to pony up $5 for each and still have a $100 "television" bill every month?
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:02 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


The beauty of the internet is that companies will always have to compete with piracy and piracy is always going to be free and relatively convenient. That means that no company can succeed simply by quashing legit competition or by exploiting monopolies, etc. They have to provide products that are reasonably priced and reasonably convenient (as Netflix does) or they cannot succeed.
posted by callmejay at 7:05 AM on December 9, 2010


It still blows my mind that Netflix is not in any way ad supported. Look for that as the next shoe to drop.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:08 AM on December 9, 2010


I'm in the same camp as uncleozzy - one-DVD at a time, which sits forever before I watch it, but I watch a lot of stuff through streaming. If the prices go up much more, I'll probably end up dropping it, and paying $5 per-viewing is simply out of the question. I mean, hell, that's why I signed up for Netflix in the first place, to avoid such prices.

I'll also say that I agree with mecran01 - the bizarre licensing deals Netflix has / loses with providers makes for some pretty annoying user experiences. Not too long ago, I was excited to see that all of Farscape had been added to streaming. I started watching it, stopped for a few weeks, went back, and streaming was no more. What kind of funky deal was that?
posted by menschlich at 7:10 AM on December 9, 2010


I use Netflix's streaming all the time, but the quality is pretty lousy, even the HD stuff is lower-res (understandably) than DVD and WAY lower than Blu-Ray.

This. I mostly get Blu-ray discs from Netflix because I can still drive 5 minutes to rent a DVD for a couple bucks. Streaming is very low quality and unpleasant to watch, even at 4 bars of bitrate on my Xbox 360. I had been using the three-at-a-time unlimited plan but I switched to the one-at-a-time plan and they don't seem to offer any option that doesn't make me pay for streaming I won't use. I hope the studios do this right and force Netflix prices lower.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2010


I haven't had any streaming problems, either through Silverlight or the Wii. We can't use any other high-bandwidth services like bittorrent at the same time, though.
posted by muddgirl at 7:15 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or maybe I'm just acclimated to lower quality, since I don't have Blu-ray and watch most things optimized for streaming, not for DVD.
posted by muddgirl at 7:21 AM on December 9, 2010


I've taken a bit of a different philosophy on this. If I can't find something streamed on Netflix or Hulu, I ask myself, "Do I really need to watch this? Do I really want to watch this? Do I really have the time to watch this?" The answers are usually "no, I don't." As it is, my streaming queues and Hulu subscriptions are already stuffed full of media I plan to watch "eventually."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:22 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is so true. The Netflix service is amazing. I'm amazed at how well the streaming works on a laptop and on an iPhone. The iPhone app is amazing and the quality, on wifi, 3g, and even Edge blows me away.

If they want to jack up the prices and have some things be on some sites, and others be on others sites, people will just download the movies illegally and not pay for them.
posted by hazyspring at 7:28 AM on December 9, 2010


Attn Internet users:

Video streaming will never look as good as a DVD, and not even close to Blu-Ray.
Blu-ray's video stream alone is 40mb per second. As with all things networked, compression must occur!

Get over it and stop "pixel peeping." If you're watching it on some 64 inch LCD television with platinum coated power cables, you can probably afford to just buy the physical media, so just go do that and stop ruining online streaming for the rest of us.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:30 AM on December 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Streaming is very low quality and unpleasant to watch, even at 4 bars of bitrate on my Xbox 360.

I have Roku and the stream quality is very high. For the standard definition it is definitely as good as a DVD. For the high definition it is just as good as HDTV, which certainly beats a DVD. I don't have a Bluray and will likely never get one because plastic discs are inconvenient for me. I went to the stream only plan. I don't watch DVDs anymore. Amazon on demand on Roku makes up for the holes in the Netflix catalog.

I don't know if different devices are capable of different quality, or perhaps my perception of the quality is not a refined one.
posted by massysett at 7:32 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


This almost hurts to think about. Netflix is probably the best internet-based service I've ever used, and I'll be really sad if it collapses into itself. Especially if the result is a splintering of inferior, pricier services offered by the different content distributers.

Before I got my Netflix account, I didn't really watch TV much anymore. I'd sit down and watch a movie or show if my roommates had one on in the living room, but in general it just wasn't something I'd actively allot spare time for. I didn't pirate videos for the same reason- too much effort, can't be bothered.

I tend to enjoy cheesy period-piece kind of movies, which Netflix has in spades. I watched Arena, Running Man, and The Octogon back-to-back a few nights ago and I don't regret a minute of it. They also had a slew of corny 70's/80's zombie movies at one point that I picked through all the time, but I think they've trimmed the selection a little bit.
posted by kryptondog at 7:34 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm watching Zombie Strippers right now on my kid's Wii.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:34 AM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Guess I'd better start watching all that stuff in my Instant Queue while I have the chance.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:36 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm glad I have a Roku to stream Netflix, but if I have to start paying per-stream, I'm probably going to start looking to see whether Apple has a better deal on streaming for the things I can't get on DVD, assuming I don't just hang with renting DVDs for a few more years. I like my DVD extras and special features, and I don't get them on Netflix streaming. This is a major reason why my streaming queue is so small compared to my DVD queue (see: info text on classic Doctor Who)

Part of what's driving the price issues for DVD rentals is the mail cost, which, of course, goes up as the number of Netflix DVDs rented by mail goes down. I get most of my bills by email, which means Netflix is a significant part of the non-junk mail that arrives at my house now.
posted by immlass at 7:37 AM on December 9, 2010


I'm watching Zombie Strippers right now on my kid's Wii.

Oh man, we almost watched that last weekend. Is it, uh, any good?
posted by uncleozzy at 7:38 AM on December 9, 2010


Price hike? It's a fucking dollar. It's still cheaper than my TiVo, and that dinosaur has more ads plastered on every page now then Yahoo did when it first opened.
posted by cavalier at 7:39 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dear Threeway Handshake and Other Concerned Members of the Viewing Public,

What makes you think we give two shits what any demographic that's not straight, male, and 16-25 (and preferably white) thinks about what we do with our product?

Love and Kisses,
Hollywood Studio Industry
posted by blucevalo at 7:47 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm getting really tired of online businesses reducing their services or adding more and more fees after I've signed up and settled in. It's gotten to the point that I find a new company to do business with whenever that happens.

I don't mean to be sour about it, because Netflix is really amazing so far, but I am in fact sour about their removal of the Friends features this year. The loss of all social features means that I can no longer use other's people ratings to decide whether to believe their reviews, or even see that rating similarity percentage next to their name, so it's made simply renting interesting movies from them a lot harder (nevermind that I spent probably a hundred hours making Lists that are now all gone). It may be no big deal to the average joe, but I took that site seriously and have thousands of ratings.

Considering all that, I'm disappointed to even hear they'll start charging for streaming. Yes I know, it's only a dollar, but most of the movies I'm renting at this point are older films that I could just buy used from Amazon for a dollar, instead of giving Netflix fifteen for two out without Blu-Rays or streaming.
posted by heatvision at 7:48 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have cable or antenna. I have Netflix only, wirelessly streaming to my HDTV. 97 percent of the time the quality has been nothing but perfect. I find the selection to be wonderful. Our queue is 100 percent full (500 movies is the limit if you're curious). In short, streaming Netflix is a revelation.
I also have the option of watching Amazon OnDemand on the same tv. I even have free credits to watch it. Have I ever even searched Amazon's service? Hell no. Netflix is perfection. I don't want or need anything else.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you get the DVD "extras" with it?

This!! And closed captioning, too?
posted by Melismata at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2010


blucevalo, where.. how... how did race play a role in your impression of the "industry"?
posted by cavalier at 7:54 AM on December 9, 2010


Honestly, I've only found two DVD "extras" that were worth the time. (One being the Cohen Brothers' hilarious bullshit cinema historian commentary for Blood Simple.)

Captioning is another matter but I suspect that problem will be eventually figured out.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2010


For years I've been resigned to the maxim that 'nothing is as good as the thing it replaces'.
the new and shiny Disney/ABC Netflix is just the beginning of the downward spiral toward a useless, expensive, made for the least common denominator service that I will abandon.
But for now i will enjoy streaming (no problems with picture quality onto my plasma) tv shows i never watched and indie flix until it's gone.

.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:10 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Netflix is slowing adding captioning to their streaming options. Some movies already have it.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:15 AM on December 9, 2010


If I opt to NOT have streaming, can I have a cheaper bill again? Just wondering.

Seriously, I don't actually watch streaming very often. I've watched maybe 4-5 movies, and I watched the shows Leverage (when it was there) and Jeremiah. The latter one was especially worth it because you can't watch the second season of that show EXCEPT on Netflix streaming, so it was worth it. But most of the time given the selection, I'll end up renting the discs instead. Plus if I watch something on streaming, I can't watch the DVD extras.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:19 AM on December 9, 2010


Honestly my two biggest problems with streaming are (1) Movies that should be in widescreen but aren't, and (2) movies that are dubbed instead of subtitled.

There must be a perception gap between people who've moved from pirated movies to Netflix streaming (like me), vs. people who've moved from DVDs to Netflix streaming. Those of us who downloaded our movies on the internet before Netflix are already used to missing the bonus features and taking a hit in quality. I'm paying for an extra convenience and sometimes extra quality, while people who are used to DVDs don't see much benefit.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't dispute your right to care but I sure am perplexed by those of you who will pay such a time & money premium for this visual quality. Yeah, I can perceive the difference, just like I can see the difference between my $600 Vizio tv and the equivalent $1000+ Samsung in the same store. But in no way do I feel my quality of experience lowered by 40%. And that difference buys a lot of beer & media.

Ditto blue-ray and the other technologies. Sure, it's super spiffy, but comparing those prices and dealing with physical media to the immediacy and convenience of the streaming stuff? It's hardly a temptation, and I say that as someone who looooooves his gadgets.
posted by phearlez at 8:29 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Of course. I just signed up for Netflix on Monday.
posted by Eideteker at 8:36 AM on December 9, 2010


Netflix is under more pressure in Canada because the biggest bandwidth provider has dropped all it's monthly download limits and and a recent ruling from the CRTC has allowed them to enforce those limits through the resellers who were offering really high ceilings.

I've got Netflix through my computers and wii but I'd enjoy it more if I could browse it better. It keeps suggesting the same tired crap.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Netflix streaming may not be everything that I want it to be, but it's pretty darn good nonetheless. I've seen movies that I would've never seen otherwise -- I'm not a big rent-the-DVD-and-remember-to-mail-it-back person, anyway. I'd like them to have a better selection of older movies, but they do have some pretty good gems once in a while.
posted by blucevalo at 8:43 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whenever anyone says something that ends with "then everyone will download from torrents again" -- just remember that chances are they've never worked in the industry and have no understanding of how the actual business of it works.
posted by andreaazure at 8:47 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


There must be a perception gap between people who've moved from pirated movies to Netflix streaming (like me), vs. people who've moved from DVDs to Netflix streaming. Those of us who downloaded our movies on the internet before Netflix are already used to missing the bonus features and taking a hit in quality. I'm paying for an extra convenience and sometimes extra quality, while people who are used to DVDs don't see much benefit.

I can't see this.. It is easy to get all the quality and all the extras you want using torrents or usenet.

Related.. I was just about to comment how Netflix appears to be very bandwidth hungry compared to illegal downloads. Netflix HD uses something like 1.7GB/hour, and people here are complaining about that, but Xvid at 1GB/hour is way better than DVD quality.
posted by Chuckles at 8:50 AM on December 9, 2010


I always laugh when people who like my movies ask why they're not on Netflix, where I could be making some good royalties.
posted by jscott at 8:52 AM on December 9, 2010


I'm watching Zombie Strippers right now on my kid's Wii.

Oh man, we almost watched that last weekend. Is it, uh, any good?


No. But, it's got Jenna Jameson and ping pong balls. So YMMV.
posted by chundo at 8:53 AM on December 9, 2010


As a Linux user, let me just say: if and when Netflix dies at the hands of another service, I will dance, sing, clap my hands, and cheer to the skies. Kill the beast already. The amount of limits they've put on their godawful streaming service is inane, and it's clear that you have to do a lot of hacking (well, pretty much use a virtual machine, which I'm not gonna do) to stream Netflix on Linux. And Netflix has made it clear that it will always be that way. So: let Netflix die. I'll be happy.
posted by koeselitz at 8:59 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not just streaming where extras are missing on Netflix, muddgirl
It's been happening for a while now, but the studios are now removing even more of the features on the rental discs that they provide Netflix and other rental companies. The Blu-ray version of Up has closed captions, but despite the movie information page description that says it has captions, I was able to confirm that captions have been removed from the Netflix rental DVD.
Extras are also missing from Scott Pilgrim v The World, the article says, though the menu still lists them so viewers can be exhorted to buy the disc.
posted by phearlez at 9:00 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Only a small percentage of people know what a torrent is. What we are talking about is every home in america having an internet TV in however many years. Of course there will be a knock down drag out fight. I have a feeling that some exec saw netflix streaming to a network blue ray player hooked up to a tv and thought "Holy shit, I thought it was just going to be for a few nerds who watch farscape on their laptops"
posted by Ad hominem at 9:01 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


It is easy to get all the quality and all the extras you want using torrents or usenet.

Well sure, but why would I waste disk space on inane commentaries and predictable "making-ofs"? I guess it's just interesting to me that other people see those bonus features as something of value, while at least in my circle of friends they are not.
posted by muddgirl at 9:04 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whenever anyone says something that ends with "then everyone will download from torrents again"

I don't know if anybody is saying that here. Some of us are saying that we will download from torrents again. And (for me, anyway) far less frequently. I don't really consume a lot of media. I pay for cable TV and Netflix, and that's about it. I don't watch much TV, I don't rent movies, I rarely go to the movies, I don't even really buy much music anymore. But for me, I guess, the death of cheap, easily-consumed streaming media would mean that I would consume even less, and steal it when paying for it would be inconvenient.

But I'm not anybody's target market. Which is fine. People will pay what they think media is worth, and for many (most?) people, that's an awful lot. Not so much for me.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:05 AM on December 9, 2010


Whenever anyone says something that ends with "then everyone will download from torrents again" -- just remember that chances are they've never worked in the industry and have no understanding of how the actual business of it works.

How so? I've worked in the music industry, and I have a fair bit of knowledge about the movie industry. Knowing more about how fucked up and stupid they both are makes me want to never actually pay for media ever again.

Whenever I see people say things like what you say, I actually assume they've never used a computer. Apart from utter contempt of studio executives, people generally pirate things out of convenience. It is really easy to go to say, Demonoid, search for what you want, and then click one button to get it. It also happens to be free!

When something comes along that is that easy/convenient and also costs the amount which I can afford/am willing to pay, then it will be successful, in that I'll actually use it. For instance the iTunes music store - a few clicks, pretty cheap. I don't have to go to EMI's music store, or Sony's music store. It is "all" right there. "All" being everything the studios let Apple put up for sale.

Look, I'm really sorry that somebody has "devalued" your precious product/art, but have you seen what money is worth these days? We all don't have piles of it -- wait, actually studio execs do -- but us consumers don't. And as with all things, something is worth only what people are willing pay for it. Outside of things like going to see the new great movie at a theater once in a while, I'm willing to go up to about $20 per month to stream movies. If you want to ruin that, then I can either go the free option, or opt out completely. We've got the internet now because it isn't 1950 anymore and there's plenty of shit to keep me entertained.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:17 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Isn't bandwidth actually going to start being an issue with Netflix streaming? There's some huge portion of peak usage that's taken by Netflix streaming and it's going to get worse.

We do like Netflix streaming (Or did, until our XBox and TV got stolen. *sigh* But they'll be replaced at some point.) but it doesn't replace real discs for us. I love extras, especially commentaries. Sure, sometimes they're crap but there's plenty of gems out there. (If you've never listened to the commentaries for "Serenity" (the pilot), "War Stories", or "Objects in Space" on the Firefly set, you're really missing out.)

One of these days I'm still hoping to build my ultimate machine of ultimate media that stores all my DVDs and Blurays in ISO form on a hard drive array and streams it to the TV or my laptop at original quality, but until then I'm willing to put up with physical media.
posted by kmz at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2010


I don't watch a lot of movies and miss the old one DVD out at a time $4.95/month netflix.
posted by Gungho at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2010


kmz - Not much "building" to do anymore, really - more just 'spending.'

I've already ripped all my DVDs into mp4 files and tossed the originals in a crate in the basement. If I had to do it over again (well, I could but I wouldn't) I'd do full rips with RipIt and buy a Mac Mini to connect to the tv. Front Row will play those images as if they were the original disks so it's just a matter of storage. No more need to track down & install kiosk-esque software or go through gymnastics in the rip & convert.
posted by phearlez at 9:33 AM on December 9, 2010


If you're streaming Netflix through your Wii, it seems it's possible to check the moment-by-moment bandwidth consumption by holding down the "2" button on the controller.

In the case of the movie I picked to check this out, the bandwidth never seems to go over 4 Mbps, spends most of its time under 2 Mbps, and spends a surprising amount of time under 0.5 Mbps.

That's a lot less than the 5 Mbps or so that DVD movies typically consume. No wonder the picture is sometimes a little blocky.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:37 AM on December 9, 2010


19935: "The amount of limits they've put on their godawful streaming service is inane, and it's clear that you have to do a lot of hacking (well, pretty much use a virtual machine, which I'm not gonna do) to stream Netflix on Linux."

Huh, I was able to stream Netflix using the latest version of Ubuntu and Chromium right out of the box.
posted by charred husk at 9:44 AM on December 9, 2010


JoanArkham: I'll be sad if the DVDs go away, although I guess it's inevitable. I was an early adopter of Netflix, and yet I've never bothered trying to watch it via streaming. I've got an old TV, and the computer isn't in a comfy spot. Do you get the DVD "extras" with it?

Nope, no extras, no language or subtitle options with Netflix streaming. But they do offer "high definition" of some streaming content. While it isn't the quality of BluRay, it's noticably better than "standard" definition (as viewed on our large HD tv), but my views of this might be biased.

We went from having a smaller, funky old CRT TV to a big HDTV with the ability to wirelessly stream Netflix built into the TV, so we didn't have much time to experience "true" HD content, but my wife and I oggled at television shows we had previously watched on our dinky TV, now streaming in "high def," and it seemed too real. Sure, there were notable compression artifacts, and some scenes glitched out on transition, but there was so much more detail.

I don't recall where I see this, but I recently read that people pay less attention to the picture quality when they are more engaged in the show. So stop staring at the compression artifacts, and enjoy the show. And if the show sucks, may I suggest Murder She Wrote? It's a bit dated, lower resolution and a few odd episodes are missing from the NetFlix instant play list, but Angela Lansbury is enough of a badass to outweigh all that.

And you really don't have to watch Zombie Strippers. Sure, the title alone may be enough to hook you, or maybe Jenna Jameson and ping pong balls caught your attention, but it's not good, unless you want to give some credit to the make-up artists and SFX people for the zombie details on a few of the characters, and even that isn't consistent. One guy's jaw is hanging off his face, and then other "zombies" around him just have some gray make-up and fake blood smeared around. And gods, why did anyone try to shove philosophy discussions into that movie? At least it has one good line: "you're as cold as the dead flesh of a stripper zombie."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:47 AM on December 9, 2010


I grew up with AM music radio, rabbit ears, and (later) VHS tapes, so I am totally more about convenience than image quality. Streaming via our Wii, most things on Netflix don't seem any worse than a cheap DVD or a videotape, which until fairly recently were perfectly acceptable to EVERYONE. As with most technological advances, I simply assume that in a couple of years it will be better due to compression/bandwidth/magical elves anyway and don't mind putting up with a totally adequate viewing experience at this point, as long as the price is cheap, the delivery mechanism is easy, and the catalog of titles is broad.
posted by briank at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2010


Isn't bandwidth actually going to start being an issue with Netflix streaming? There's some huge portion of peak usage that's taken by Netflix streaming and it's going to get worse.

75 comments before somebody mentions this? The dispute between Comcast and Level 3 is all about L3 giving Netflix a way to hog bandwidth at little-to-no-cost, which, when I read the details, made me say something I had NEVER said before: "Comcast is NOT the bad guy here."

If Netflix streaming keeps growing the way it has been, it'll make the entire Internet about as reliable as AT&T's wireless network - or worse. And with no 'economic incentive' to build more infrastructure to support it. Some of you are already commenting on low video quality, slow flow or dropouts - well, it's just going to get worse - for everybody.

But then, five years ago, I pledged not to do business with Netflix until I went a week without one of their pop-up ads getting past my pop-up blocker or their junk mail in my physical mailbox. So far, I've gotten to five days and a couple hours at the most. How many of you people do business with ANYBODY besides Netflix that still uses "Pop-up Ads"?!? Isn't it the single most obvious marketing sign of an Evil Corporation?

Netflix's streaming is the media version of crack cocaine, and it's only a matter of time until the pusher starts raising the price on you junkies.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:52 AM on December 9, 2010


oneswellfoop: You need to get firefox and install adblock. You're living a distinctly subpar internet experience. I haven't seen a pop-up since the early part of the last decade.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:12 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


Netflix definitely streams to my Xbox in at least 720p (maybe 1080i? not sure). Discovery Channel's Great Migrations looked wayyyyyyy too good on my plasma to possibly be 480 or less. If it detects your speed as too slow however, it will switch to non-HD streaming sometimes. For awhile I was having issues where it would switch back and forth if it detected my bandwidth had dropped (overall Comcast's fault, not Netflix, but the interface should have a "force HD and make me wait to buffer" option rather than switching automatically).
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:13 AM on December 9, 2010


Netflix has been very smart so far, and managed to grow like crazy while actually making money (a lot of companies can grow fast by taking on massive debt). Netflix knew that eventually the market would all move online, and they were in a position to beat a lot of people to the punch. I expect they have some aces up their sleeves, and have been preparing for this situation. They've been incredibly smart to work with companies to get streaming available on the Xbox, Wii, PS3, etc. If it wasn't available on the Xbox, I wouldn't be a Netflix subscriber and I'd still be pirating everything I watch.

What would be fascinating to look at would be viewing statistics from Netflix streaming subscribers. They've obviously got some very interesting numbers somewhere showing number of views on everything they've got streamed vs cost of aquisition. I'd love to get a look at that.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:28 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Price hike? It's a fucking dollar.

Actually, $3 for some of us, which is about a 17% increase. Not a huge deal, but enough to get our house to drop down a noich in our plan.
posted by mediareport at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2010


In the small town where I live, the combination of Netflix and Redbox has killed every video store in town (three years ago we had a Blockbuster and two Hollywood Video stores). Now if you want to watch something besides the handful of new releases in the red vending machines Netflix or the public library is pretty much the only two options.
posted by straight at 10:54 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


blucevalo: "What makes you think we give two shits what any demographic that's not straight, male, and 16-25 (and preferably white) thinks about what we do with our product?"

Helen Mirren: "[N]ot much has changed in Hollywood film-making that continues to worship at the altar of the 18 to 25-year-old male and his penis"
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:55 AM on December 9, 2010


Helen Mirren: "[N]ot much has changed in Hollywood film-making that continues to worship at the altar of the 18 to 25-year-old male and his penis WALLET"

FTFH.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:10 AM on December 9, 2010


Ooh! You know what I bet is going on?

Maybe Netflix is just a creation of the old-brained MPAA, built to destroy the video rental market. Once that mission is accomplished (i.e. soon), they just close up Netflix and everything goes back to pre-VCR normalcy, i.e. theatre-only viewing, i.e. a delusional fantasy so out of touch with the workings of the modern world that only the MPAA could dream it up.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:18 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Honestly my two biggest problems with streaming are (1) Movies that should be in widescreen but aren't

From my experience this is a problem with the TV and the signal coming to it. We have a cheap 26" Westinghouse flat screen and a 46" Sony flat screen (with ethernet port and a asus wl330 bridge). We have used a PS3 on both, and the Sony has built in Netflix support. The westinghouse does this wierd cram the widescreen thing (into 480?) occasionally, and it's really annoying. I've restarted movies on different days and sometimes it is corrected. I can walk over to the Sony with either the PS3 or native and it's fine.

I haven't done a lot of investigation, but I also have suspected that the various devices change the bitrate/available resolution based on the bandwidth checks that occur when the movie starts, and I think that is related to the issue with the westinghouse.

I'd love to hear any concrete info on either of the above problems/issues.

I love netflix and I've been a customer for years, but if they up the price again without the streaming selection getting better I won't be pleased.
posted by Big_B at 11:33 AM on December 9, 2010


It still blows my mind that Netflix is not in any way ad supported.

Ah, but it is. Sort of. It's just not nearly as direct as that.

Their streaming service is basically a movie poster delivery device. Users scroll past the product of million-dollar ad campaigns until they find one that clicks for them. Even the covers of shitty-ass movies nobody wants to watch lend heft to the illusion of a vast selection, which keeps users loyal, which means their eyes meet more ads. And their selections and ratings--valuable demographic info--are logged and analysed, possibly to improve the effectiveness of film-making as money-making. Studios (should)* appreciate this, and (should)* sign more deals, thus ensuring the continued survival of the service.

*Assuming they're not a bunch of dum-dums. Alas...
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


shitty-ass movies nobody wants to watch

You leave Ghost in a Teeny Bikini alone!
posted by uncleozzy at 11:39 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apropos of DVD extras: the DVD of Toy Story 3 that Netflix sent us last week was stripped of most of the extras -- including the short that played before the movie in theaters. Instead the DVD just lists the extras available on the retail DVD and Blu-Ray.

First time I've noticed the rental version being crippled to upsell to the retail version. Is this a new thing, or has it been going on for a while?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:06 PM on December 9, 2010


charred husk: “Huh, I was able to stream Netflix using the latest version of Ubuntu and Chromium right out of the box.”

May I say this plainly? That's freaking impossible, so it's total bullshit, but if you've got a way, that's completely awesome, and I'd like to hear more.

The first question I'd have is how the hell you got Silverlight working in Chrome out of the box.
posted by koeselitz at 12:10 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Seriously, I've always had the latest version of Ubuntu and the latest version of Chrome – shit, I generally use the latest version of Chromium, which is a few steps ahead of Chrome most of the time – and I have tried this at every major update for years. It is not possible to use Netflix streaming on Linux unless you use a virtual machine. I've even tried the hacky Wine way. It does not work. So if you've got some miraculous way, I would really, really like to know about it.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:13 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's an interview from three months ago with the VP of Corporate Communications of Netflix about why Netflix does not, and will not, work on Linux. (He doesn't mention the fact that their CEO is on Microsoft's board of directors, but anyway.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2010


What koeselitz said.

I thought, for awhile, that the Microsoft loosening of restrictions which led to a streaming app for the Wii (instead of that silly authentication disk) would lead to some method of Netflix streaming that doesn't require a Silverlight handshake. Rather naive of me, I know...
posted by muddgirl at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2010


I don't understand all this talk about selection. The selection of streamable movies on netflix sux very, very, very badly. It's laughable. Just go to any category, and see how many are available for streaming vs how many you have to order on DVD. In general, one of the objections I have to netflix is selection, particularly foreign films. Selection is one reason bittorrenting movies will never die. The other thing about streaming - the lack of extras. Unlike some here, I love extras - of course, you get bad ones, but that's like anything, you get bad movies, as well, so.../ Anyhow, it seems they are starting to strip extras from DVDs as well, so that's another bad development.

From my point of view, if they don't dramatically escalate their selection, my limit for a netflix bill is about $25/mo, so they better not raise it more than that without a corresponding improvement of selection. If they were to drastically expand their selection, and include extras in streaming, I'd be willing to go as high as $40/mo before I'd hit my limit.

But I suspect the rumblings of all around deterioration are probably correct. And if so, then I might just drop netflix altogether, and rely on bt. Yes, bt is a bit of a pain, but that's where friends come in - gotta divide and conquer... and so, for example, I confine myself to bittorrenting music - which I then swap for rare movies which my friends bittorrent, this way we all save on time/bandwidth. Specialization, and cooperation - it's the future! Unless netflix delivers, of course.
posted by VikingSword at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2010


First time I've noticed the rental version being crippled to upsell to the retail version. Is this a new thing, or has it been going on for a while?

I think that's new in the past year or two. When I joined Netflix for the 1st time, you used to get the same version of the DVD you would buy. Now, you just get the feature itself.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:32 PM on December 9, 2010


Yeah, crippled rental DVDs aren't exactly new (I've noticed them for a couple years at least), but they've been picking up a lot of steam in the last 6 months or so. Disney has even started releasing rental DVDs without closed captioning for goodness sake, labeling that as a special feature (from Consumerist if you trust them, but also a few other sources).
posted by skynxnex at 12:42 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


of course, you get bad ones, but that's like anything, you get bad movies, as well

Actually, looking at my Netflix rating history, out of 100 DVDs, I have given 1 or 2 stars to only three of them, with two that I stopped watching and did not rate - a 5% rate of disappointing movies isn't too shabby. That's kind of the point of renting movies instead of seeing them in theaters - I heavily pre-select based on what I know I like.

By contrast, to me worthwhile extra features are so rare that I can just buy the physical DVD rather than rent it or stream it.
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why even have a single central service to begin with? In the future we'll have so much bandwidth that it will be easy for studios to stream content directly from anywhere. You'll be able to find movies to watch by clicking on links on web pages, just like how you view youtube videos now, except with a micropayment prompt, tied to your facebook account.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect part of the deals Netflix made require them to purchase the studios' rental version of their DVDs. Another clue is that some new releases (Inception, for example) don't show up on Netflix, even in disc form, until a month after they go on sale.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:46 PM on December 9, 2010


The dispute between Comcast and Level 3 is all about L3 giving Netflix a way to hog bandwidth at little-to-no-cost, which, when I read the details, made me say something I had NEVER said before: "Comcast is NOT the bad guy here."

If Netflix streaming keeps growing the way it has been, it'll make the entire Internet about as reliable as AT&T's wireless network - or worse. And with no 'economic incentive' to build more infrastructure to support it.


Disagree, here. Netflix is not "hogging bandwidth" across my internet service provider's pipes when I connect to its servers and retrieve things. They are simply providing the information across the connection THAT I AM PAYING MY PROVIDER FOR EVERY MONTH. It is the providing of that "road" that is the only reason I am a customer. I am sure they'd love it if their associated inferior mail and portal pages were a motivator for me or anyone else but nobody gives a shit. They pay for access to the internet and Netflix is part of that.

The motivation to build more infrastructure will be to keep selling connectivity to people. I agree there's a complication here in that folks like Comcast are often limited monopolies using the public right-of-way to house their data transport paths but like any business providing a service that's evolving they're going to have to cope or suffer.

The issue of connectivity between peers is obviously a complicated one but this nonsense where L3 is the profiteering bad guy by providing all this data is inane. The data flows across to Comcast's network because the customers who Comcast is selling connectivity to want it to come to them. And they pay for the right to connect to Comcast and get things off the internet.
posted by phearlez at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blockbuster actually has a few exclusive deals with movie studios to get movies 28 days before any other rental-type service. And Warner Bros (who is the distributor for Inception) is one of them.
posted by skynxnex at 12:51 PM on December 9, 2010


That's kind of the point of renting movies instead of seeing them in theaters - I heavily pre-select based on what I know I like.

Hmm. Don't you "heavily pre-select" seeing a movie in a theater as well? Or even more, compared to renting, since you have to shell out more for a theater and the hassle factor is way bigger? So what's different? You have pretty much the same pre-selection tools (reviews, user reviews, pre-views, trailers etc.) available for both, no?

Speaking for myself, I unfortunately don't have your finely tuned 6-th sense wrt. movies. And I'm skeptical it can be done with any degree of reliability, if you are somewhat picky (seems to me). For example, I loved Crank II, but hated all the Transporter movies. And just because I generally like a director, I may hate one of his given movies etc.. Plus, I watch many foreign movies, where there is even less info available. So I think it depends on your viewing habits - it may work for you, but it won't work for me.
posted by VikingSword at 12:52 PM on December 9, 2010


In the small town where I live, the combination of Netflix and Redbox has killed every video store in town

Something I've been wondering about is if video stores, video game stores, and book stores are replaced by services like Netflix, Steam and the Kindle, what is the economic impact of this?

There must be thousands and thousands of people who work in or own a video store, rent property to video stores, work in Chinese factories making DVDs, boats and trucks and forklift drivers even get a bit of revenue from the shipping of DVDs. Where do all those jobs go?
posted by bobo123 at 1:01 PM on December 9, 2010


Ahhhh great...i signed up to Netflix's streaming plan just last week.

Main Reason: I want to start paying someone for some of the things I already get for free through "ahem" other means.....

The price-point was perfect and I can do a dollar of two more (but not $5 dollars more however), as I have no cable at home.

I really like most the stuff they have up-there despite the fact that a lot of popular titles are not there (I was looking forward finding out more Zombie movies, but had to settle for Zombie Strippers). I also started looking at a lot of the documentaries they have.

Basically because of netflix I am consuming a whole bunch of content that I would not consume otherwise (I am looking at you "Superfly").

For me however the choice is not between Netflix or buying/dvds or blu-rays (and I do have a extensive blu-ray collection consisting of movies I like so much that I want to see them again at the best possible quality). The choice comes down to Netflix or Free......

If you take away Netflix, I'll probably do free....
posted by The1andonly at 1:10 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm. Don't you "heavily pre-select" seeing a movie in a theater as well?

There's simply less information about movies in theaters - essentially just enthusiastic pre-screenings, followed by professional reviews. Unless it's a blockbuster or going for an Oscar bid, there's rarely time for anyone to generate an in-depth review that I often like to see before I watch a movie. I find that it generally takes 6 months to a year before the essence of a movie is sufficiently defined for me to add it to my Netflix queue (or I'll add it right away, but it takes 6 months to move to the top, by which point I can decide to watch or delete).

For example, I loved Crank II, but hated all the Transporter movies.

I'm not saying my pre-selection is perfect by any means (for example, by most measures I should have liked Talk to Her), or even desireable to the average viewer. Maybe I would love the Crank movies? I'll never know, because I won't rent them.
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on December 9, 2010


there's rarely time for anyone to generate an in-depth review that I often like to see before I watch a movie.

Got you. I guess we may have slightly different styles of selection. I find that it's faster to just pop the movie in, and often (not always though) I can make a decision within minutes... I find that saves me time overall vs trolling through dozens of reviews or in-depth analysis.

Anyhow, that's my take wrt. extras - just no way to know. It's certainly not connected with how good the movie is - sometimes the movie is great, but the extras are terrible (f.ex. for Out of the Past), and very rarely, the opposite is true ("Operation Cobra" - terrible, terrible movie, very informative extras). But I learn a great, great deal from them - like take all the extras for "Reservoir Dogs" - it's just invaluable. I think extras add so very much to movies. It's such a pity that studios are starting to shy away from them as an unnecessary expense.
posted by VikingSword at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2010


Thanks for the reminder: The first two discs of Berlin Alexanderplatz have been sitting unwatched on my shelf for six weeks. I did make it through the entirety of Heimat over the summer. Amazing what Netflix has on disc. Would be lovely if the streaming options expanded tenfold.
posted by stargell at 2:21 PM on December 9, 2010


mediareport: I was the one not being clear. I meant Netflix would use that argument in court, either suing the studios, or letting the current deal lapse, setting up a system like that and getting sued by the studios.

I agree, the studios would never voluntarily go for it, the same way they didn't like rentals in the first place. But if first sale applies to rentals, it would have a pretty good chance of applying to streaming that was done that way. The concept is the same; only the mode of transportation is different.
posted by gjc at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2010


Another clue is that some new releases (Inception, for example) don't show up on Netflix, even in disc form, until a month after they go on sale.

Netflix made a deal with some studios last year to expand streaming options. The, or at least a, concession they gave back was a 4-week delay on getting new releases.
posted by immlass at 4:02 PM on December 9, 2010


I am going to be really, really pissed if they drop physical DVD service and go to all-streaming WITHOUT CAPTIONING. For the love of God I cannot understand why it's so fucking hard to put closed-captions or subtitles on shows and movies when they already exist (either on the DVD or when it was aired on TV). I do not understand why the ADA does not cover this. I'm lucky that I'm still able to hear OK with my hearing aids on and the player volume up, but deaf people are absolutely fucked by the steady move towards streaming media without captioning.

At the very fucking least they could provide a way to let you search for captioned titles (like Hulu does). The first 6 or so (streaming) episodes of Dexter had captions, and then they stopped. But the DVDs have captions!

I'd easily pay upwards of $20 extra per month just for captions. I suspect they can't charge deaf people more, though, so they just don't give a shit.
posted by desjardins at 4:02 PM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


For those of you going on about Zombie Strippers, may I suggest to you Dead Snow? It's on the play it now and is awesome!
posted by Phantomx at 5:13 PM on December 9, 2010


Netflix streaming may not be everything that I want it to be, but it's pretty darn good nonetheless.

Oh yes indeed. I feel like it's the FUTURE when I can just flick through a hundred movies like that, even if they do look like shit most of the time I still watch more movies through the Netflix streaming than I might otherwise watch per week. I am just pissed that they took most-all of the older Eddie Izzard standup stuff off before I could watch it all.
posted by biscotti at 5:37 PM on December 9, 2010


desjardins: I discovered a list of NetFlix Instant Download movies with subtitles. According to the intro, it "includes 309 Subtitled, 2 listed as Subtitled but don't work, 1 Silent Movie, & 22 popular/highly-rated foreign titles with Open Subtitles".

I hope the site owner keeps it up, because NetFlix sure isn't doing it.
posted by Soliloquy at 7:21 PM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fun Netflix fact: the number of discs in your plan is also the number of simultaneous streams you're allowed.

haveanicesummer, you can force HD (or whatever is the highest existing encoding for a particular title) on the Roku players by using the special menus in debug mode. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the Xbox had similar hidden capabilities.

I thought about locking in the upper bit-rate, but so far I've only turned on the extra stream statistics. That's because the box's algorithm has delivered the highest quality streams(!!) to my beloved FiOS connection 100% of the time.

Lastly, having watched a lot of Netflix streaming on both the Wii and Roku, the Wii's visual quality is really poor in relation, even on SD-only material. The Roku is beautiful in comparison, and then when you move to the 4Mb/s 720p streams the Wii can't use, it's just not even a fair fight anymore. But like I said, even on SD-only material, and even with the Wii having component cables and 480p, the Roku is much easier on the eye. Hey, did you guys know that the Wii really only runs its Wi-Fi as 802.11A? As in the 10 Mb Wi-Fi that's really only about 5Mb Wi-Fi? Seriously.

Also, for anyone on the Roku with an Apple iOS device, I can recommend the DVPRemote app. Aside from basic coolness, it also lets you use the functions of the new Rokus (like 30-second rewind without rebuffering) on the older players, plus some other neat tricks. It's good stuff.
posted by NortonDC at 9:43 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


First time I've noticed the rental version being crippled to upsell to the retail version. Is this a new thing, or has it been going on for a while?

It was a big thing when DVDs first came out. Video stores would get the Rental Version which didn't have the behind-the-scenes docos or director commentary. That died off pretty quickly, presumably because it too much bother to do a separate run of discs with their own sleeves and disc menu just for the rental market.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 9:59 PM on December 9, 2010


> Video streaming will never look as good as a DVD

Nonsense. DVD video has a raw bitrate of 11 megabits/second. That's already doable with a lot of home internet connections today.
posted by hjo3 at 10:57 AM on December 10, 2010


Nonsense. DVD video has a raw bitrate of 11 megabits/second. That's already doable with a lot of home internet connections today.
Just to put that in perspective, I popped open SpeedTest.net on my iPhone and did some transfer tests. Using my home Wireless-N network to access my Comcast cable internet, I get 12.5Mbps sustained throughput. Not hyping comcast or anything -- the service drops every forty-five minutes after all -- but the speed is already there for many residential cable internet customers.
posted by verb at 11:07 AM on December 10, 2010


Perhaps worth pointing out that DVDs use MPEG-2 compression, which is not nearly as bit-efficient for most motion video as the MP4 flavours that NetFlix and other streamers use. I get better than DVD quality (no contest at all) with NetFlix's HD streams over my pretty crappy 5Mb/s connection. It breaks up badly with running water or panning on foliage, but that could just be the shitty CPU in the laptop I'm using as a head, I'm hoping the PS3 will do better. Movie night in a couple weeks: Big Trouble in Little China, streamed in HD. Can't wait!
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:42 PM on December 10, 2010


Movie night in a couple weeks: Big Trouble in Little China, streamed in HD.

Son of a bitch must pay.

(Which I heard in a tv show recently and I think I might have squee-ed out loud. Shameful, hope the wife didn't hear)

Anyone interested in the gritty details about a lot of Netflix's negotiations for streaming rights and the access to DVDs w/o delay should look at some of the old posts on Hacking Netflix and Inside Redbox.

Inside Redbox has had some interesting coverage of the studios trying to freeze out Redbox from purchases - to the point where there were reports of Redbox sending employees out to big box stores to buy up clamshell-packaged movies to put in the kiosks. Earlier this year they reached some sort of delay agreement to cope with this.

Presumably Blockbuster pays for the privilege of "early access," at least enough to offset what the studios believe is harming their sales. Hope they enjoy it while it lasts, given Blockbuster's financial issues.
posted by phearlez at 2:04 PM on December 10, 2010


Via Inside Redbox (thanks for that one, phearlez):

Analyst: Postage Cuts Not Enough to Pay for Netflix Streaming Content
posted by mediareport at 5:04 PM on December 10, 2010


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