The Problem With Netflix

 By Shamus Nov 2, 2011 168 comments

I posted this to Google+ a few days ago, but I want to expand my thoughts on that.

netflix.jpg

It’s amazing how quickly Netflix has re-created the television sensation of “a thousand channels, and nothing’s on”. I’m finding myself less and less interested in anything not available for instant play. It just seems absurd to have to pick out a movie to watch four days ahead of time. It’s sad to hit Friday movie night and realize your big-budget popcorn flick has gotten caught in the depths of the mail system, and will arrive on Monday when nobody has time to watch it.

I find it interesting that media companies even care about this distinction. It’s not like they gain some benefit for having their discs pass through the mail system. If they want to throttle the number of premium titles you can watch in a month (which is what the DVD mail system accomplishes) then why not simply re-create that system or allowance for streaming digital?

Things got considerably worse two months ago when they announced that Starz Play movies would be pulled from Netflix. They weren’t the best movies, but they were better than a lot of the dreck that’s available for streaming. At the time, Netflix claimed they would use the money they were paying for Starz content to buy other, new content. It sounded good, although in the last two months the number of new movies added to streaming has been very small, and a lot of them have been absolute trash. A lot of them are B-movies (not cult classic B-movies, but just random no-name B-movies) and terrible knockoff titles. If they’re thinking of adding new content to replace the Starz Play stuff, they’re off to a horrible start.

Starz play pulled their content because they felt it was undervalued. Fine, but now you’re making nothing from it, genius. The only way this move makes sense is if they’re gearing up to offer their content through some other streaming service, one which would ostensibly give them a bigger cut of the proceeds.

This is what I’m really afraid of. Right now I’m aware of three major players in the big-media streaming content business: Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Streaming. This is only going to get worse. You thought it was annoying to pay your cable bill and internet bill every month? Just wait until you’re paying for internet, cable, and a half dozen different content services because none of them are willing to work together.

I think these media companies are still stuck in an Old Media mindset. This behavior will hurt them and annoy consumers in the long term. Their reliance on DVD’s is really strange. They act like making their content scarce and difficult to obtain will elevate its value. In reality, this is nothing more than a very simple exercise in market stratification. When the movie opens, you get all the people who are willing to pay $20 to see it in a theater. After a few weeks you grab the people willing to pay $10 to see it in a cheap theater. Then the people willing to pay $5 to watch it at home. (Through any means – Redbox, Blockbuster, Netflix rental, streaming. The method of delivery is the least important aspect of the transaction.) You continue downward until you’re selling to people who will only watch it for “free”. (As part of their monthly Netflix package.) Then it should stay there, forever. If at any time your movie is unavailable, you’re leaving money on the table for no reason.

As a content producer, I’d rather have a million people watch my movie for a nickel each than a hundred people watch it for $5 on pay-per-view. I’d prefer this, even if the numbers were changed so that I made the same money either way. The more people see it, the more people talk about it, and the more my media will become part of the culture. This will increase the size of my potential audience if I ever decide to make a sequel.

As a consumer, I’d rather pay a single monthly bill and browse a single large library of movies than pay several bills and hop from one service to the next when I want to find something to watch. Hm. I remember I wanted to see Sucker Punch when it came out. Is it on Netflix? No. Amazon streaming? No. Hulu? No. Hm. Inglorious Basterds might be good. I could check all three services for that one. Eh. You know what? this is a huge pain in the ass. I’ll just watch YouTube videos.

Also: All of these companies need to get their collective act together when it comes to Canada. This region-locking and licensing nonsense is more obsolete than dinosaurs.

A Hundred!2020208Many comments. 168, if you're a stickler


  1. Abnaxis says:

    Wow. And you never even mentioned piracy in that whole post. I have pirated quite a few things that I would gladly have paid for, if the companies weren’t being such jackasses with their IP and offered it streaming.

    Word to the wise–I can download your content whether you want to put it on Netflix or not, producers. How much commission do you make from a torrent download?

    • Eric Meyer says:

      Or the other way to pirate stuff: get the DVD, rip it (which is trivially easy), send the DVD back, get another a few days later, repeat ad nauseum. I don’t know, maybe it’s really simple to rip streams and I missed it, but I find copying DVDs way easier than capturing streams. Quite a bit faster, too. Or, um, you know, so a guy told me once.

      Not to mention, if I can stream a movie or TV show any time I want, why would I even bother to copy it? In that scenario, Netflix has my copy safe and sound. No point in cluttering up my hard drive unless I plan to be off the net for a while. (In which case, Netflix offering a cheap download-and-play-once option a la the iTunes Store would cover that use case very nicely.)

      If I were a studio head, I’d be doing everything I could to push Netflix into offering all my stuff for streaming all the time. The content would be more measurable in terms of popularity, down to the level of knowing which scenes are popular for viewing and which parts of any given movie get skipped; most likely less copied; and (as Shamus says) get more viewers watching my stuff and thus hopefully looking to me for more content in the future.

    • Felblood says:

      Who pirates movies anymore. You can usually stream recent ones a lot faster on youtube, at decent resolutions. Piracy is for when you want some specific old movie you watched as a kid that can’t be found anywhere else, even the tubes.

      • Dragomok says:

        Isn’t streaming on YouTube technically also piracy?

        • Blanko2 says:

          not just ‘technically’. its plain old piracy.

          • Alan says:

            To the extent that piracy means copyright infringement, maybe, and if so, probably not to you, the person watching the video. In much the same way that if you buy a bootleg DVD, the creator of the DVD is engaging in copyright infringement, the seller might be, and the purchaser isn’t. The person who uploaded the video to YouTube is almost certainly engaged in copyright infringement. YouTube might have been, except the DMCA explicitly protects them from copyright infringement claims.

            • Zukhramm says:

              Wherever you live ha quite different laws regarding these issues. In most places (it seems to me) the person recieving (downloading or whatever other way) is guilty too.

      • Klay F. says:

        Its all about the kind of quality you are willing to settle for. I know several people who used to go out of their way to watch brand new movies that have been bootlegged from theaters with crappy camcorders. The quality was absolute ass and they often had subtitles at the bottom in either Thai, Vietnamese, Mandarin, or Cantonese.

        Nevertheless these people don’t care about the quality. Then you have the people who are out on some personal mission to topple the MPAA, and they try to accomplish this by…yes, pirating movies.

        Regardless of all I just said the MPAA is the root cause of everything thats wrong with the movie industry today. They are a beast dying a slow, painful death, and, like the music industry record labels, they will viciously maul anyone who tries to help them.

      • Zukhramm says:

        Decent resolution on youtube?! I pretty much always watch movies at resolutions considered way too low by anyone I know but even I have limits.

        And regardless of that, youtube is just annoying. Accidentally click a link and you’ll have to reload the whole thing, and considering every single area of the page is covered with links it’s pretty hard not to click something. And even if I manage not to it’ll just stop working without my help making me reload anyway.

    • toastymow says:

      Interesting note:

      I wanted to watch a TV series. I had access to the TV channel it was on legally, but forgot to go and watch it LIVE. I found no legal way to watching the Pilot online, so I found an illegal method. I watched the Pilot online, commercial free, on a website that did not benefit the TV show I wanted to watch in any way.

      If the company that showed this show on TV had some sort of “we will deliver this content in a week” I might have waited. I probably wouldn’t have pirated, I will say that. But they didn’t. I woke up the next morning and said “Hey that show was on and I forgot to watch it…”

      I’m sorry, but I find that unacceptable as a consumer. We have the technology to get VODS up, online, almost right away. Run Commercials during this VODs, if you must, I don’t care. I watch Streams on the internet of Esports all the time, for free, with commercials. I also watch VODs of Esports, for free, with commercials. Why can’t Cable companies do this? I don’t understand.

      • theLameBrain says:

        You think the cable channels make money when you watch their shows? They don’t. All they care about is that their neilson test audiences are watching the channel to keep their ratings high so they can sell time slots for commercials.

        They are not setup to make this kind of money on people watching tv on the internet, and that is what is going to kill them…

    • Indeed. Shamus’ “Just wait until you’re paying for internet, cable, and a half dozen different content services because none of them are willing to work together” will for most people be more like “Just wait until you’re paying for internet, cable, and The Pirate Bay because you’d only be willing to pay for one Netflix-type service and they all individually suck” if these services are not careful.

  2. Dev Null says:

    While I agree with pretty much all of your sentiments, the following statement:

    The more people see it, the more people talk about it, and the more my media will become part of the culture. This will increase the size of my potential audience if I ever decide to make a sequel.

    …makes the rather large and mostly unwarranted assumption that the content in question is good, and more people watching it will _increase_ the number of people willing to watch a sequel.

    Just sayin.

    • Shamus says:

      True, true.

      I guess this only applies to stuff that isn’t horrible.

      Still, even if it sucks, it can’t earn if it isn’t available.

    • DanMan says:

      Ever hear of Rifftrax? Or the more commonly-known Mystery Science Theater 3000? These guys make jokes about bad movies (and some good movies). There are reasons to consume bad media as well. As long as it’s available, it can potentially make money. As long as it doesn’t cost YOU to make it available (it costs Netflix to keep it available streaming), make it available.

      • Skye says:

        True story- there was a movie (Time chasers, time flight, something like that, about a airplane that time traveled) that a friend of mine worked on. It was a horrible indie thing with bad writing, horrible acting, etc, and didn’t even return the money spent making it. MST took it up, and the studio made more money from that than they did from the movie itself.

    • Jason Cole says:

      Even bad films have a certain appeal to audiences who find it so bad that it is funny. Then they trick or otherwise convince their friends into watching it. The network effect is huge.

    • But if you thought it was bad, why release it? No matter what, having it out there will increase your chances of someone wanting to buy it, even if it’s only people who like terrible shlock.

  3. Mortuorum says:

    The average consumer isn’t all that aware of torrent sites, but awareness is growing. The moment it becomes more convenient for Joe and Jane Middle-America to download their movies for free than to pay for them, big media can kiss their streaming income goodbye.

    • Abnaxis says:

      I don’t think so. Torrents don’t stream–if I want a movie, I have to wait a good while for it to download. Streaming services actually do add value above that which is offered for free in torrents.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Yeah but you can plan ahead leave it over night, and even download times aren’t that bad. And once you DO download it, the playing can’t suffer from network problems.

        • DanMan says:

          True, but it’s Friday night; it’s been a really long week; I worked through the weekend last week and had to work four twelves this week; I’m exhausted and I just want to watch a movie: Do I browse the streaming section of Netflix for something to watch or do I browse the torrents for something I can watch in two hours?

          People CAN plan ahead, but companies make a ton of money off of impulse buys. There’s a reason grocery stores want you to get and use their card: So they can display things in such a way as to get you to buy more stuff.

          Streaming is more convenient for those who didn’t have a chance or didn’t feel like planning.

          • peter says:

            even if it torrents would only be available after full download in say two hours, it’s still pretty competitive. netflix already has this dvd business going, that’s a longer wait than the torrent.

            • Abnaxis says:

              No, spur of the moment you decide you want to watch a movie. Are you seriously saying your decision to watch wouldn’t be affected by a 2 hour wait time?

              My off-time is fleeting and precious. Time spent searching and downloading is time I am not entertained, and I don’t have enough time to waste on it.

              • Tse says:

                2 hours? If you have the speed necessary for streaming you can download the same movie faster than its run time. And most people who use streaming have a better than minimal connection speed. Also, torrents use a more efficient system, you connect to peers, not to a central server. Peers from your local area should allow better download speed than a far-away server. A good internet connection can allow you to download a 720p version of a movie in several minutes, just long enough to make popcorn. Also, it’s faster than browsing several different services, you get everything from one place.

                • SteveDJ says:

                  This assumes your internet provider doesn’t throttle your speed, # of peer connections, etc… (I’m talking to you, Comcast…)

                • Simon says:

                  720p movie with high-quality compression = 5 gb

                  100 mbit/s internet and membership to a private tracker ensuring great seeding

                  5000*8/100/60=6,66 or roughly 7 min download time :)
                  or 3 min for a 45-min TV-show.

                  I’ve waited as long a time for streaming services to buffer a video, to then have to do it again after a few minutes of watching, or dumped the buffer because I paused and resumed or something. And streaming services always have really low compression quality.

                  • peter says:

                    can be as small as 1.3 gigs actually, for 720p, this for a 2 hour film.

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    100MBit/s? Are you freaking serious? So you think I have a fiber line?

                    I love it when the answer to any problem is “spend more money on it newb.” For those of us who don’t have the $200/month to blow on FiOS, it’s going to take considerably longer than 7 minutes. I mean, seriously…

              • peter says:

                i’m saying that if my choice is wait for two hours, or wait for a dvd to arrive because i can’t stream it right then and there, the choice is two hours.

          • Abnaxis says:

            This.

            To me, movies are an especially impulse-driven thing. I don’t wake up in the morning planning to watch a movie when I get home in the evening. I finish working and say “Huh. I have free time? What am I in the mood to do? Play a game? Watch a movie? Read a book? Crank away some at [insert pet project here]?”

            I watch a movie when that particular mood suits me. If I have to plan ahead to watch anything, it will cut my video intake down by at least 90%, because that takes “watch a movie” off the list.

            • Zukhramm says:

              I remember the good old (alright, not old, it was just a couple of years ago (and now that I think about it they weren’t very good either)) where I had to know two days ahead of time what movie I wanted to watch.

          • Kdansky says:

            You are raising a good point, and I realize I am not the target demographic of Netflix, because I (nearly) don’t impulse buy. I am perfectly happy with setting up a dozen torrents and only watching everything ages later. And with current bandwidth, “ages” is usually equal to hours.

            I have a dozen anime series, movies, games and books ready for consumption at all times. I think I enjoy creating a diverse and interesting portfolio more than impulse buying.

        • If you torrent and have a good connection you can watch the movie after its downloaded without any issue, and if for some reason you decide to keep it or watch it again later than you dont have to deal with a crappy internet connection.
          Similarily if you live with someone who torrents you wont end up with your netflix videos ending up like in that one Ctrl+Alt+Delete comic where the stream ends up going 8-bit because Ethan is torrenting porn because youll already have the videos on your computer.

          • Abnaxis says:

            We’re looking at this from different perspectives. If you watch popular/new movies, have plenty of HD space to blow on movie clutter, and have a weekly scheduled “movie night” or somesuch, torrents will replace a streaming service.

            They don’t for me. First, I almost never watch anything that hasn’t been out a good long while–long enough that there aren’t many other users sharing it through torrents, which drastically reduces the speed you download at. Second, I don’t like having gigs of crap on my computer. I’m plenty capable of filling a 500 GB HD without downloading movies, I’m not dedicating any more storage to what basically amounts to clutter. Third, I don’t know when I’ll be in the mood for a movie, nor do I know what sort of movie I’ll be in the mood for when I want one.

            Now, I am not saying my own consumption patterns are OSFA. However, I don’t think I’m unique in my media consumption habits, and streaming content is ideal for me. I think my ideas represent a not-insignificant market that could be served if providers would get their heads out of their asses.

            • Kdansky says:

              150 GB is not a HD, that’s a medium sized SSD. Apart from the flood in Taiwan, you can get 2 TB for less than a 100$. And with modern codecs, that will take hundreds of movies to fill. The bottleneck is watching them, not storing them.

              • Abnaxis says:

                Edited to 500 GB before you replied. Sorry, I always edit stuff like that, and now I can’t fix it =

                ANYway, I presume you’re shopping E-bay to get your prices? Most of what I’m finding 2 TB hovers more around the $200 range. unless you’re talking about an external HD, which is an unholy pain in the ass to move large files between.

                Regardless, I’m not talking about monetary cost. Downloading a hundred movies makes more work for me. I have to organize those, weed out the ones I dislike, spend time copying from one place to another… It’s not worth it. It’s all hassle, which I don’t have time for. I have maybe a couple hours in a weekend I’m not busy doing something else, I’m not spending that digging through shit an trying to figure out what I want and what I don’t.

                Again, I’m not saying everyone needs to be just like me, I’m just saying that other people like me exist, and we’re willing to pay money to not have to worry about the overhead involved in downloading torrents.

                • CTrees says:

                  Prices right now seem a little higher than I remember, last time I checked, but regardless – I recently got a 2TB external drive for $100, new, on sale. That one’s actually being used as an external drive for my Macbook Air, but a couple computers I’ve built have used hard drives ripped out of external drives I got on fantastic sales. The drive is the same – just take the enclosure off.

                  • Kayle says:

                    As somewhat alluded to above, roughly 1/4 of the world’s manufacturing capacity for hard drives is out of service due to the Western Digital’s Thailand factory being flooded, and its unclear when they might get back into production. Also, many manufacturers of hard drive components are under water, so it is or will soon be affecting production from other companies. This has caused prices for hard drives to jump a lot.

                • General Ghoul says:

                  You need to get out more, and by that I mean get out on the internet. Here is a quality, name brand external 2TB HD for $90 shipped.

                  http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3491174

                  And here’s another for $55!

                  http://slickdeals.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3480978

                • Kdansky says:

                  It’s a bad day to shop Harddisks, as the flood in Taiwan has destroyed half of the worlds factories for them. Currently, prices are 50% to 100% above what they were last week. I would expect the prices to drop again soon though.

                  Oh, and another point: You don’t need to keep a movie file around after having watched it, which frees up space.

              • Zukhramm says:

                My hard drives are are 150 GB. And I’ve got one around 55 GB to. I’ve never used much space, in computers or otherwise. It was always weird traveling with others seeing them with massive suitcases while I had only a small backpack.

        • And of course the more average the Jane and Joe, the more popular their typical choice of movie, and the faster a torrent will go. Most of what I’m interested in (obscure old movies where nobody who made them is in a position to make money from it any more, for instance, or obscure anime with fan-inserted subtitles that aren’t available for sale in either my country or my language) takes bloody forever on a torrent. But the one or two times I’ve tried downloading a fairly popular, current movie it went like blazes.

      • peter says:

        depending on the client, streaming from torrents is definitely possible these days. utorrent, vuze, a couple of the other major players already support it.
        and with something like sickbeard, you could even set something up to automatically download the tv series you want, at the quality you want, giving you even less hassle when watching series.

        • Abnaxis says:

          True, but the performance is terrible compared to a dedicated streaming server. Tried it once, quickly said “Screw this” and just let the thing download all night.

        • Tse says:

          At least you have Netflix, in here it’s either torrent, watch what’s on TV or buy from a store.
          This comment wasn’t supposed to pop up here, no idea why it did.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Sure,but thats only if you have fast enough internet for it to never choke.Heck,even I had colbert report and daily show stop from time to time,and I have the speed of 5+ mps.Granted,it was in hd,but why not watch hd when I have the means to?Besides,if I dont mind steam taking a few hours to download my game before I can play it,why would I mind for a movie?

        • Abnaxis says:

          Cost vs. Reward. The actual content of a movie keeps me entertained for a max of 5 or 6 hours (if I’m downloading old episodes of ST:TNG or something), usually more like 1.5 hours. After I watch it, it’s junk taking up space on my HD. So I spend two hours downloading it, for an hour and a half of entertainment that I am going to delete immediately afterward.

          Most games, OTOH, keep me entertained for an indeterminate amount of time, usually at least ten hours. Further, the time I get out of the game does not have to be in a continuous block (though I guess it doesn’t need to be for a movie either, but quitting in the middle of a movie drives me insane); this means I am going to keep all the data on my hard drive so I can play later–so I’m not wasting 2 hours downloading crap I’m going to turn around and delete a couple hours later.

          In games, the data has some intrinsic value to me, as a customer. For movies, I could care less about the data, I just want to see the movie. Of course, this is based on my own buying habits, so YMMV

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            This also differs from movie to movie.Memento,for example,Ive shown to countless people,inception Ive recommended to countless more to watch in theatres,but snakes on a plane Ive watched exactly once.So good movies are worth wasting space on.Same goes for shows.I still have whole south park on my hard drive,despite it being readily available on their site.

            • Abnaxis says:

              Meh, by the time it’s worth keeping on my HD, it’s worth ponying up and just buying it. That way at least some small portion of proceeds goes to the people who made it.

          • Tuck says:

            So I spend two hours downloading it, for an hour and a half of entertainment that I am going to delete immediately afterward.

            To be fair though, you are not spending those two hours downloading exclusively: you might spend 5 minutes locating and starting a torrent, but then you’re not wasting two hours just sitting there watching the download…so the issue is either the random thought of a movie you want to watch sometime, or the process of going from that thought to starting a download. Granted what you want to watch now may not equal what you want to watch on Friday night, but at least you’re not dependent on content services providing a decent choice. :P

    • Steve C says:

      My mom recently called me up to tell me about Pirate Bay. She can only figure out email partially but even she knows about Pirate Bay. Sadly she’s too computer illiterate figure out how to torrent anything, but still it’s funny.

  4. Nonesuch says:

    “All of these companies need to get their collective act together when it comes to Canada. This region-locking and licensing nonsense is more obsolete than dinosaurs.”

    Damn straight.

  5. Kyrion says:

    The thing is, none of these companies actually want to make money, their sole aim is to aggravate their customer base. That’s why they try their best to stop you giving them any money! :)

  6. Infinitron says:

    Note the difference of mentality. There is no equivalent of Steam for movies. Why are videogame companies more willing to cooperate? Less ego?

    • peter says:

      steam’s had years of experience and a dedicated group of people behind it. people who ‘get’ how to treat a user.
      compare stuff like origin or gfwl, which is closer to the videogame equivalent of netflix and its ilk.
      the reason steam’s got such a broad array of games from so many developers is partly because it’s a giant, until now there haven’t really been any actually competitive competing services (origin tries to change that, but the way it’s going it’ll probably fail). if you want your game digitally distributed, the only real choice is steam. if you want your movie distributed, do you go to hulu? netflix? amazon?

      • Simulated Knave says:

        …I’m sorry, did you just claim that the people behind Steam know how to treat a user?

        Yeah. That’s why installing a game from a disk requires reading an FAQ and connecting to an authentication server (which will start downloading the game if it screws up). Because the minds behind Steam know how to treat people.

    • TraderRager says:

      iTunes is pretty close. It has a frankly huge collection of (overpriced) movies and TV series for rent and/or purchase.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Because steam is the product of one companys vision.While it is true that progress is basically inevitable,it still takes for a few dedicated individuals to make the initial breakthrough.

    • swenson says:

      It’s a good question. You’d think somebody in the movie market would have looked over and gone “Huh. That one videogame company is making obscene amounts of money over there. Maybe we should emulate them.” But I suspect a lot of it has to do with movie companies still not accepting videogames as a serious threat to them, despite the fact that big-name games routinely rival or exceed the records set by movies for opening weekend sales. Black Ops sold 7 million copies in the first day, at whatever the original price was, $50 or $60, for crying out loud. By comparison, Deathly Hallows Part 2 only made $92 million its first day of domestic release and $75 million international sales that same day. (it opened internationally a bit earlier, so they already had about $75 million international sales. Still, that only works out to like $250 million, still below the $350 million or so Black Ops made.)

  7. HeadHunter says:

    We’ve been Netflix subscribers for a few years – and it’s been good in general. I’ve been able to expose my wife to my favorite series like Due South and Red Dwarf, and we are finally getting caught up on Battlestar Galactica. We’re not “TV watchers”, we haven’t had cable television for several years as most of our video entertainment has been online. So it gives us the opportunity to see things we missed when they were on TV.

    That said, I will agree that most of the streaming content is TERRIBLE. 90% of the stuff you can watch instantly, is crap that I wouldn’t watch if you paid me $15 a month to do it. So, at times, we find ourselves getting a disc in the mail. However, we haven’t had any problems with mail delays – with only one single exception, every disc we’ve ordered has arrived within two days, and is received within two days of us dropping it in the mailbox. Damaged discs have been replaced quickly (that’s only happened twice, but with the same title) and if a title is not available to mail, they’ll send the next one in the queue as a “bonus” and follow along with the first one ASAP.

    So overall, we’ve been satisfied with the service, if not the actual content. I was displeased by the monkey business of the last few months, but it seems that they’re back on track. The price hike was not a welcome change, to be sure, but honestly… it’s the same amount I’d pay for an MMO and a LOT cheaper than a monthly cable bill.

    • Our biggest problem has been that we like niche movies/tv and it tends to be the stuff that keeps randomly disappearing from streaming. One day it is there and then all of a sudden it is gone with no warning. Then a week later it is randomly back. Very frustrating for all involved and suddenly Huluplus is looking AWFULLY good (we have subscribed to Netflix since the early days as we haven’t had cable in 11 years.)

      • Nick Bell says:

        Hulu Plus has a different level of frustration – lots of limits on where you can watch content. I watch TV and movies on my TV. Primarily through my PS3(the 360 works too, but it’s louder). There is a ton of Hulu Plus content I’d love to watch, but is restricted to computer. Very irritating.

  8. TraderRager says:

    Netflix is worth it to me for watching Doctor Who, Fraiser, Cheers, Futurama, and several other syndicated favorites.

    The occasional good movie is just a bonus.

  9. Lalaland says:

    I live in Ireland which like the rest of the EU requires per nation licensing which is why most content providers just don’t bother or just stick with the UK (Xbox marketplace, lovefilm, etc). Until EU wide media licensing happens it’sjust going to be painful or restricted to services such as Mubi (which is pretty good but only for obscure titles, no blockbusters).

    Of course what I’m saying there is it may never happen as some countries have all sorts or weird derogations and exceptions in their copyright laws that no other country would agree to. So as others have mentioned the demon bittorrent is the best method for watching media, I have 50Mb so any big title is down in half an hour or so (even BD rips).

    Would I pay for a high quality streaming service, hell yes. I like documentaries which are a lot more poorly represented on pirate sites than the likes of Steven Segal flicks. Hell if the BBC came out and offered a subscription service with a good selection I’d sign up tomorrow, same goes for PBS.

  10. Slothful says:

    I still have yet to use Netflix. I used to rely on Blockbuster, but now I’ve just been using my college’s media library for everything.

    Selection’s not the best it could be, but the price is FREE. And none of the ethical problems that piracy raises.

  11. webrunner says:

    The canada thing is the fault of the Canadian government. CRTC regulations make it really hard for a american-content provider to do stuff in Canada.

    • Shamus says:

      This brings up another problem I have: Media companies need to communicate with their customers. American movies have a hard time getting into Canada. Video games cost 2X in Australia. Release dates are all over the place, even for regains that speak the same language.

      There are reasons for this, but the companies NEVER talk about it. If it’s a law or policy, how can it be changed if people don’t know about it? If it’s a distributor problem, say so. If it’s a licensing problem, tell us.

      Otherwise, the public just assumes the company is clueless and incompetent. I can understand that it was hard to get a message out in the pre-internet days, but that’s no longer an excuse. Anyone can say anything to “everyone”, anytime, for free.

      • “even for regains that speak the same language.” The OCD in me needs to point this out. Do you mean Regions?

      • rofltehcat says:

        We don’t have anything like Netflix or Hulu in Germany and many youtube videos are blocked because of Sony or GEMA (<- they don't represent artists but they represent writers who were already paid… wtf is up with that?!?)
        I’d even take it in German (normally not so great dubs but still better than the dubs of most other countries because of bigger market… Big Bang Theory is horrible in German for example -.-)

        Also added Shamus on Google+… as "only follow/nur folgen" though… don't know if it does anything different though :/

        • Kayle says:

          For stupid historical reasons, music licensing is money that goes to the composers of music and writers of lyrics, not the musicians and singers who perform them. The musicians get their money from sales of representations of their performances (e.g. CDs, streaming, etc). This is one of the forces behind singer-songwriters, for stuff they don’t compose and write for themselves, the musicians have to pay royalties to the composers and lyricists.

      • Steve C says:

        American movies don’t have a hard time getting into Canada. They are released (box office and DVDs) in Canada the same day as in the US. Canada is also the same DVD region code as the US.

        American content providers don’t really have a difficult time doing stuff, they just can’t be bothered. They are welcome to service their content directly if they wanted to, they just don’t. Really the reason is on the other end, in the USA. A service like Hulu has licenses to show their content in the USA. The result of which is IPs from countries that aren’t USA get blocked.

        For example…
        The CBC buys the rights to broadcast the 2008 Summer Olympics on television, along with digital rights to stream video of the events online. But those rights applied only to Canada. The IOC sold similar rights to NBC in the U.S.
        Result:
        NBC blocks Canadian IPs from access. CBC blocks American IPs from access.

        Has nothing to do with piracy, copyright laws, the CRTC or even the telecoms like Bell and Rogers. It’s just companies following the contracts they signed. (Contracts written by people who think it’s still 1980.)

      • The one advantage of this is that even though video games are twice as much at retail here, I can buy American for an unadjusted, way cheaper price.

        That’s part of why Origin annoys me so much – it converts it’s prices into $NZD but shamelessly raises them to retail.

    • False Prophet says:

      To be fair, the big Canadian telecoms are extremely complicit in that. They’re a big reason why we pay proportionately more for broadband than other industrialized nations, why our cell phone market continually lags behind the US, Europe and East Asia, and why foreign content distributors and providers face so many hurdles setting up shop here (our dated regime of copyright and cultural protection barriers is a problem here as well). Until recently, the CRTC was firmly on their side, though the work of people like Michael Geist and Openmedia.ca might finally change that.

      American media companies and various branches of the US government like to call us a nation of pirates. While those accusations are blown way out of proportion, I have to wonder if piracy in Canada might be curbed if our domestic telecoms stopped walling us up in this digital ghetto.

      • The Unforgiven says:

        Well, part of it is that, but part of it is simply the fact that piracy is a grey area in Canada. It’s not legal, but neither is it illegal, and if it’s not illegal, then it’s ok to do it. Or so I assume the mindset is.

        At least that’s the way it was last time I took the time to look it up.

        • Steve C says:

          @The Unforgiven: The greyness of that issue doesn’t impact anything that’s being discussed.

        • TSED says:

          The irony:

          “Canada’s full of pirates!”
          +
          “Not available in your country”

          What do you expect the equal sign to say, Sherlocks?

          • In my mind there is no equal sign and anytime a Canadian pirates something its a massive “F**K YOU” to the CRTC.

            Its even worse if you try to watch stuff on youtube, for example i was trying to watch the music videos of a CANADIAN band and what do i get? “The uploader has made this content unavailable in your country”.

            The CRTC can fall in Steven Harpers asshole and die.

            • Steve C says:

              It has nothing to do with the CRTC or any government organization inside or outside Canada. It has everything to do with licensing contracts signed by the rights owners and the rights broadcasters.

          • Zukhramm says:

            I tried to find a store and by a CD once. I found out something funny: There’s no such thing. I couldn’t find one. There’s no place to buy them. And the music industry keeps complaining about sales.

  12. Alan says:

    Someone needs to collector the various movie company heads in a room and ask them why it’s not reasonably priced and convenient for a random person to watch any movie or television show they want on demand. And whatever their answer is, smack their hand with a ruler and roar, “YOU ARE COMPETING WITH THE PIRATE BAY.” Repeat until it sinks in.

    A world with increasingly cheap bandwidth and storage means that sort of draconian, international governmental intervention, copyright infringement will remain rampant. That is your competition. You can accept it and adapt, or you can die. Gabe Newell is adapting and continues to make money from me because he makes is cheap and convenient.

    • As the password to remove Belkars Symbol of Justice stated “Evolve or Die”

    • swenson says:

      Exactly. The biggest reason music/movie/TV production companies are losing money, if indeed they are losing as much money as they claim to be, is because they refuse to understand that piracy is competition. You treat it like any other competitor–if you can’t outfight them, you have to just accept their existence and try alternate methods to retain your customers.

      In general, I think a lot of pirates would pay for stuff, if it was convenient (aka, digital, not asking people to send in for DVDs) and affordable with lots of options. Netflix, Hulu, and the like are a great first step in the right direction, but they’re not enough because these companies are still refusing to accept that you can’t beat piracy by yelling at it a lot. You have to outcompete it.

  13. Rayen says:

    I want to add some more to the region locking stuff, because it is absolute BS.

    Dear Companies,
    This distribution delay outside the US needs to stop in movies and games. Unless you have to translate it from another language there should be no difference in release date. and even if you delay it for translation there are going to be tranlated versions on the internet faster than you can unless the difference is like a day or three in which case you were holding it for no reason. There is no reason besides transportation delay for a peice of media to release in the US on one day and austrailia or the UK a month later. The only thing you are doing is encouraging pirates in a country where you could be making money. We have reached an age where transportation delay shouldn’t even be a problem. This is an outdated and pointless practice especially since it is becoming more and more apparent that the US is no longer the center of the world.

    Sincerely
    a resident of the US

    EDIT; real irony here. Right next the picture of the netflix problem is the banner ad advertising netflix. XD

    • TSED says:

      It was pointed out to me that the Halo series had simultaneous world-wide launches. I’m not really one to laud Halo for… anything, really, but I have to give them props for that.

      And oh, look, Halo 3 sold a gajillion copies. I bet that’s somehow related…

  14. My primary problem with Netflix streaming is that everything you try to do will end up under the evil control of your viewing history. For example a few weeks ago i wanted to see if they had Star Wars episode 4 available in canada so i went to the search and entered Star Wars. I got the “No results found” sceen. I was astonished because even if the videos arent available to stream Netflix will at least acknowledge that they exist.

    This leaves the sad fact that either the people who run Netflix have never heard of Star Wars or that its controlled by your viewing history.

    I also have an issue with the extra categorys that come up based on your viewing history such as “Underdog Movies” and other such tripe.

    Its a good thing Canada only has to pay half what Americans pay or i would be infuriated.

  15. mockware says:

    There are a lot of factors complicating things. Cable companies are coming down on the content owners for providing their content through other avenues and diminishing their ability to be exclusive providers. Starz play is actually a middle man for the actual content owners who is probably trying to maximize profits by offering an exclusive deal to one of the streaming providers. Hulu and Netflix just did an end-run around them by signing contracts with Disney who was one of the major assets Starz was using as leverage. Then there comes the issues GOG and Apple have had a hell of a time with games and mp3s – no clear owner of the rights for particular media. Eventually, the movie industry will be able to work their contracts out so that there will be a clear path to streaming but that takes time while everyone makes sure they don’t get screwed in the process.

  16. cyranor says:

    Im seeing a similar trend in the electronic gaming market. What used to be dominated by steam is now being broken apart for similar reasons. EA just pulled all of there games off steam because they want to make more money selling them on Origin (there new digital game store). I like steam, I like that it has a large collection of games from many publishers (this is what makes it work so well). If every publisher pulls out to make an extra buck it devalues the convenience of the digital stores and ill just go buy it in a real store or amazon. Just seems eerily similar to the netflix thing.

  17. Irridium says:

    I never stream. Internet is too crap for it. I’ve had a pretty decent experience with their DVD service though. Especially since most of the time I get shafted on delivery things since I live in rural Vermont, but I’ve gotten and returned DVD’s pretty quickly.

  18. Richertai says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has said this yet but CHECK OUT AMAZON PRIME!
    I’ve been doing the Prime thing for a few years now and it’s awesome. Free 2-day shipping on anything, plus a bunch of other benefits.
    The biggest and newest one is the idea of Prime Instant Videos. Amazon has had the Instant Videos service for a while, competing with iTunes. You can rent or buy a video and stream it from Amazon.
    Recently, they’ve expanded it so that if you are a Prime member, you can watch a whole bunch of movies and TV shows for free. All episodes of Star Trek (any of them), X-Files, etc. Fox just signed a deal for a lot of their shows, and there’s more all the time. It’s better already than Netflix ever was.

    Add to that the idea of DRM free music store and, if you have Prime, free storage of purchased music on their Cloud Drive, for download whenever you want. I don’t really know why I have iTunes installed anymore. It is practically worthless. I think I’ve tied my audiobooks to iTunes so that’s really the only reason.

    It’s about $80 a year, which beats the hell out of any other content distribution service I’ve heard of (plus free 2-day shipping on any purchases, etc).

    I know I sound like an Amazon advert rat, gushing over it, but Amazon is like the Steam of… stuff besides games… without the DRM. Please to check, especially if you buy a lot of stuff online.

    • Mike says:

      Prime is nice from a shipping standpoint, particularly if you’re a student (you can get the first 6 months free, and half-price membership for up to 4 years).

      As for their streaming service, however, its selection is paltry compared to Netflix/Hulu+ and its interface is terrible (particularly on my Roku box). I have not yet found anything on Amazon Instant Prime that I didn’t have already available through Netflix or Hulu. In particular, they seemed to have a lot of shows where only one season was available (and in a few cases that wasn’t even the first season).

      I’d love to see Amazon become competitive with Netflix & Hulu, as a reasonable amount of competition can only be good for the consumer. Amazon is both big enough to have clout with the content providers and diverse enough as a company so that the content providers can’t completely shut them down if they get too uppity (unlike Netflix). I just don’t think they’re there yet.

  19. Groboclown says:

    I guess it’s just me, both in terms of my taste and missing the point of the post. I find that quite a few movies I want to watch are on NetFlix streaming – from the old MST3k episodes to Iron Monkey 2.

  20. Scourge says:

    I still recall the days where a legit DVD was far more hassle to watch than a less than legal one.

    Illegal DVD: Insert into the player -> Watch movie.

    Legal DVD: Insert into player -Advertisement -> Copyright Note -> Advertisement -> Note that Copying or distributing this DVD in public is illegal -> Advertisement -> Advertisement -> Advertisement -> Unskippable preview -> Menu of the movie -> Watch movie.

  21. GTB says:

    Steam ended game piracy for me. Open source applications (openoffice, blender, gimp) ended application piracy for me. Netflix or amazon could TOTALLY end tv and movie piracy for me, but i’ve watched everything I want to watch on both of their streaming sections at this point. I am completely out of content on both systems. I canceled netflix this month, there just wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen (that I wanted to see). It seems insane to me that I can’t pay 10 bucks a month or even a per-season-per-show fee like amazon does, except for new content. I don’t own a tv, I haven’t for years. I would LOVE a steam-like service that would stream me tv shows, preferably without commercials, the same week they air on tv. I would be willing to pay for it, please, sign me up! There are so many possibilities that are being ignored because the people who make the content are stuck in the old mindset. It annoys me.

    • swenson says:

      Very true. With Steam, I see no reason to pirate games. They’re so cheap and convenient, I just don’t have any excuse anymore–and I’m far too busy playing the games I’ve already gotten through Steam sales to even consider pirating other ones! If such a convenient service existed for movies and TV shows, you better believe I’d be on board. But I have weird tastes. Most services out there are either too expensive for me (I only watch movies rarely, for example, so paying a monthly fee is not worth it.) or don’t have what I want to watch.

  22. Mephane says:

    Shamus, you have no idea. Us Germans over the pond here, some of us are totally envious of you even having something like working movie streaming. The bit we have is crap both in the streaming tech as well as the collection of content available. And then I hear or read Americans talk about how they did just watch that movie on Netflix or this episode of #favourite series# on Hulu. Region locking* is, in my opinion, far worse than a couple of seperate services refusing to work out a good business model together.

    *Also the infamous “this video is not available in your country” disclaimer on YouTube… *rage*

  23. Otters34 says:

    A big problem with Neflix is that they have to cast such a broad net. They can never be sure they can satisfy a sufficiently large audience(which is to say, ‘anybody who might want to watch a movie sometime in their life’) unless they have pretty much every kind of movie made. It’s the kind of thing that on the surface is a great idea(“We’ll be the one-stop movie service!”), but in practice is marred by what are supposed to be strengths. A damned shame.

    • Alan says:

      They pulled it off before with DVDs. Of course, they didn’t need the studios permission to do that. Similarly, iTunes (and to a lesser extent their competition) solved the problem of being able to get almost any song ever.

      While this is Netflix’s problem, they’re not really in good position to fix it. The core problem is the studios. The studios are afraid of any single site gaining too much power. They want to play sites against each other .They’re afraid of low (aka competitive) prices. They haven’t accepted that market fragmentation hurts them terribly. Someone wants to see A, B, C, an D. A is only available via Netflix, B via iTunes, C via Amazon Prime, and D isn’t available for any price. But… all of them are available from sites engaging in copyright infringement. Some potential customers will just shrug and go to the pirates because the service is better. Now instead of a low price, they get nothing.

      • Otters34 says:

        That doesn’t make any sense. Isn’t competition between firms what keeps prices ‘competitive’(that is, low) in the first place? Either they don’t understand economics, or what I learned about economics is wrong.

        • Both. The thing about copyright (and patents), though, is that it’s a form of government-mandated monopoly. “Competition” in the economic theory sense, doesn’t really apply to such situations.

          Worse still, mainstream economic theories regarding competition assume perfect free information and don’t function in cases where information is not free. Since in this case the product is information which cannot be free in order for there to be anything to compete over, these economic theories seem unlikely to apply. I mean, information issues are rather a bane to the popularized, policy-driving forms of economic theory anyway (e.g. theory suggests there should be no such thing as advertising), but with movies and such the very goods involved shouldn’t, according to theory, exist at all. Not as goods, anyway–people should just know them telepathically or something.

          There are variants and add-ons to mainstream economic theory that try to do the math with costed and/or uncertain information. It turns out competition doesn’t work nearly as well with that kind of math. Markets don’t clear, prices aren’t necessarily kept low–the real world starts creeping in. I’ll leave it to people’s cynicism to come up with ideas of why these sorts of variant have never become major forces in the discipline of economics. I have my own ideas, but expressing them would just start a flamewar.

  24. Scipio says:

    Some content producers don’t want their media being distributed by Netflix at all! Netflix can rent you DVD’s because the first sale doctrine allows them to control the physical DVD, much like a library can rent copies of its books. Streaming media is not covered under first sale doctrine because there is no physical object, which means the IP holder can completely control it. So they can’t stop Netflix from renting DVD’s unless they don’t sell any DVD’s.

    Given the massive difference between what’s available on DVD and what’s available streaming, it seems clear that IP holders generally want consumers to continue to buy individual DVD’s and season collections rather than allowing any sort of cloud based system, like Netflix. It’s much like how music studios fought tooth and nail to preserve CD sales as long as possible.

  25. Stacy says:

    I’m just happy for the simple pleasure of seeing a Shamus diagram once in a while! Squeee!

  26. Amarsir says:

    I wish I knew more about the media owner’s pricing data. I can’t believe they’re as bad at math as we assume. For example, what’s the value of putting a movie on TV and how is that affected by previous availability? How many people buy handfuls of cheapo DVDs from the supermarket racks? It can’t be high, but endangering old revenue streams also means they can’t just take any bid available.

    I also suspect that for a very large catalogue right now, the loss from locking up for a little while simply might not be as bad as what you miss by taking an inferior deal. An 8-year-old movie isn’t going to be much worse at 8.5 years, but if Amazon will pay 10% more than Netflix…

    • Alan says:

      The problem is The Pirate Bay. And the legion of copyright infringing streaming sites. And that guy you know who is happy to burn you a DVD of whatever you want. Every moment you delay, every moment you fragment the market, someone says “Fuck it” and goes for the free, infringing copy. And some of those people won’t bother coming back to the paid service when content they want is available. There is no time to engage in interbusiness brinkmanship because the competition already exists. Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it’s not competition. Any business that doesn’t recognise the black market as competition to be considered deserves their inevitable bankruptcy.

      • Amarsir says:

        That might already be written off. On the whole BitTorrent had first-mover advantage and gets greater bandwidth. And it has lower cost even using the economist definition where “penalties + awkwardness = cost”. Meanwhile, something like Transformers made $30m in DVD sales during it’s first month. Cannibalizing that to compete against “free” torrents might not be a winning battle. How many people pirated World of Goo despite cheap price, zero DRM, and easy availability?

        In fact, that’s probably the problem already. Netflix is the off-premium discount offering. The Marshalls of movies. The Dollar Tree of television. If you’re a premium shopper you can buy Cars 2 from iTunes for $15 or rent it for $4. What’s Disney’s rush to put it in an all-you-can-eat buffet?

        • Alan says:

          It’s about the future. Deciding to pass on streaming/downloadable video today is like deciding to pass on CDs and sticking with tape and vinyl 25 years ago. After all, these newfangled CDs last forever, but tape and vinyl need to be repurchased occasionally as they wear out. Sure, it may save you money in the short term but you’re mortgaging your future.

          Infringement rates are irrelevant to running a business. Those people aren’t your customers. An infringement rate of 80% doesn’t mean you’re doing better than if you had an infringement rate of 90%. The question is: are you selling enough copies to break even and hopefully make a profit?

          Is Netflix the budget line, the Wal-mart of video and thus bad for the industry as a whole? Mayhap. But I’m not seeing the industry offer me better options. When I want to buy a Cars 2 on DVD, I don’t research to figure out which company has the exclusive license to it, then drive out to that store to buy it. No, it’s widely available, and reasonably well stocked store selling DVDs will make it available. If I have a favorite store, maybe one I have a gift card for or that is within walking distance, I go there. But the streaming video market is fragmented badly. I’m stuck juggling multiple pieces of software, all of which suck on some level. Even then, there are large chunks of movies simply unavailable for streaming.

          Bankruptcy for the lot of them.

  27. Falling says:

    Here, here on getting rid of the region lock! It’s freaking stupid and Canadian netflix is even more limited then it’s US counterpart. I see no reason to get it at all.

  28. PhoenixUltima says:

    …Am I the only one who thinks that Venn diagram looks kind of like a butt?

  29. MG says:

    Lol that you put a watermark on that jpeg-artifacted arial-fonted valentines-color-schemed image.

    • Shamus says:

      I wouldn’t call that a “watermark”. It’s just a way of signing the thing I made. People swipe without attribution ALL THE TIME. And really, all I want is the link.

      I ALWAYS want to attribute to the original author when I find something cool, but it’s always been lost in the shuffle. I wish everyone signed their stuff like this.

    • Simon Buchan says:

      Your other criticisms are valid, but what’s wrong with Arial? I *love* Arial! I know GDs poo-poo Arial as a ripoff of Helvetica (which strictly is kinda true in that it was made to be metric-compatible), but I’ve never liked Helvetica: it’s flat-topped lower-t or curled tails in particular.

      • Sumanai says:

        Are the capital “I”s and lower case “l”s different from each other in Arial? Not that it would be the reason why graphical designers would avoid it since “the best standard typeface” has that problem as well. But it would be reason for me to avoid it.

        I think the reason it’s disliked is because it’s “boring”.

        • Shamus says:

          Oh man. This reminds me of the early days of Activeworlds. The default font had that problem, and so griefers would find some unsuspecting rube with a I or an l in their name, and create an account with a similar name, replacing I’s for l’s and vice-versa.

          Then they would sign in and spew a bunch of boilerplate racist hate. They would destroy the conversation and send everyone into confusion. If there was a moderator around who wasn’t paying attention, then he might kick the wrong person.

          When people caught onto this, they knew that part of making an account was also creating an account for all of the I/l variant combinations: Wally, WaIly, WalIy, and WaIIy. (And if you wanted to be thorough, you might also go after the | character. )

          Mods had to cut & paste test into a text file to see who said what. It was terrible. Eventually features were added to make this a less viable trick, but for several months reputations and conversations were destroyed by poor font choices.

  30. Budke says:

    In a way, this may not be bad. I think we’re moving toward an a la carte model. If you could buy HBO as a streaming service independent of cable, would you? How about the Disney Channel or ESPN? One of the problems with cable (and satellite) is that you pay for a lot of content you probably don’t care about. Most consumers have a handful of channels they care about, but they support over 100.

    The trick is to develop a universal/open system so people can intuitively access (and pay) for the information they want. ROKU is a step in the right direction and XBOX has similar functionality. You subscribe to content and it is available as a channel without the clutter of seeing things you don’t subscribe to.

    And, as I’m already rambling, Miramax (and Disney) have the right idea: work with everyone. Put your content everywhere and on every service. They don’t want to see another iTunes music store created where an outside company controls the access (and pricing) to their content.

  31. Also: All of these companies need to get their collective act together when it comes to Canada. This region-locking and licensing nonsense is more obsolete than dinosaurs.

    Hear hear! I find it really annoying when I read an article on a site telling me about some really awesome movies ( like this io9 article on 13 killer films that take place in one room ) only to find out only one or two are available to watch in Canada through Netflix. I haven’t tried other streaming services, such as Amazon Instant, or the rentals available through PSN or XBox Live ( mostly because money is tight right now ), but I’d be surprised to find out that they had much more available.

    I know that the problem is the weird intersection of Canadian law, the CRTC, licensing, and the broadcasters, but seriously: come on! When I search for just about anything on Netflix, most of the films that show up are not available to watch in Canada.

    I don’t know what’s worse: being so limited in what I am able to watch, or knowing that there is so much available to watch that I don’t have access to.

  32. Thomas says:

    Wow I just came back to here from an entirely different blog. This is fame

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