Articles tagged Movies

I’m not as happy as the people on the Netflix homepage.

“You Want to Watch a Movie?” Has Never Been So Complicated

Every day the world is full of terrible news. Nations on the edge of bankruptcy. Wars that seem like they’re never going to end. Domestic terrorism. Netflix continuing its depressing spiral.

I’ve been with Netflix for about a decade. It changed the way I watched movies. It changed the quantity of movies I watched. It even changed the type of movies I watched.

Or, to state it another way, Netflix delivered movies exactly how I’ve always wanted to watch them without ever really knowing that before.

Of course, over the past year so, they’ve made some crazy decisions. Trying to split up physical media and streaming. Raising prices in convoluted ways. Trying to shunt users into streaming-only when they have a terrible streaming catalog.

And, while you’ll find no shortage of commentary online about Netflix’s business model and the ever-changing world of movie streaming, there seems to me to be one important element missing from the discussion.

In my experience, one of the biggest strengths of Netflix has always been that I only had to go to Netflix for the lion’s share of my movie watching.

I mean, on-demand is fine. Has its place. Redbox is fine. Has its place. Theaters are, well, one of the worst places to watch a movie these days, unfortunately, but, still, they have their place. But when I wanted to watch a movie 9 times out of 10 it was Netflix.

Today, it’s not that simple. Now I have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Redbox, YouTube, and on-demand (and for those with cable, Apple TV, Google TV, Xbox, there’s even a range of on-demand).

That means, every time I sit down to watch a movie, whether I know what I want to watch or not, I have to do a lot of searching. If I know what I want to see, I have to find out if it’s available streaming anywhere, who has it the cheapest, and who delivers it with the highest quality. If I don’t know what I’m in the mood for, then it’s pretty much hopeless, and I’ll probably just end up watching TV.

I’m less of a Netflix fan than I used to be, but I’m really hoping they figure their business out. Actually, I just hope somebody figures it out. Movie watching is starting to become a chore and a bummer, and that’s not good for anybody in the industry.

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  • Drama Behind the Streams

    Right now the best drama on television isn’t happening on the screen. Nor even behind the scenes. More like behind the streams.

    If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that we’re a little obsessed with how content is being delivered into our homes. In this particular case, entertainment media. Today we have telecoms, cable companies, original content creators both small and large, channels, device makers, and over-the-top players all trying to serve you the movies and television shows you want in a way you/they want and in a way you’re willing to pay to maximize profits for shareholders.

    And lately, the drama’s getting real good.

    To recap the last few seasons, we now have access to pretty much any television show or movie ever made right in our home. Of course, all the content is scattered across a slew of players, each with different business models and levels of clout in the entertainment environment. Cable companies and large media conglomerates offer great, high-quality accessibility to content, but charge enormous amounts and bundle it all together with a lot of unwanted content. Internet players are changing the game, but have limited content or provide bad experiences accessing the content. And that doesn’t even count how you’re accessing that content, whether it’s through your video game system or a set-top box or your mobile device (that’s a whole different topic).

    The two new plot twists include Netflix, ever the innovator but always handicapped by bad relationships with the major content providers, and Redbox, a surprisingly relevant stalwart created by McDonalds and sold to Coinstar that relies on a much more older model of physical media combined with automated access and low prices.

    Netflix has begun launching a salvo directly at service providers by publically outing the best and worst providers for streaming their media catalog. You can see the comparisons here. Netflix, whose business model relies on a network distribution channel that it doesn’t own and whose owners don’t quite like how much unmonetized bandwidth is being eaten by this one service, is always the underdog in these fights. As a result, it’s a pretty awesome thing to see a company people generally like going up against companies that people generally dislike.

    Of course, with limited options on which Internet service providers customers can access in their homes, I’m not sure how effective this tactic will be in any practical sense.

    That is, unless Google, the highest rated and most geographically limited network provider on the planet according to that page, wants to expand its Fiber program on a large scale and take on the entrenched interests.

    Netflix has also begun releasing original programming this year in a bid to remedy its biggest flaw, that of its limited media pool. And it has apparently past the first test: Can it create programming on a quality level with Big Media. Apparently, if House of Cards is any indication, they can. Other series that are coming out include Hemlock Grove (an Eli Roth-created show about werewolves starring Famke Janssen) and then of course, the highly anticipated Arrested Development.

    More interesting than this, though, is the original way Netflix is releasing its new shows…the entire season all at once. Besides directly addressing the preferred way people consume entertainment these days, it’s also just a great strategy of stealing eyeballs from other entertainment outlets.

    I mean, if I’m binging on House of Cards, that’s 13 hours of not watching anybody else’s ads, er, programming. And 13 hours is a huge chunk of the average television watcher’s weekly allotment. The mathematics of that can be argued, of course, since 13 hours is tiny part of a year’s allotment, but if Netflix puts out enough shows, it can definitely revolutionize television watching just like it did with movie watching.

    Meanwhile, Redbox is getting into the same original content game, no doubt spurred both by the success of Netflix and the desire to not be constrained by other companies’s content. So how does a red refrigerator that dispenses physical discs compete in today’s digital, hyper-connected world?

    By teaming up with one of those hyperconnectors, of course. In this case, Verizon. They’re joining mismatched forces for new content as part of the Redbox Instant Service that the company plans on rolling out soon.

    Although, if you look at the last paragraph of the Redbox/Verizon article, the future might already be foretold. So far, in its three original shows, the per-episode cost of making the Netflix original programming was far more than it costs your average network. That can be streamlined with effort and experience, of course, but that is the big shadow behind it all. Can a company with a lower-priced product regularly get back its money on high-quality original content creation, or do you have to be a multi-media conglomerate to do that with success?

    One day they’re going to make a television show about all this. And I want to know who’ll be the one left standing to deliver it to us.

    Photo credit: Walt Jabsco, Flickr

    Maark at the Movies

    Posted by Jason Ocker

    Maark at the Movies

    Yesterday, we had a Maark outing. We rented out a local theater, ordered up some catering from Red Bones in Somerville, and then sat back for a double feature.

    It started with a presentation by our CEO on some of the exciting future developments for Maark, which we’ll be talking about here on the blog soon, and then we settled back for the second show, a new documentary called Side by Side.

    Directed by Christopher Kenneally, Side by Side investigates the current melee that is happening in the movie industry with the inevitable shift from the entrenched, century-old use of physical film and the changing-every-week invasion of digital technology.

    If you’re into movies, it’s a pretty awesome doc, since it involves Keanu Reeves using his star power and close industry relationships to secure candid interviews with an amazing array of directors—Scorsese, Cameron, Lucas, Nolan, the Wachowkis, Lynch, Soderbergh, Schumacher, Rodriguez, Fincher—in addition to interviews with people whose job titles you usually only see in the credits: cinematographers, editors, cameramen, color correctionists, and camera designers.

    And while it’s fascinating to watch knowledgeable insiders debate the merits and detriments of film and digital from both an artistic and business point of view, the documentary has much larger implications.

    What’s happening there with movies is a microcosm of the drastic change happening within every single industry on the planet, as every product, service, and endeavor becomes a software one and where digital innovations occur fast and furiously. That frontier is where Maark is gunslinging every day, and it’s an exciting, terrifying shift, one where the businesses that don’t find their places in this software-ruled world will eventually be relegated to irrelevancy.