Entertainment / Technology / Teh Interwebz

Netflix and the Bear

The many ways to play streaming movies.

Look at all the devices on which you can play movies that you'd never want to watch!

A week ago, I downgraded my Netflix account, dumping the streaming side of the service. There simply isn’t anything on there I want to watch anymore. Or rather, what there is I’ve either seen, could easily watch elsewhere, or am only vaguely interested in watching. And by “vaguely interested” I mean if I had literally nothing else to do. I’ll continue to be a disc subscriber to get the movies I can’t get at a Redbox, but it is amazing how completely worthless the streaming service has become.

Especially considering that it is the future of movies.

It is, in fact, so futuristic that Netflix gambled not once but twice that it would carry their business, making moves that angered much of their customer base and – ironically enough – allow little old me (and probably a lot of others) to opt-out of their streaming service altogether. The idea of the service is really amazing, actually. Streaming any movie to practically any device for a flat monthly fee? I mean, damn. On paper, that idea is incredible.

Problem is, while the future of movies (and TV) at home may damn well be streaming, it certainly won’t be unlimited and it certainly won’t be for a reasonable flat monthly fee. No, the studios want as much blood from the turnip as they can get. So why would they license their content to a service that charges $20 a month for unlimited viewing…when they can license them to services that charge $2.99 a pop? They wouldn’t, and that’s why Netflix Streaming is a virtual wasteland.

Bear at a picnic table.

I can haz all ur money now?

So while Netflix has certainly made some dumb mistakes over the past year and they will be losing some of my business, I’m not blaming them. Hell, the way things are going, they may end up as another carcass alongside the road right there with Blockbuster. If the rumors are true, Sony’s new video game console will somehow prevent people from playing used games. I’m sure there’s some executive somewhere reading about that and thinking “What if we could do that with movies, too?” And from there it’s only a hop, skip, and jump to “Hey, how come we’ve been putting up with this rental nonsense all these years?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love digital content. It’s incredibly convenient, reduces clutter and waste, and opens doors to smaller creators who would never have the budget for a large-scale “hard-copy” release. But its slippery slope undeniably leads down into a whirling mass of razor blades. The worst-case scenario is that we’d live in a disc-free world only to find that while we buy all these movies and games (or for that matter, music and books), we don’t own them.

I hope that doesn’t happen, but I have the sinking feeling it already is…

3 thoughts on “Netflix and the Bear

  1. Yeah… the slippery slope is getting greased. …That doesn’t sound right, but I’m not changing it.

    I like the convenience of digital delivery in some respects, but not others. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, people like to own stuff. I like having physical DVDs of my movies and CDs of my music, even if I do use my computer for a lot of my entertainment. I don’t want to be in a situation where if someone’s server goes belly-up, I no longer have access to what I’ve paid for. Or, for that matter, to lose the option of using a movie as a source of entertainment if my internet connection isn’t behaving properly.

    Movie companies put up with — and actively supported — rental companies for so long because they made more money off of them than they did from individual video sales. It’s looking like that hasn’t been true for a while, though I’ll admit to not having checked the actual numbers. And that’s pretty sad, too, because sometimes I don’t want to own a movie. I just want to watch it once and be done with it. I might buy a movie I’ve never seen before if it’s only $5 and the cost of renting it is $4. But make that same movie $15, as so many DVDs are, and if I don’t have the option of renting it, I might just choose to never see it. Even $10 is pushing it (though not as much considering the price of a theatre ticket).

    And the threat to the used market is definitely significant… it’d have to be some kind of DRM, so people would throw a fit — especially over movies, since beyond a certain point there’s not much to be gained for the end user in a new format. And eliminating the used market would eliminate the rental market at the same time; after all, what’s a rental except a used copy that gets passed around multiple people? I can picture services that rent video games, such as Blockbuster, Gamefly, and so forth, looking at Sony and going, “What? You’re doing what? Uh, hey, can we have a word here?” It all smacks of wanting to go back to the very early days of the market, when the items cost a lot more money per item. But what they’re forgetting is that they didn’t have as many sales back then either.

    • The Sony move is baffling. I know game developers have been hacking away at this “used game problem” for a few years now. So I’m not surprised that the “let’s make new games cost less” option wasn’t considered, but I am pretty surprised that they are going for the full-on nuke to the secondary market.

      People simply don’t have the scratch for a $600 console, AND $60 games, AND $20-$30 movies. We rent and buy used to make the most of our investment, and we buy new because we like a franchise or want to treat ourselves. Shutting down the secondary market is pretty much telling the customer: “We only want you to play two or three games a year,” since that’s all we’d be able to afford.

      • I know. And the thing is… as much as they try to say that they don’t get a piece of the secondary market… they’re wrong. I know a lot of people for whom “I can sell this when I’m done with it” is a large part of their justification for being an early purchaser of something. If I can’t resell the $60 game I’m interested in buying, that makes me a lot less interested in buying it. Re-selling games and movies helps people defray the costs of buying them new… which means they can buy more. Sony and those like them are focusing too much on the “secondary” part and not enough on the “market” part. The secondary market is vital to their survival.

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