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Netflix in web video move

You come home, you sit down with something to eat and you either watch or listen to something. Your computer is usually for work stuff, or things like email, web, chatting with friends & family, or playing the odd video game. And never the twain shall meet.

So why is it that the idea of digital media convergence revolves around the computer, when that’s just not what people want?

“Online movie rental service Netflix introduced a new feature … to allow customers to watch movies and television series on their personal computers.”

Sounds good, but that’s not convergence, that’s going for the lowest common denominator. Big difference.

There’s no doubt that the computer is pivotal to making home entertainment and digital media work, but that’s as a delivery mechanism and not as a preferred viewing device.

People still like their living rooms, people still like their TV and people still keep their computers in some other room.

“[In] a statement from CEO Reed Hastings. ‘Over the coming years we’ll expand our selection of films, and we’ll work to get to every Internet-connected screen, from cell phones to PCs to plasma screens. The PC screen is the best Internet-connected screen today, so we are starting there.’”

Best to keep your options open, but that last part might just come back to haunt him. Yes, the computer is ‘the best Internet-connected screen today’, but that’s today, and it’s always best to plan ahead when you’re trying to preempt tomorrows audience viewing habits.

And that’s not what Netflix are doing. They’re targeting todays audience with yesterdays content over tomorrows technology. Something has to give.

The more I read about the Netflix deal, the more I wince and flinch at the way in which they put up barriers and miss opportunities, for example:

“Customers using the service will have to perform a one-time installation of a browser applet that will take less than a minute.”

Eh? Obvious question, I know, but why? I can only assume that this software doodad contains some DRM stuff to cripple the media, much like the media files you get from Apple through the iTunes Store.

“’The new service only works on Microsoft Windows browser right now,’ Hastings said, speaking at the National Retail Federation conference in New York…”

OK, I take that back; they’re not keeping their options open. They’re closing them down left, right & centre.

But .. wait a minute! They’re using a ‘Microsoft Windows browser’, which I presume by that they mean Internet Explorer, which would suggest that Netflix are using Windows Media.

So what’s the point of the applet? And isn’t this just one more step that adds yet another layer of stuff that can and will go wrong?

Matters are then made worse when Netflix choose old-school monthly payment plans, flying in the face of much more convenient pay-as-you-go offerings from the likes of the iTunes Store, for example:

“The service will base the number of online viewing hours on a customer’s plan. A client with the entry-level $5.99 a month plan will be able to watch movies online for six hours a month, while those with the full $17.99 a month plan that allows them to rent three DVDs at a time will be able to watch 18 hours a month online.”

This is truly awful and smacks of Netflix putting the interests of the content producers and themselves before their customers, which is lamentable:

“The company said most of the major and many independent studios are supporting the introduction of the new feature,…”

Of course they are, these guys love extortionately high monthly payment plans.

My friend Chris sent me this story because he thought this announcement was big news. I’m so utterly underwhelmed by the complete lack vision, strategic prosaicness and the dearth of technical substance that I was in two minds about writing any of this up.

It’s worth reading the MacNewsWorld article discussing the shambles that is TV and media in America right now, so here’s an excerpt:

“The general technical confusion, retail indifference and carrier dirty tricks, in turn, demoralizes customers about the prospects for a happy experience in the management of their video library and viewing experience.

The HD DVD, Blu-ray war has customers thinking about … neither. Combo players are maybe a year away and will be grotesquely expensive. Hard disks are cheap and can be backed up. So far, the quality of the HD players and media have been generally unspectacular. HD discs are priced unrealistically. Lots of vendors would have you pay for and watch TV and movies on your computer, but most customers want to watch them in the living room.

Selecting an HDTV is hard, but the prospect of selecting a carrier and being subjected to their peculiar rules and constraints fills the bucket of frustration. Content providers abuse their customers with excessive DRM, and the carriers mass produce the cheapest set-top DVRs for mass consumption possible. Exclusive industry agreements make getting all the things you want impossible. You can’t get the content you want on the display device you want, when you want it. Does that sound like a broken system? It does to me.”

Aye! That sounds like a broken system to me, too. And to think, all you want to do is watch TV…

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “Netflix in web video move”

Funny – I have NetFlix and I didn’t even know this. There’s no ads about that that come with the DVD’s, nor was I emailed, nor did I nor my wife notice any obvious annoucement on the website.

If people who ALREADY pay a monthly fee – such as myself – now get my 3 DVD’s plus 18 hours of online viewing time…than I gotta say that’s pretty sweet.

If I have to pay more than what I do now though … HA! Not likely.

Hi Ben! Nice to hear from you again.

I really don’t like flat monthly fees for this kind of thing. Principally because it’s never a fair deal for us consumers.

It’s an imbalance that need not exist in this day & age, especially when systems are sophisticated enough to measure what we consume and charge accordingly…

From what I understood, you could burn these movies onto DVD and watch them on TV. Maybe I was wrong. Well, it’s all about the bottom line. The greedier they get the worse it gets for the consumer. To tell you the truth, I will stick to free movie downloads and burn them to DVD, at least until they really crack down on that.

Hi Rick and thanks for the comment! Always appreciated.

I think the movie studios will have been watching the music labels with keen interest, recently.

What we’ve seen of the movie studios previously is a more cautious approach to things, while the music labels have been more cavalier and reckless.

And the movie rental prices that Apple are talking about for their new service do seem reasonable…

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