It’s “Moon” with more explosions. Good action movie, flawed ending. Wow, Tom Cruise is over 50 and looks better than I ever will.
Found an article that discusses a concept I tried to get at in a previous post here: “Broad and Shallow to Deep and Narrow“.
The idea is that with better communication tools (that are more and more participatory instead of passive) – we tend to focus on things we personally like instead of taking part in larger, broader cultural activities. So, we seek out websites catering to the type of music we like instead of everyone watching MTV’s popular video countdown shows.
The article can be found here: In A Fragmented Cultureverse, Can Pop References Still Pop?
Are you finding it harder to communicated about large events? This is why I think advertisers focus on things like the Super Bowl so much. It is one of the few events we “all” still tune into. Otherwise, you are getting smaller and smaller segments. The upside of these small demos is that you get really focused groups. If I want to focus on teens, I target MTV on weeknights. High income college grads? Probably HBO or AMC dramas.
But what we will all look back on fondly when we are 50? I bet we won’t be smiling warming as we all hum along to “Friday” by Rebecca Black. Are we losing shared culture? Does that affect our community and connection to each other?
Netflix has been making great strides setting itself up as a content distributor. The famous quote is that it wants to “be HBO before HBO becomes Netflix”. They seem to be following this model pretty well, offering movies and tv shows to their subscribers online.
However, while they are making some original content (see: House of Cards), most of their TV content is acquired from other sources. The potential problem that stems from this is what happens if the content providers get jealous of how much you are profiting off their works?
In an ideal situation, Netflix is paying enough for the content that the content owner (let’s say AMC) is happy to let Netflix deal with the bandwidth, customer service, etc. But, what happens if so many customers start cutting cable that they stop paying for AMC because they know they can just watch the episodes of “The Walking Dead” later on AMC?
This might be creeping up on Nickelodeon. There are reports that more people are watching Nickelodeon’s kid-centric shows on Netflix – where you can stream them without commercials and back-to-back-to-back – than on the cable channel.
Nickelodeon might get worried that it will become simply a producer/studio instead of a network. And that brings big changes to their business strategy.
I am going to predict that eventually Nick gets weary of Netflix’s power here. I’d bet to compliment (and potentially replace in the future) their cable channel, Nickelodeon launches their own web service/application that streams their content to consumers for a fee or with ad support.
Once in a while someone comes along and makes a passionate argument justifying that they have to illegally download content because it is the only way they can get it. Except that very often, it isn’t. They provide a false argument where they don’t want to pay for the way they could get it, because it is slightly more expensive than they want it. Or, it comes to them in a method that is not the medium they would prefer it be delivered to them.
So, they push the “bad behavior” off of themselves and on to the very entity that is providing the content that they claim to love and desire so desperately they have to steal to obtain it. This is bullshit, plain and simple.
Giving the consumer what they want is great, and obviously the key to any great business. But it only works for rational demands.
After that point a company simply can’t grant everyone’s greatest wishes. Its a business, it costs money. Shows cost money to make, and they have to make money back. Many businesses have determined that certain methods of delivery, like over cable distribution systems where the overhead, distribution, and customer service is handled instead of an expense.
There are lots of things I want that I can’t have because I lack the resources like a Viking range, a BMW X5 and washboard abs. Doesn’t mean I’m allowed to go out and steal them. Same goes for music, movies and video games. Just because I want the content and it’s convenient to steal doesn’t mean I should.
There’s right, and there’s wrong. Stealing stuff is just plain wrong. We learn this as children, yet somehow we make elaborate excuses for it as we get older, like “Well, I’m just copying bits. I’m not really stealing.” Or “If it weren’t so hard for me to get legitimately, I wouldn’t have to steal it instead.”
When the studios make it hard for you to have content you want, you should just live without it, or reward other content providers who make it easier for you to do business with them.
Consumers have to stop expecting to have everyone kiss their ass just because they want something. This is the warped, misguided reason why “Six Strikes” policies are created to begin with.
Certainly, there can be arguments for better methods. At some point if someone provides a product closer to what customers want, then they deserve to win, but I would argue that if no one is coming in to serve the demand, it is not sustainable. If it is sustainable, someone will come along and take away their customers. That is how the free market works. Players adapt or die.
But the sense of entitlement to product is just staggering. As Andy Ihnatko put it:
The world does not OWE you Season 1 of “Game Of Thrones” in the form you want it at the moment you want it at the price you want to pay for it. If it’s not available under 100% your terms, you have the free-and-clear option of not having it.
It has even gotten to the point where when a company does ship something that is available anywhere you want it, for the lowest possible cost, at any time, as much as you want – people still complain that there are credits. That’s right. God forbid we acknowledge the people took time to make the product you are marathon watching because its-just-that-good to devote 13 straight hours to over a weekend.
I love this argument – “Give us what we want, when we want it, how we want it, and for the price we’re willing to pay for it and we’ll happily hand over our money for it.”
This doesn’t sound ”comically selfish” – it is selfish. First, the problem was not being able to get the content we wanted when we wanted it. Then, came the laments about pricing. How dare seasons of television cost anything more than [INSERT ARBITRARY NUMBER I REMOVED FROM MY RECTUM]!
Now, people are getting their panties in a twist over having to sit through opening credits? Where does it end? At what point does this blatant selfishness turn into, “I hate this actor/these mushy love scenes/this director. If you remove all of that, I’ll be beating down your door to give you money, then complaining some more.”
I wrote a post recently about how Netflix is launching a couple of original new series, and while they are keeping the short serialized format of TV, they are going against the grain in that they are utilizing their medium to allow people to watch the entire seasons of their new shows immediately.
My point there was that Netflix is trying a different option, and I wonder what challenges that will bring compared to the old system. I wasn’t alone in my concerns.
GQ has an interview with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, where it is quite apparently where he hopes the company will go. He wants to be the new HBO. And that means in addition to movies, they want to produce quality original content that they have an exclusive on. In the article he discusses the move to immediately available content as giving the consumer what they want:
The strategy may gut some media conglomerates along the way and could prove too costly for even a cash-rich company like Netflix to sustain, but one thing is certain: It will make a lot of viewers—bingeing on brand-new shows made by the hottest writers, directors, and producers—deliriously happy. “This is the direction that storytelling is evolving, where you’re going to have the most interesting story lines, the most interesting characters,” says Spacey, who is also an executive producer of House of Cards. “What a company like Netflix is doing is the ultimate expression of individual control, proof of what people’s attention span really is.” The heady rhetoric, of course, masks a few nagging questions: Once waiting is history, will “quality” television still pack the same cultural punch? Would Tony Soprano be Tony Soprano if we had been able to gorge on his life in a single weekend? How important are episode recaps and live-tweeting and the shared experience of everyone watching together?
But the writer examines my same concerns-
Netflix hasn’t been able to add subscribers at the swift pace it promised shareholders lately, a trend that could make it much harder to establish the “virtuous cycle” it’s chasing—that is, subscription fees enabling Netflix to acquire content that in turn attracts new subscribers, which will pay for more content. Profit margins, which are nearly 50 percent on the declining DVD side of the business, are only about 17 percent on the streaming side of the ledger.
But Hastings continues to tow the line in an interview with tech site The Verge. I think his vision is that if enough people buy into the idea of premium quality content, they will pay. And that will make up for the costs of creating this content. This is very similar to the idea of paying for HBO back in the early days of cable.
“We believe that February 1st will be a defining moment in the development of Internet TV,” Hastings writes. Full stop. Paragraph break. In less than two weeks, Netflix will release every episode of its big-budget drama House of Cards simultaneously. No dragging of the calendar like HBO to make sure you’re rung up for at least four months of The Sopranos. Netflix is betting its future on this. Netflix is reluctant to definitively predict a subscriber boost for either House of Cards in the first quarter of 2013 or Arrested Development in the second. “Some of us are optimistic that it may be substantial, but we really don’t know,” said Hastings. But when he’s less guarded, Hastings seems to be predicting big things. “Is Arrested Development a content expense or a marketing expense?” he mused, explaining how Netflix doesn’t need to make a big traditional advertising buy. “The huge benefit is we don’t have to advertise ’8PM on a Thursday night, tune in’,” for a series unfixed from any date and time, Hastings said. “This lets us be much more efficient in our marketing.”
However, the difference (again) is that unlike HBO, there is no schedule. Everything is available at once. So, I could in theory sign up for a free 30 day trial, watch the entirety of House of Cards, and Arrested Development, and a couple movies, quit and never pay Netflix a dime.
And don’t make any mistake. This is a big gamble for Netflix. Deadline Hollywood reports that Netflix is taking out huge loans to pay for this original programming up front.
with Netflix‘s new original series, House Of Cards, making its debut on February 1, some investors wonder whether the company needs the remainder to help it handle its steep content payment commitments.
And Variety points out almost my exactly argument from the article I wrote that I mentioned at the top. If I can zip through content super quickly, what is compelling me to stick around? They also go on to point out a few other upcoming hurdles like data caps.
But let’s not forget that the whole point of Netflix embarking on an original programming strategy is to bring in new subs by offering a different value proposition. These are consumers who didn’t feel compelled to sign on to binge on library programming, but they’re interested in seeing a buzzed-about new show like “Cards,” and other originals still to come.
So when new subs polish off “Cards” in less time than the month they paid for, they’ll quickly have to confront the issue of whether they are getting their money’s worth. Netflix is betting to work its algorithmic magic on these subs by getting them hooked on other programs from its library. But that’s a risk because that’s not primarily why these customers signed onto Netflix.
I (along with most of Hollywood I’d imagine) will be watching what happens to Netflix over the next few months very very closely. In the best case scenario, Netflix produces a string of great hits that compel customers to stay signed on from one show to the next.
The contract terms they seem to be complaining about actually aren’t unusual in the creative and entertainment industries. Many times up-and-comers are asked to sign “work for hire” contracts where everything they make for the employer producer belongs to the hiring party. Arguably this lets the young talent gain experience and exposure while letting the content producer get cheap content.
The really interesting part I took from this is how much it mirrors big studio hollywood in earlier decades:
But a recent string of high-profile disputes is prompting comparisons between YouTube networks and the exploitative Hollywood studios of the 1930s and ’40s: Both convinced young and naive talent with little leverage to sign contracts that leave them at a disadvantage. For networks, that means contracts that bind creators to them indefinitely, demand rights to their content in perpetuity and take large ownership stakes in any resulting businesses.
The takeaway from this for me is that online new media is becoming a big part of the media world. They are dealing with the same power struggles and structures that traditional media is.
Netflix has been exciting TV fans recently by bringing back “Arrested Development” and the launch of a new series starring Kevin Spacey “House of Cards”. The interesting aspect of these launches to me is that Netflix has announced they will release all the episodes at one time. So, on the premiere date, you could watch any and all of the episodes immediately.
Traditionally, shows are serialized. This means they happen at the same time every week over a span of 13-26 weeks. This method got started by Networks and it made sense for TV. You couldn’t expect the average viewer to sit down and sit through hours of entertainment. However, with on demand internet streamed content, these restrictions don’t matter. If you want to sit through 8 hours of a show you can.
Here it why that might be a problem. The side benefit of those serialized patterns was that it helped a show build an audience. Each week gave time for people to talk to their friends about the show and convince them to tune in next week. The lifespan of a show was also much longer. That sitcom was talked about and sold ads for half a year.
With digital on demand streaming, the chatter about a show lasts much shorter. If I zip through the show in a month, that leaves 11 months of silence. Netflix’s shows don’t get talked about. They either have to produce more shows (which means more money) or shoot more episodes more often (more money, and probably weaker stories).
So, even though Netflix isn’t selling ads for monetization like the old networks, it still needs subscribers to convince to sign up. If I get through all your good content in a month, why should I keep subscribing? Or if Netflix has to spend a lot more to produce more content, what kind of price increase will consumers bear before they think its not worth it?
And that leaves out the second issue – viewer fatigue. It is honestly hard to sit through hours of a show. Especially if it isn’t compelling enough. The dirty little secret of TV shows (even great ones) is that there are big giant story arcs (handsome character lead slowly falls in love with beautiful actress) that take place over a season with a lot of meaningless fillers and side plots in the middle.
This was discussed just this week on KCRW’s martini shot. Viewers will often just choose to skip through the end of a season and either skip to the last episode or simply read synopsis online. We have too many other forms of entertainment to keep us occupied that we don’t want to waste days on the couch watching a show. Just tell us the ending already. Serialized bite sized episodes help with this. It is far easier to swallow 30 minutes a week than 16 hours in one. More likely, I will just fall off views, even if I was dedicated for the first 4 or so episodes. Alternatively, viewers might split attentions, playing on facebook while your show plays in the background. And this type of weak engagement doesn’t lead to the type of dedicated viewers who you hope tell their friends about the show and get them to watch (and thus pay for netflix) too.
A few announcements today in the world of streaming movie delivery. I think these developments are indicative of some trends we will see coming down the road in the new media space.
First, RedBox – that kiosk you see in your grocery store that lets you rent discs for $1 a day – recently announced a partnership with Verizon to offer a streaming video companion service. Its been quiet for a few months following that news. But recently, leaks have come about a beta test. The sources indicate an unlimited streaming option for $6 a month. If you want to add physical discs, for $8 per month you can get 4 Redbox movie rental credits. Compare this to Netflix which charges $8 for streaming and at least another $8 for unlimited discs.
The difference here is that with Netflix, you get “unlimited” discs, but you have to mail them back and wait for the new ones to arrive. With Redbox, you get only 4, but you can immediately go to a kiosk and get a disc. The other key difference (other than price) is that with Netflix you get a huge back catalog of old films you can choose from online to get sent to you. This catalog is much deeper than the streaming only catalog. With Redbox, you will only get new releases that are available at the kiosks for a few weeks following release.
I think the wise choice will be to look at your viewing habits – do you want to see new releases, or do you like exploring older films?
Second, Netflix has announced they have set up a partnership with Disney. This means a few things, first Disney is releasing a few older catalog titles for streaming on Netflix.
Also, Netflix has announced that they will be the exclusive TV distributor for Disney movies. Suddenly the news that Disney was shutting down its own streaming service makes more sense.
Movies have “windows” of releases. First in the theater, then on DVD, then on VOD, then on pay TV options like HBO, then eventually on regular cable and broadcast TV. This way studios recoup their money back. They get more from a movie ticket than a DVD purchase, and they get more when you buy a DVD than when you see it on HBO, etc. So, if you want to stream or watch Disney movies at home, you will only be able to do so over Netflix. This is a big win for the company, and establishes it as even more of a competitor to typical premium cable options like Showtime and HBO.
The trend I see coming from this is that movie rights are going to become more exclusive. You are going to see more stratification between what is available on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, Redbox etc. It is going to look more and more like HBO v Showtime v Encore, where you don’t get to subscribe to just one and get everything you want to watch.
This was not the case in the past, because these online distributors were buying catalog films – older titles with smaller demand – and so they paid less and got fewer exclusives. Now that people are looking for new releases on streaming options, they will be paying more, and expecting more exclusive rights. Don’t think Amazon isn’t lining up similar deals to try to get exclusive distribution for a studio.
But for the consumer, this means you can’t just get Netflix and be OK. You might have to subscribe to more than one service. Suddenly cable cutting doesn’t seem as much of a good deal.
Today I stopped by LACMA because I heard they were doing a screening of “The Clock”. The concept of this film art piece is pretty entertaining.
The Clock is a 24 hour film by Christian Marclay. It is made up of clips from other movies with clocks/watches/timepieces in them. And whatever time is on the screen it is in real life. So, the film runs in real time. The film starts at noon and runs through the next day at noon.
Part of the review from The New Yorker:
For those who haven’t managed to make it to “The Clock,” it’s back in New York City, through August 1st, as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, and it’s one of those things you have to see. There’s no story in “The Clock,” just a carefully assembled series of film clips featuring clocks and watches, synced to real time (12:12 in life is 12:12 in the film), for twenty-four hours—a cinematic timepiece. The installation seats a limited number of people, so you can expect lines, but waiting in line for a movie about time—a piece that has no beginning or end, only arbitrary points of entrance and exit—seems fitting. I was ready to be skeptical, having heard so much about the piece’s brilliance—might it not feel like a one-liner, in the end?—but the charms of “The Clock” are real. And there are many of them.
But for all the brilliant visual pleasures here, the most significant thing about “The Clock” is its sound editing. Marclay has made a movie that at once draws endless attention to its own artificiality and ruthlessly forces us to submit to it. Watch “The Clock” and you’ll be reminded that we’re crude creatures, craving suspense and narrative, however sophisticated we think we are. All Marclay has to do is rig the music from one clip this way or that, raise the volume, and our hearts leap, or fall, or contract in fear. A techno beat layered over Chaplin fussing with a clock’s hands gets our pulses racing, makes us wonder, what’s coming? What’s going to happen to the wife of the bank manager? Will she be shot, as the thieves have threatened? More than ever aware of artifice, we remain just as deeply (or perhaps more deeply than ever) under its power. It’s a delightful conundrum.
Ultimately, “The Clock” is a signature artwork of our archival age, a testament to the pleasures of mechanization (and now digitization). It’s an experience, I suspect, that would be nearly entirely illegible to an eighteenth-century time traveller who, curious what modern-day New Yorkers were all wound up about, wandered into line. “The Clock,” with its obsessive compiling, its miniature riffs, its capacious comic and dramatic turns, speaks to the completist lurking in all of present-day us. If montage is usually as cheaply sweet as Asti Spumante, “The Clock” is Champagne: it’s what the form was invented for, it turns out. Drink it in deeply, and the days just might go on forever.
None of what I saw in “The Clock” felt tragic, despite the work’s obsessive preoccupation with the materiality of time, and its endless ticking away toward an end. While death suffuses the piece, its primary effect is to make the viewer feel an ongoing nostalgia for the present. It’s a funny film: a collage that’s also a kind of Duchampian ready-made. It’s both its parts and the sum of it. Like a Swiss watch whose insides are exposed, it lets us stare, transfixed, at its moving parts, which can’t be stopped.
Unfortunately, the film is not available online, but to give you a concept of this here is a clip I found on YouTube:
I only stayed for around an hour. If it comes by your town make sure you check it out for a little while.