18
May

Cannes’t get with the program

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Cannes plans to shut Netflix films out of next year’s competition to, I guess, reenact, in a transatlantic version, the trail of tears that is the doomed U.S. “window” system of releasing content. This is the distribution arrangement that delayed studio-funded movies from appearing on TV, video on demand and streaming services until after their movie theater and DVD runs. I’m all in favor of theatrical runs because there’s nothing more thrilling than emerging from a movie theater with popcorn stuck to your clothes and that secret conviction that you and Superman vanquished the Kryptonite monster together. I’m all for it, unless it means that viewers have to wait forever to see the dang film on Netflix or Amazon or whatever.

Yes, the French film industry benefits from theatrical revenues, but restricting films to certain platforms during special “windows” doesn’t suit consumers and is bad for the kind of international and independent films that Cannes celebrates. If you hold a film ransom in a theater, we are going to forget that we vowed to see it when the YouTube trailer popped up three years ago.

U.S. movie ticket sales have declined every year since 2013, when streaming services got serious about making content yet Americans watch a lot more content at home, and that trend won’t reverse itself unless we break the Internet. Better to have a movie theater run and allow simultaneous streaming at a premium that will benefit French filmmakers. Otherwise, your théâtres will look like that picture right there.

 
08
May

Where it all started – not ‘House of Cards’

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The media paid a lot of attention to the 2013 roll out of Netflix’s House of Cards – but the show did not mark the first time Netflix tried content creation. In fact, the company’s first foray into Hollywood as Red Envelope Entertainment was more important than its gambles on Lilyhammer and House of Cards because it laid the foundation for the huge success of its second try. The series represented a new paradigm for the company and the entertainment industry – episodes were released all at once, to all Netflix subscribers, and the series itself was the product of Netflix’s prodigious database.

It seems like common sense now, but nobody knew whether that would work in 2013. Nor did Netflix really know how much value it would reap from its little production company, Red Envelope Entertainment, or from its decision to sponsor the Spirit Awards, which honor independent films, starting in the early 2000s.

I attended a couple of the Spirit Awards ceremonies, and it was easy to see as I watched huge stars like George Clooney mingle with up-and-coming directors, writers, and actors in a big white tent in Santa Monica, California that this was the future of American entertainment. Those young directors, writers and stars remembered Netflix’s early support, and when the company plunged into content creation, they were on board. Here’s an interview I did with NPR about this in 2013.

 

 
06
Jun

Netflix conquest of Europe produces gold for American TV

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Netflix hits Italy, Portugal and Spain in October. The coolest thing about Netflix going international is the relationships it is developing with filmmakers around the world. The ability to see the story of the Spanish Conquest from the eyes of Spaniards is going to be really really amazing. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/alfonso-arau-talks-netflix-spanish-779949

 
06
Jun

A Sweeping View of Streaming

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This is a fantastic look at how streaming touches everything about entertainment. Reading this, I flash back to January 2007, sitting in a conference room at Netflix HQ with Reed and watching him demo the streaming app. I was watching the defining moment of a revolution. Pretty cool.

Here’s Richard Von Busack’s excellent piece for MetroActive: http://www.metroactive.com/features/Streaming-Television-Film-Netflix-Hulu-Amazon-Prime.html

 
16
Apr

Poland?

Leave a Comment  /  Posted in Blog Post, Content Deals, International expansion, Reed Hastings, Ted Sarandos

There were some interesting tidbits in Netflix’s Q1 earnings call yesterday:

  • the idea that the $1 billion writedown Time Warner is expected to take on its broadcast rights to LA Dodgers games could chill Netflix (and other streaming services’) spending on content prices
  • that international piracy acts as a “governor” on Netflix subscription prices in international markets where piracy is rife
  • that Ted Sarandos unabashedly said Netflix will keep pushing movie studios to release films day-and-date with theatrical releases

… but by far my favorite thing that anybody said on the call was Reed Hastings repeatedly mentioning Poland when talking about Netflix’s determination to get global rights to all content.

He was probably referring teasingly to reports that the company was readying its infrastructure for a Poland launch but the mention of the country that saw the start of another push for world domination made me laugh.

The Netflix juggernaut will keep rolling across the landscape of Europe until it has encompassed all by the end of 2016 — but in this case the conquerer is welcomed and heralded, especially by all the disappointed VPN users the company shut down earlier this year.

I think I need to get out more.

 
09
Apr

I approve of the Netflix Seal of Approval

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The concept of a Netflix Seal of Approval for televisions is cool for a couple of reasons:

a) There was a time when almost every major electronics maker turned down Netflix’s request to put coupons for free rentals in DVD and TV boxes (See how the worm turns!), and ;

b) The idea of an “Instant On” button, as described in this TechHive post lets us ponder what home entertainment is going to be like when nobody is watching broadcast or cable television any longer. Sort of like a video library where one calmly selects and enjoys content, free of all commercial distractions and time constraints.

Man, if I had known in the 70s and 80s that someday I’d be able to pick up “Lost In Space” or “Gilligan’s Island” at the very point I’d had to turn off the TV to do my homework or eat supper, life would have been a lot more serene for my parents.

I could try to romanticize my childhood “hardship” but, really, I can’t think of anything negative about the internet television viewing. I actually think I spend less time watching TV and get more of the content I want than back in the days when I suffered through the end of “I Love Lucy” and zillions of commercials to see the show I wanted. That’s progress.

 
11
Mar

¡Que guay! ¡Netflix Viaja a España!

Leave a Comment  /  Posted in Blog Post, Content Deals, International expansion, Spain

spain-vpnSo, Netflix will launch en Espana en Octubre, according to entertainment and hardware industry sources polled by the Expansión newspaper. The company apparently has been securing rights to content for Spain and getting its streaming software pre-installed in smart TVs for the Spanish market — all completely normal protocol for an international launch — someday. This Variety article explains that Netflix allegedly decided to push into Spain just a few months after bypassing it in its European launch last year because the country’s improved economic prospects means that the other subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) competitors — Movistar, Canal Plus’ Yomvi, Vodafone-ONO — could become uncatchable. Seems reasonable.

 
09
Mar

High noon approaches at the O-Z Corral

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It seems a bit late to try to catch Netflix in Australia/New Zealand — considering the U.S. streaming service has yet to launch and already has more subscribers than the three local services but — well, Blockbuster did the same thing and actually almost caught Netflix in 2007, so you never know. This article from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper shows the lay of the competitive landscape Down Under, as Netflix prepares to launch its streaming-only service on March 24.

Stan and Presto, both joint ventures of Australian media companies, debuted streaming movie-TV show offerings last month (Presto previously had separate services for TV show and movies) and are still working out the kinks with technology, platform availability and content mixes.

Quickflix, the legacy streaming/DVD-by-mail service, reached 136,000 subscribers at the end of last year — well under the estimated 200,000 Australians who have illegally subscribed to Netflix using VPNs to circumvent geo-blocking.

Still, it should be an interesting contest on the content side: Stan managed to get exclusive rights to Breaking Bad and its highly anticipated spin-off, Better Call Saul, and Presto has a deal with HBO to streamcast some of the U.S. premium cable company’s best stuff, including Entourage, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire but not Game of Thrones.