Netflix Hoping “A Series of Unfortunate Events” Could Be a Fortunate Series

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After its success with adult-oriented shows such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black,” Netflix is stocking its library with some high-profile family-friendly franchise.  The popular streaming video service recently got the rights to serialize Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a delightfully dark young-adult series that has the potential to intrigue audiences both young and old, with which Netflix is hoping to capture the broad demographic that encompasses the “family” genre.  Netflix’s vice-president Cindy Holland told Deadline, “On the search for fantastic material that appeals to both parents and kids, the first stop for generations of readers is A Series Of Unfortunate Events. The world created by Lemony Snicket is unique, darkly funny and relatable. We can’t wait to bring it to life for Netflix members.”

Read more here.


Obama sides with Netflix on net neutrality

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Happy Monday to Netflix and other streaming channels, subscribers of said, and bloggers everywhere on what could be a big win in its ongoing war over net neutrality. President Obama here signals his disapproval of the FCC proposal to create fast and slow “lanes” for Internet traffic. Here’s the alert and link from the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1EuTgO2




Halloween on Netflix

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October is the perfect time for horror-movie binge watching, and Netflix provides some excellent options.  This Halloween, try streaming a few of these scary movies:

The Dark Humor
Odd Thomas
If you’re a horror-movie fanatic, you may enjoy your comedy with a side of creepy.  If you want to laugh as much as squirm, Odd Thomas won’t leave you disappointed.  The movie follows the escapades of the aptly named “Odd,” a short-order cook with the gift of seeing the supernatural.  Anton Yelchin manages to portray depth and tragedy right alongside humor and levity in this fantasy-horror movie.  Odd Thomas is funny, gruesome, and at times surprisingly heart-wrenching – definitely worth the watch.

The Teen Scream
The Craft
What slumber-party in the nineties was complete without the witchy-revenge of The Craft?  When the main character moves to a new town, she finds friends in three other outcasts rumored to be witches.  When the girls discover their power to get payback on kids at school, things get dark quickly, and the newcomer must find a way to escape the group with her life.  Get a bag of popcorn and a bottle of glitter nail polish and let the good times roll.

The Mind Trip
The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods is really a tribute to horror movie fans everywhere.  I love that even though the movie is filled with archetypes, stereotypes, and seemingly familiar horror-movie plots, even the most die-hard horror fan will find something new and surprising in this rollercoaster ride of a movie.  The movie starts out typically enough, with a group of college students heading for a weekend at a cabin in the woods.  But nothing is what it seems in this tale, and the college students soon discover a world where horror plays a distinct and crucial role.

The Haunted House (With a Twist)
Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin is all grown-up and seems to have a real knack for horror.  She stars in this story of a haunted house, or rather a haunted family, stuck in a time loop seemingly without end.  The only person who seems to notice this loop is the teenage daughter, so she takes it upon herself to try to free her family from eternal déjà vu.  Personally, I liked that the audience knows from the beginning that the family are haunting the house.  It puts more focus of a deeper plot that gives this haunting-horror movie a unique twist.

The Classic
Rosemary’s Baby
Ah, Roman Polanski’s classic.  A young couple move into a new apartment, and the wife thinks that life is going great – her actor husband has landed a dream role and they are expecting their first child.  But she slowly grows suspicious that their intrusive neighbors have a dangerous, slightly Satanic interest in her unborn child.  Even if you don’t normally watch horror movies, this mystery thriller should be the top of any to-watch list.


Netflix Takes on Europe

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Netflix recently launched in France, and Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland will soon follow suit.  The move has been expected for a while, and CEO Reed Hastings has named Spain, Korea, and Japan as possible future markets.

As the next phases of the expansion unfold, Netflix will be pressed to add significant content and make other investments before it starts to see a profit.  The large data center built by Netflix in Paris has enabled Netflix to get off to a fast start, unlike the company’s slower expansion in Latin America.

Netflix is already backing the making of an original French series, “Marseille,” a move toward content creation that took much longer in the U.S.

This expansion could also give Netflix a powerful new ally in the fight for net neutrality – the European Union, which is currently considering reforms that would solidify net neutrality in law.  “The advantage of net neutrality is that it allows new Internet services to grow without needing the permission of network operators,” said Hastings. “I think it needs to be inscribed in European law.”

Read more here: Netflix will focus on ramping up in Europe over next year


What’s New on Netflix

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We all watch Netflix’s “New Releases” category and hope for a new favorite or a wonderful blast from the past.  Throughout the month of October, Netflix will be adding new shows and movies.  Here are a few that we’re particularly excited about:

1. Gilmore Girls – Starting October 1, the complete series of Gilmore Girls will be available.  Social media has been buzzing with excitement over this funny and heart-felt show about a mother and daughter set in picturesque Connecticut town.  If you’ve never watched Gilmore Girls, don’t start until you have time to binge-watch.  Trust us, you’ll want to watch one episode right after the other, in true Netflix-fashion.

2. Tombstone – Everyone loves Tombstone.  It’s the quintessential “western for people who don’t like westerns.”  The movie is based around the true story of a gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  Kurt Russell stars in the movie as Wyatt Earp, but it’s Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Doc Holliday that really steals the show.  So even if you’ve never watched a western before in your life, pop a bowl of popcorn and give Tombstone a whirl.

3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – The world has Hunger Games fever, and Netflix will be adding to the flame by streaming Catching Fire on October 22.  The timing is perfect, since this gives fans time to enjoy the Catching Fire on Netflix before the theater release of the third movie installment of the franchise in November.  This dystopian story line is from Suzanne Collins’ highly successful book series for young adults, featuring Katniss Everdeen as she fights for her life and the lives of her loved ones in the strange and terrifying world of Panem.

4. Rain Man – The awards for this movie are staggering – it got the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.  On top of that, Dustin Hoffman was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal as Raymond Babbit.  The story follows Charlie Babbit, played by Tom Cruise, who only finds out about his autistic savant brother Raymond after the death of their father.  When Charlie’s father leaves all of his money in a trust fund for Raymond, Charlie takes him on a cross-country trip to his home in California in a desperate bid for his father’s millions.  On the way, brotherly bonding of an Oscar-worthy level occurs.

5. Galaxy Quest – If you want a good, goofy movie, you can’t get much better than Galaxy Quest.  The movie centers around the cast of a sci-fi television show that has long since stopped running.  But since the actors aren’t able to get any other acting jobs after their cult-hit, they rely on paid appearances at conventions and businesses.  Life is long and somewhat sad for most of the cast, but things change when an alien race comes to the cast for help.  After watching the show, which the Thermians believe is true, the come to the actors to help them defeat their enemy.

For  a complete list of the movies and shows being added during October, click here.


Netflix Ratings Mix with Rotten Tomatoes on A Better Queue

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Netflix’s complicated algorithm for ratings already does a pretty good job of matching users with movies and shows they would like, but Dave Jachimiak had an idea to make it easier for people to find exactly what they wanted.  Jachimiak designed a website that allows you to organize your Netflix options by year, genre, number of reviews, and the show’s Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating.

The website, A Better Queue, has been around for a while but has only recently gained popularity thanks to websites such as Reddit.  Users can cruise Netflix’s list, compare their choices with ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, and try to set up “a better queue.”

Read more here.


The Human Side of Netflix’s Matching Algorithm

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TV Remote ControlI have written a lot about Netflix’s matching algorithm, dubbed “Cinematch” by the founding team. I did not know the company still uses humans to tag and rate aspects of movies and TV shows. It’s kind of amazing that they have figured out how to make human-generated ratings consistent enough to incorporate into the movie matching system. The original algorithm groups viewers into “neighborhoods” to share movies among people of similar tastes. I would definitely love to have this job!



If Hastings is the Web’s Louis B Mayer, does that make Ted Sarandos its Cecil B DeMille?

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I get asked a lot lately whether I think Netflix is going to become a major player in creating original series – the underlying question, of course, is whether CEO Reed Hastings and content chief Ted Sarandos are gunning for the Hollywood studios’ breadbaskets – their production business.

Ted Sarandos' profile is rising, along with Netflix's, in Hollywood.

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos’ profile rises in Hollywood, as the company takes on a new role.

This speculation seems perfectly natural, especially after an impressive and historic showing at the Emmy Awards of Netflix’s new shows. Nearly every Netflix-made series — House of Cards, Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove – was nominated and the one that wasn’t recognized by the Emmys – Orange Is the New Black – is dominating both water cooler and industry talk and Netflix streams.

Sure, Netflix could give the studios a run for their money. Hastings and Sarandos are already doing that using the same approach that gave them unrivaled hegemony over online rental and streaming – using an enormous amount of predictive data gathered from closely studying consumers for 16 years and delivering what people actually watch – not what the studio system bell jar thinks Flyover Land consumers will like.

And yes, Netflix will continue to be very successful – but making content is not their core mission, or their core competency really. Attracting and retaining subscribers is. Right now, Netflix is using content creation as a strong magnet to achieve that core mission, but it is extremely risky.

So my thought is that if Hastings and Sarandos can hive off that risk on somebody else – like the people whose job it is (ahem, studios) – and get a good profit-sharing deal for providing data and distribution (as well as their famously hands-off, artist-centric attitude toward production) — everybody wins.