Is Netflix Trying to Commit Corporate Suicide or Just Bore Us to Death?

I used to love Netflix, back in the DVD era.  Eventually, I happily made the move to a streaming-only subscription.  I didn’t even care about the Qwikster thing.


But over time, my love began to fade a little every time I read the weekly new releases post at Hacking Netflix.

new releases

(see Hacking Netflix for a weekly listing of new Netflix content)

It has become a rarity for me to see something on the streaming new release list that I would watch if Netflix paid me, and almost nothing I would pay to watch. I find that I’ve already watched anything worth a hoot via iTunes and my AppleTV.  Yet another example of how Apple is beating everyone at everything.

Still, $7.99 a month is low enough to stay off of my cancellation list.  As long as Netflix doesn’t run off a gigantic cliff of stupidity.

The first time I read that Netflix wanted to become- wait for it- a cable TV station, I honestly thought it was a joke.  Someone writing a satirical headline in the name of outraged traffic.  I’m way too smart to fall for that old trick.

But, as it turns out, that is exactly what Netflix wants to do.

Really, Netflix?

If you’d  asked me three months ago how Netflix could ensure its demise, I would probably have said to partner up with some cable television outfit (who, ironically, used to be your arch enemy) and go from super-cool, useful service to yet another dying medium trying to eek out a few years of life while technology- and maybe even Apple– renders it completely obsolete.

Seriously, I understand that the empty bag holding, long-gone cat searching dinosaurs like the MPAA and the RIAA are thrashing around trying to harm the inevitable forces of their demise.  But why go from a threatened business plan to a dead one?

I’m not going to bail just yet, but it looks like Netflix may soon join Tivo in my shrine to wonderful things that were killed before their time.

Why Netflix Needs to Rethink Its Programming Controls

I was going to comment on this via Twitter, but I couldn’t make my point in 140 characters, without looking like an extremist.  And that, I am not.  At least not when it comes to content accessibility.

I’m generally on the side of those who argue that most content should be made available, and that filters should occur on the individual level.  If content is filtered on the front end (e.g.,  by the people who control access to content), the choice is taken away from the individual.  Philosophically, that bothers me.  Plus, I have a much broader view of what is interesting than a lot of my friends.  I’m a Simpsons and Southpark fan, whereas many of my fuddy-duddy friends turn their noses up at those shows.


But there are lines, and it looks like Netflix has stumbled over one.

Davis Freeberg reports that Netflix is streaming (e.g., allowing users to watch instantly) the Death Scenes movies.


I’ve never seen these movies, and I’m not going to get into any detail about them.  But I am aware of them and what they contain.  Davis describes them:

For those not familiar with the Death Scenes series, it’s a collection of extremely graphic video clips that show the murder and execution of countless individuals.

Look, I’m not sure why anyone would want to watch this stuff.  But that’s not my point.  I view this sort of like smoking and barking dogs.  I don’t care if it happens, as long as it doesn’t affect me.  My issue is that Netflix has these films online and immediately available for any of its users to watch.

Let’s talk about porn.  We all know its out there.  People feel all kinds of different ways about it.  But one thing almost everyone agrees on is that it should not be available to anyone, at any time, at the press of a Play button.  Imagine the outrage if Netflix suddenly added hundreds of adult films, with no restrictions.  Didn’t some network get in trouble because of Janet Jackson’s one second boob shot?  Something else I don’t really want to see.

There is a nuance here, that needs to be explored.  When I say that I’m on the side of those who argue that most content should be made available and that I think certain content should be harder to access, I am being consistent, and pragmatic.  You generally have to jump though some protective hoops to access the sort of content that is deemed inappropriate for certain viewers.  It doesn’t mean you can’t see it.  It simply means that others don’t have to inadvertently see it.  It’s a reasonable balance.

There is no reason to treat these Death Scenes films any differently.  Surely, Netflix knows that kids are among its most passionate users.  The Death Scenes movies are inaccurately described as documentaries, and the info pages make them seem like horror films.  I can easily see how someone could begin watching these films without knowing what they are getting into.  I’d love to know what the Netflix folks were thinking when they made these films so easily accessible.  I think I know what a lot of their customers are going to think.  They’re going to think about whether Netflix is appropriate for their kids.

Netflix does offer some parental controls.


But there are lots of problems with them.  One, the levels are not sufficient.  The Death Scenes movies are “Not Rated.”  I don’t know that any of the above levels would block them.  Maybe checking “R and below” would block them.  But what about acceptable movies and documentaries that are also not rated?  I don’t want to block a lot of acceptable stuff to avoid a little unacceptable stuff.  Plus, any filter you put in place applies to all viewers.  I’d be fine prohibiting some members of my household from watching R rated movies, but others would rightfully rebel.  I’m not going to change and then re-set filters every time someone wants to watch a movie.

Netflix needs to be more proactive in its programming choices, and more robust in its control options.

Is It Time to Dump Netflix?


I love me some Netflix.  Well, at least I used to.  But lately I’ve been thinking it might be time to cancel my subscription.  Here’s why.

First and foremost, there’s nothing I want to watch.  I have had the same three DVDs sitting on a shelf in my office for months: The Hangover (I think I’d like it, if I ever get around to watching it), Yellowstone: Battle for Life (I have no idea what I was thinking), and The Hills Run Red (I don’t even recognize that name, but I generally like B-movie horror films).  I’d either watch these or send them back for something better, if I could find something better.  And there lies the issue.

It has been literally months since I have seen anything on the Netflix new releases list that I really want to watch.

Here’s the list of new releases for this week.














For one, there’s the consumer-be-damned 28 day delay for new releases.  I’m not going to buy a DVD to watch it once, and I’m sure as hell not going to drive to a brick and mortar video store (do people even do that anymore?).  So all this does is irritate me, and hurt Netflix.  Because the result is that I spend a lot more time browsing iTunes looking for something I can watch, you know, immediately.

It’s crazy that what used to seem so fast (2-day shipping) now seems so incredibly slow.  Anything I’m really excited about gets watched via iTunes, before I would otherwise get it via Netflix.

At this point, only inertia and the low monthly cost is keeping me from abandoning ship.

Clearly, the future of movie rentals is online, via downloads and streaming.  Now that Blockbuster is giving Toni Braxton and Hollywood Video a run for their money in the bankruptcy filer department, maybe Netflix will hang on long enough to become the other primary source of online video (behind Apple, of course).  Progress is clearly being made, but there is much work to be done.

Netflix better hurry, because new release lists like this won’t keep me around for long.

2 Things I Gotta Know About Netflix


I’ve been using Netflix for about nine months. It’s cheaper that the pay-per-view I used to use on that TIVO-hating DirecTV, it has a much wider selection, and movies take an average of one day to get to and from my front door and the local Netflix distribution facility. I put two returns in the mail on Tuesday and I got two more yesterday. This is not an exception; it’s the rule.

So here are my questions:

1) If you watch movies, why in the world would you not be a Netflix customer? I really want to know. If you rent movies but don’t use Netflix please tell me why. Comments preferred so we can all talk about it.

2) How in the world can something this cool and inexpensive make enough money to last? You know that “this is too good to be true” feeling. Well I have it where Netflix is concerned. Someone give me hope that I am going to be able to use Netflix forever. Mr. Netflix, raise the monthly charge before you let yourself go out of business, ya hear.

Someone help me out here.

More Cat Stuffing

catoutofbagEvery time I turn around, somebody else is trying to stuff the cat back into the bag, make the world stop turning, hold back the tide, stop the evolution of media distribution. That sort of thing.

Now it’s the National Association of Theater Owners (a new kind of NATO), who show the movies made by the constituents of the other famous cat stuffer, the MPAA. This NATO is all a tither because Steven Soderbergh’s new movie, Bubble, is being released in the theaters, to cable and satellite and on DVD at the same time. The horror!

I suppose this NATO is compelled by its charter to join the fray since the MPAA, the RIAA and all sorts of other AA’s are engaged in a full fledged war against all sorts of enemies of their long-standing monopoly on how we receive our media.

Mark Cuban posts a great rebuttal to the gyrations of John Fithian, Commander in Chief of this NATO, who basically said western civilization would crumble if someone got to watch a new movie at home without paying $7.99 for popcorn and $5.99 for a coke.

Mark’s nail on the head comment was:

How sad is it when the President of the National Assoc of Theater Owners doesn’t think his members can create a better movie going experience than what we can see in our houses and apartments ?

That’s just it. When you control the distribution channels, you don’t have to worry about the experience. If you want to see a movie, you have to go to the theater. That’s why so many theaters, at least around my neck of the woods, have fallen into a mild state of disrepair. And of course it’s also the reason why popcorn is priced like caviar.

Mark also pointed out most pro sports games are on TV (live, not 6 months later); that even good cooks like to eat out; and that people still buy stuff from bricks and mortar stores. Great points all.

Mark sums up the difference in his approach and the one this NATO is trying so hard to hold onto:

It didn’t take me long to realize that the business of the Mavericks was not selling basketball, it was selling a fun night out and creating a favorable brand identification with our team and our players, with the hope that people would be excited to buy merchandise, products and services from us.

Mark then tells this NATO, in fine detail, exactly how to fix their problems before home theaters and Netflix put them out of business (basically by picking movies that appeal to your demographics and creating a better experience, but read his post because it is very well reasoned and enlightening).

Will this NATO do it? Not likely as long as they keep obsessing on the catless bag.

TIVO Deathwatch: No Netflix Deal

nailcoffinEngadget reports that Netflix has abandoned its efforts to reach a deal with TIVO to facilitate movie downloads.

The problem: the Hollywood cartel won’t grant the necessary licenses to allow movies to be distributed via download to a TIVO. As Engadget points out, everyone and their dog knew this would happen when the Netflix/Tivo deal was first discussed.

As I have said before, I have loved my TIVOs- even though my primary soon to be obsolete HD TIVO is sputtering to a premature and not uncommon death as we speak. TIVO’s efforts at grabbing for a rope while the waves crash around it was noble at first. Now it’s just sad.

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