“Skip Intro” Means Netflix Is Getting Ahead Of Some YouTubers With Show Flow

Yesterday I hopped on the mic for a podcast about show flow, which described show flow and detailed some examples of YouTubers struggling with it.  It’s also the reason why show flow is now a category on this blog.  🙂

Today I encountered the CNN Money article about the new Skip Intro button that Netflix is rolling out for binge watchers.  If you’re playing catchup with a TV or Netflix series you can now skip the “what some would call redundant” show openers.  🙂

It’s fun being right.  🙂

Television is a natural go-to for inspiration on how to make YouTube uploads for many of us multimedia types who goof around with it, but today we find TV in a rather defensive position compared to the classic shows most of us might have grown up with.  Even around the beginning of the “Flash Video Revolution” when YouTube finally found a way to make hosting video online into something other than a site killer via bandwidth costs we found TV shows adapting to the changing demands for show flow in the time slots.

Oddly enough, though I’ve been exorcising childhood demons so to speak via making fun of soap operas through allegorical spoofs like World Of The Nerd Couple, it’s actually the daytime soaps with their decades-long runs that illustrate the progression in approaches to television to reflect show flow the most.  Take As The World Turns for example, one of the shows that my sitters when I was little always had on when I got home from school (the more common one being Guiding Light in the 3:00 PM timeslot).  Not a lot of opener changes, but enough over the show’s 50+ year run to showcase quite a bit of things that TV has seen happen over the years that have forced changes to production material.

The rise of Web 2.0 video in the 2000s was just another nail in classic TV’s coffin.  It’s important to remember when watching this or other classic TV shows that VCRs weren’t a thing until the 80s, so big long intros helped you not miss when your show was coming on if you had to run into the living room or something or your clock wasn’t set right or you were running late.  Once on-demand options started to appear though, the big long show intro started to become something that wasn’t really needed anymore, except if one was trying to be traditional and hold on to the way things used to be.

As The World Turns reacted to this the most.  Note the last entry in the final years before the show was cancelled.  Just *POOF* the spinning globe and the show starts, since the people following the daytime drama scene probably already knew who all the actors were.  The declining revenue from daytime drama probably contributed to this as well, but I can’t really explain such a radical drop in complexity in the show intro without at least thinking of YouTube.

Likewise with credits at the end of these shows.  Prior to HDTV if you wanted to roll credits they had to be big and take quite a bit of time, but when HD became a thing not only could the credits shrink but they could be off to the side and not even take up the whole screen anymore, as we see today.

Just for fun, here’s that YouTube channel’s Guiding Light opening compilation video.  More revisions to watch, but I couldn’t mention this stuff without showing this as well.  You see more details fleshed out as the changing TV landscape prompted revisions of the production material, including some times where they got too close to fashion and fads and the intro became dated rather quickly, like when the show went Disco.  😀

For today’s YouTubers, show flow matters more than ever before.  Classic TV’s style might be a good thing to have fun with every so often, but it should be a phase that comes and goes.  Much has changed since the 80s and 90s, and even the 2000s with the rise of mobile devices and people “watching TV” on smartphones as they walk around cities or wait for buses/trains/etc.  Not since the introduction of the VCR has this landscape been this radically altered.

New landscape or not – it’s still workable for content creators today.  🙂

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In Case You Missed It, Netflix DID Betray The Trust Of Net Neutrality Supporters

Recently Netflix drew the ire of the incumbent cable and broadband industry by admitting that the deteriorated service experienced by customers of certain ISPs actually came from their end, with the noble goal of helping folks not blow through data caps.  Like many supporters of Net Neutrality, I was taken aback by Netflix going to bat for consumers in the war against nickel-and-diming ISPs here in America, yet stomping on consumer choice via this little scheme of theirs.  I was thinking of ending my long-running Netflix subscription after several years, but for now I’ll check out Fuller House while mulling the possibility of dumping this service for good.

Despite The Consumerist running damage control on Netflix’s behalf, there is some betrayal that has taken place here with supporters of Net Neutrality.  Despite Netflix being an optional service versus a mandatory ISP, the whole point of Net Neutrality was that consumers should have their experiences online affected only by network conditions such as congestion, or issues that would have happened anyways.  Essentially despite many opponents of “net neutrality” supposedly supporting free markets, Net Neutrality essentially sets an electronics free market for web traffic as the standard for how things are run online.

Even if done for pro-consumer reasons, Netflix’s actions betray that very idea that we choose how we want to experience online content, with network limits caused by our activity being the only potential issue.  The entire Net Neutrality debate began because of the possibility of service providers screwing with our experiences behind our back, arbitrarily, and perhaps offering us the option of paying an “extra little fee” for them to start doing their job again.

The past 5 years, however, have shown that Netflix is not to be trusted.  The first and principal betrayal of consumer trust happened in 2011 when CEO Reed Hastings decided to split Netflix from being an all-in-one service into separate subscriptions for discs versus streaming.  Big surprise – the disc business has tanked since then and the streaming catalog has dwindled too.  Time and again you’ll feel like watching something on Netflix, go looking for it, and find out that you can subscribe to DVDs to actually see it, or pay a little more for Blu Ray.  Whether you think paying at least the equivalent of a World Of Warcraft subscription for a service that once was less than $10/month is worth it is up to you, but should be plainly obvious here that it probably isn’t, especially as their catalog continues to shrink.  😛

Netflix continues to not take hints from sites like YouTube, with even basic things like the ability to change quality while watching on the fly still not being part of the Netflix UI even though I called this out among other things back in 2012!!!  So they’re worried about bandwidth caps, yet you still have to back out of what you’re watching and go to your account settings pages just to change quality settings instead of just seeing what it looks like as you watch?!!

Netflix is a dog with fleas.  It was revolutionary at one point.  These days, however, Netflix is just waiting to essentially turn into an online equivalent of a TV channel with their recent hyper-obsession with original programming.  Despite their brand recognition, I see no future for the service as anything distinct from what it once sought to compete with.

This makes me wonder just when Google is going to get serious with YouTube Red.  Forget screwy ideas like scaring PewDiePie.  YouTube has the brand recognition, infrastructure, and most importantly – UI.  It could kill Netflix movie streaming if it offered a subscription option of its existing a la carte movie rentals option.  Seriously, what are they waiting for?  Amazon Prime is already making Netflix look a little dated these days.  Imagine YouTube having something resembling Netflix streaming for X dollars per month in lieu of the a la carte rentals they already have available on the site.

Netflix continues to exist on borrowed time.  I loathe but sadly look forward to the day when we’ll hear about a “Netflix channel” in a cable package, because I know it’s coming.  Let this current deterioration of service and emphasis on original content continue, and I’m sure within 5 years tops the “Netflix” of the 2020s will bear little if any resemblance to what we’ve known them for in this past decade.

Things I Absolutely Hate About Netflix

It seems like Netflix has dropped off the radar a bit since the uproar last year over them splitting their DVD service from their streaming service and the resulting price hikes that made them start to resemble the ever-price-hiking Pay TV industry that they were becoming a viable alternative to.  I was reminded of them though when I went to the Post Office and burst out laughing the minute I walked through the door because the “Local Mail” and “Out Of Town Mail” mail slots that had been labeled that way as far back as I can remember have recently been changed to “Out Of Town Mail” and “Netflix.”  😀  I hope I didn’t tick anyone off given the financial struggles the USPS is going through, but times change, and business models with it, and the USPS isn’t the only business out there that’s in a change or die situation.  😛

To an extent, though I wrote some fiery Facebook notes about the Netflix price hikes last year in the days before launching this blog, we can’t really blame Netflix for everything that happened last year.  Often these video entertainment companies are merely puppets on strings, and the ever-delusional Big Content industry is the puppetmaster holding the strings.  What happened with Netflix last Summer isn’t all that different from what happened with cable in my neck of the woods at the beginning of the year when the local cable company had to change things up a bit because of retransmission fee issues with studios and broadcast stations.  Netflix last year merely got its first taste of what the industry that preceded it has been dealing with all along.

That being said though, even if the price hikes last year hadn’t happened, there would still be some things about Netflix that would’ve ticked me off anyways and still do to this day:

No Quality Toggle Switch On The Video Player:  Seriously, has anyone at Netflix ever watched a video on YouTube?!  Ever?!!  Why do I have to stop what I’m watching and go to the account page to change my streaming quality?!  Unacceptable!!!  It’s nice that they give bandwidth estimates on that page so I can crunch the numbers and see that their lowest quality setting lets a cord cutter with AT&T DSL basically never have to worry about blowing the bandwidth cap for the month with Netflix videos, but even the latest update to the UI still doesn’t have a quality switch yet.  When will these people get with the times?  One should be able to start watching a video and if they’re not too thrilled about it but want to see the rest of the content they should be able to drop everything down to the minimum quality to conserve bandwidth to avoid a nasty phone call from their ISP or overage charges since some of the more annoying ISPs want to treat wireline broadband like cellular broadband.  >:-\

No Surround Sound:  This also goes for every Flash video site out there, but Netflix is allegedly all about movies movies movies.  It’s one thing if Joe YouTuber doesn’t record his video blogs in 7.1 surround, but for streaming movies….. this is sound we’re talking about here.  Would it REALLY balloon the filesizes too much if streaming movies were “in surround sound where available”?  I have heard about Netflix working on incorporating surround sound into some of its streaming titles over the past year or two but this shouldn’t even be a discussion – it should be standard.  If we even have to discuss multichannel sound on this hot new streaming business they want to replace their disc business with when multichannel sound has been on DVDs and Blu-Rays since Netflix launched, let them not wonder why the disc part of their business hasn’t died off as quickly as they thought it would.

Their Ever-So-Underwhelming Search Box:  I realize Amazon’s a competitor to Netflix these days, but can’t these folks play Monkey See Monkey Do with them in this one respect?  Why can’t I select when I search Netflix for my search results to be either discs, streaming, or all?  Take Jim Carrey’s movie The Cable Guy for instance.  If I search for “The Cable Guy” I get Larry The Cable Guy in the results, but not the Jim Carrey movie.  I know Netflix has it, but because I don’t have a disc subscription it never even pops up, not even as an advertisement to try to entice me to add disc service to my account!  Who thought that was a good idea?!  Here’s the stupid part.  I can Google Search “Cable Guy Netflix” and get an advertising page on the Netflix site geared towards non-subscribers telling me to subscribe to the disc service to see that movie “and many others” but I can’t search for it directly and get any message or advertising from Netflix trying to get me to upgrade my account.  Do these people even care anymore, or have they slipped into the “treat customers like cattle instead of human beings” nonsense some of the larger incumbents in the video entertainment industry often do?  😛

Redbox Exists:  There are few things in business that bring on the facepalmery for me more than businesses or even entire industries that exist solely because of the failures of some other business or industry.  Satellite TV is one classic example.  I honestly think Satellite TV providers wouldn’t even exist if cable providers hadn’t screwed up along the way, but that’s another discussion for another day.  Redbox, however, is the Satellite TV industry of Netflix.  Seriously, DVD rental kiosks.  Why didn’t Netflix ever try that even as a supplemental way of providing more convenience for their customers even during the heydays of the DVD service?  I would LOVE and maybe even be willing to pay for a disc subscription on top of my streaming subscription if Netflix did something like issue a credit-card type card which would let me pick up one disc at a time from a kiosk somewhere and then return it in a Netflix envelope or return it to the kiosk.  What’s one of the biggest annoyances with the Netflix disc service?  Waiting for the disc to come in the mail and waiting for it to be tagged as returned when you send it back.  Anything that could cut down on that annoyance would only make things better for Netflix.  Given that the disc business hasn’t died off as quickly as Netflix thought it would maybe some kiosk activity might have been a good idea somewhere along the line instead of letting new competitors like Redbox spring up.  Heck, even Blockbuster has been playing with kiosks a bit.  I’d still say it’ll be interesting if there ever is a service that combines Netflix with Redbox, or maybe a merger between the two might make things interesting, but they definitely missed a decent opportunity there.  😛

Self-Denial And Non-Aggression Pacts:  Netflix’s leadership again and again and again likes to deny what their service effectively is for people and claim that they’re not out to compete with Pay TV.  Hogwash.  What do they think has caused Netflix video to end up being 1/3 of Internet traffic during primetime?  The better pricing and convenience compared to traditional video entertainment services of course.  It’s nice just being able to click on something and *BAM!* there’s the movie instead of having to mess with programming a DVR then making sure the cord doesn’t get kicked out while it’s recording or something, and for less money per month to boot.  🙂  I’d even forgive a lack of content for that lower price and I’m sure many cash-strapped Americans in this crappy excuse for an economy would agree with me, but this playing nice with the industry that they’ve shaken up needs to stop.  The Verizon-Time Warner Cable Non-Aggression Pact was bad enough for an industry that already doesn’t have enough competition to begin with.  Netflix should get aggressive about what they do and present themselves as a change agent in an industry that should’ve pulled itself out of the 80s 20 years ago.  Markets create winners and losers, and if Netflix doesn’t want to be a winner here, why are they even still trying?

I’ve recently started reading The Business Model Innovation Factory: How To Stay Relevant When The World Is Changing by Saul Kaplan on my Kindle and although the book is very-heavy on the business-ese and corporatespeak, the underlying real world concept of business models being disrupted by the march of technology still very much applies in our day and age, and Netflix has been no stranger to this phenomenon.  Heck, Kaplan even uses the company as a verb when talking about businesses being “Netflixed.”  I’d still say at this point that Netflix’s future is uncertain despite their incredible first several years in business before the mess that happened last year, but despite what may happen, if Netflix ends up in the history books it’ll have no one to blame but itself.

More Links:

NFLX On Google Finance

https://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NASDAQ:NFLX

“Imagine There’s No TV? Seriously?”

Ever since writing the blog entry with the “John Lennon parody title” awhile back I’ve been thinking that maybe some folks might think I was going overboard with my idea of a content-on-demand-centered world where the current version of Pay TV has ceased to exist.  Some people may think that’s silly but then again technology we take for granted today may have sounded silly in the years before it came out.

Take cars for example.  Imagine what would happen if back in the 1800s you mentioned the idea of people being so dependent on moving machines (that you could drive anywhere you wanted to) that in some areas you couldn’t live without one.  The modern development of cars spans about 100 years though, so let’s try something that sprung up over a shorter time span, like cellphones.  Imagine what would happen if back in the 80s when cellphones were cinderblock-sized playtoys for rich people like Gordon Gekko in the Wall Street movie if you mentioned that there would come a day when cellphones would not only be ubiquitous such that poor people could afford them (speaking from experience because I’ve known of a few :-P), but phones would have touch screens and rival personal computers in their usefulness for computer-y stuff and accessing the Internet.  Back then you might have made someone’s big-haired head explode.  😛

Why then would it be so ridiculous today to imagine a world where channel-flipping and DVRs, etc. have been made obsolete by computerized TVs and on-demand technology?  Even something as basic as cable TV isn’t what it was 15 years ago.  I’ve been playing catch-up with how cable works these days at my new job and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how computerized cable TV is getting, with today’s set-tops and DVRs hooking up via coax cable and downloading data, updates etc., not to mention the whole digital cable thing to begin with where CPE talks with the headend machines and only channels actually being watched get sent through the cable in the first place.  🙂  The crossover between cable networks and computer networks that I’m used to is getting to be so much that today I actually got our headend contact mixed up with our networks contact at work.  Oops.  😛

One thing Craig Moffett mentioned in the recent Stop The Cap! article about Pay TV’s continued brick-kicking against online video streaming rings true though.  At the end of the day, cable companies are exactly what the name suggests – infrastructure companies.  😛  It’s all about wires more than anything else.  What goes through those wires doesn’t matter as much as people still wanting the wires to begin with.  That pretty much sums it up.  🙂

At some point I imagine broadband will become a national political issue, and I’m not just talking about the lip service some Democrats are paying it right now.  As it is right now with the whole municipal broadband situation broadband infrastructure is largely a local issue and in places like Tennessee there have been situations where infrastructure in one town pulls jobs from another.  Imagine what happens when this goes national and international.  Imagine if companies pull jobs out of less-wired states in favor of more-wired states.  That’ll get state governments involved, unless whoever’s in charge doesn’t care or is bought out by lobbyists, and finally when multinationals are moving jobs completely out of the country because the US falls far enough behind other parts of the world in the broadband race we’ll probably see some actual stuff going on in Washington about this when politicians’ and presidents’ re-election is jeopardized by this sort of stuff.

When that happens, hmmmm……  🙂  Maybe the FCC will actually get to bring down the hammer on some of the shenanigans that goes on today, above and beyond the sloppy “Net Neutrality rules” that got written up a few years back and “cable service” might mean broadband including TV over broadband instead of what we have today so whoever still wants to channel-flip can continue to do so.  Meanwhile on the consumer electronics front we already have “Smart TVs” and TVs becoming more and more computerized.  What’s to say someone might not hammer out an industry standard that makes all TVs double as pseudo-computers and allows for far more on-demand stuff than simply Netflix and/or cable provider Pay Per View.

Seriously, if the last 15 years of tech haven’t taught us anything else, they should teach us that keeping an open mind about the future isn’t just some nice thing one can do to be positive about things, it’s mandatory to not end up left in the dust.  🙂

“Imagine There’s No TV. It’s Easy If You Try…”

Stop The Cap! has been at it  again, covering the continuing developments in the war on broadband technology, sometimes in spite of big incumbent industries who want to pretend these changes aren’t actually taking place.  😛

http://stopthecap.com/2012/05/02/broadband-money-maker-insights-from-time-warner-cables-latest-financial-results/

http://stopthecap.com/2012/05/03/harming-the-core-business-the-precarious-future-of-video-streaming/

None of this seems to be anything us techies haven’t seen before.  Time Warner Cable’s quarterlies once again pointed to traditional video entertainment services bleeding subscribers while broadband continues to take center stage.  I heard Comcast was in the same boat, but despite everything that’s going on it’s still See No Technological Change Hear No Technological Change among the various analysts getting time on TV.  Amidst the big business ostrich-ing though I came across a rather radical idea from one of the comments not on one of these blog entries, but others on similar topics.

What if one day content providers decide to stop playing these negotiation games with Pay TV services and just bypass them completely?

The analysts saying the times aren’t changing can say whatever they want.  The fact remains, there’s still a market somewhere under all of this ridiculous bureaucracy and at the end of the day, customers need to still actually want to buy the services despite all these Wall Street types being utterly disdainful towards customers, not the first time I’ve seen anyone in these companies treating customers like cattle instead of human beings as if consumers will be herded all over the place no matter what the industry decides to do.

“Oh, the dropoff in video subscribers is slowing…”  Really?  When I hear statements like this all I can think of is a World War 2 movie that takes place after D-Day where Allied troops are liberating European towns from Nazi tyranny and as they walk into town propaganda loudspeakers are blaring that the Axis somehow is still winning the war.  😛  Okay, so the industry with an outdated business model is pulling every shenanigan in the book to stop the inevitable change in how people are entertained electronically but is only slowing down the inevitable.  How again is that good news?

Sure some content companies are realizing that they can make more money by zombifying traditional TV than embracing alternative services like Netflix, but how sustainable do they really think these “higher revenue levels” are going to be?  Eventually, enough of the legions of people out there who have less money than ever before will say enough’s enough, make the hard choice to find some way to live without traditional TV service, and at some point Pay TV providers and content companies will hit that wall where TV is no longer so far ahead of some of these other sources revenue-wise.  Then what?  Comcast and friends end up on Capitol Hill crying for subsidies because they’re “too big to fail”?

For us techies, we already know what we’re up against.  The content industry has bucked around and kicked against the bricks against technological advance after technological advance after technological advance, and every single time they’ve eventually gotten over it, stopped throwing their hissy fit, and tried to work with the new technology rather than opposing it.  The question now is, when will that happen here?

In the meantime, let’s grab some popcorn and see how desperate these analysts get in their efforts to paint a rosy picture of how the times really aren’t a-changin’ and how their Titanic really isn’t sinking.  Some of Stop The Cap!‘s embedded footage had some of that going on.  Netflix is a paywall?  HA!  Anything to be able to make a point I see.  😛  Not much of a paywall if I pay $8/month for Netflix instead of $80/month for souped up cable with tons of channels I barely watch before being able to watch something online.  😛

Blu-Ray Complementing DVD Instead Of Competing With It?

Since Blu-Ray Stats seems to be getting back into the swing of things both on their site and on Facebook I took a look at some of their articles, including one where one of the folks from the Blu-Ray Disc Association mentioned that Blu-Ray may end up complementing DVD rather than competing with and replacing it, and may not ever totally take over from DVD.

That’s quite believable despite some of the things I’ve heard from fans of the format.  DVD isn’t VHS all over again.  It’s a standardized mature disc technology that’s easily accessable and doesn’t have the same barriers-to-entry that its younger slicker cousin has.  I can find DVDs for dirt cheap (my least expensive DVD was Groundhog Day for $3 at a local discount store chain called Big Lots), they’ll play on smaller screens without the quality difference being as noticeable and without sucking as much power on portable devices, plus I already have a few Blu-Ray releases such as Spaceballs and 17 Again that include a DVD version of the movie with the Blu-Ray version, essentially ensuring that no matter what disc player someone has, something will play at least (unless the person has an HD-DVD player or something :-D).

This lines up quite well with other forms of home entertainment technology that have thrived despite not being the best quality.  MP3s for example became wildly popular despite not having the same quality as CDs.  Why?  Because they were easy to work with and convenient, plus not all listening conditions for music are optimal.  Instead of having to mess with a big CD changer one could have their entire digitized CD collection on a single MP3 player auto-sorting and shuffling between the various songs.  Some folks joke about nobody buying CDs anymore, but CDs are still very good for Fair Use digitizing for one’s various devices since the original CD gives you a free no-effort backup in case the unthinkable happens with the digitized files.  🙂

I can very easily imagine Blu-Ray complementing DVD and other lesser-quality formats where someone will see a movie on DVD or Netflix or something first on the cheap then want a copy for themselves at Blu-Ray’s quality.  I’ve actually already done that myself with one of the Blu-Rays I have.  There are also a few movies I already have on DVD that I’d like to find a Blu-Ray version for at some point too, so the idea could have some merit to it.  🙂

Links:

Blu Ray Stats – Blu-Ray Disc Association Offers Insights Into Blu-Ray Gains In 2011:  http://www.blu-raystats.com/NewsLog/2012/01/12/blu-ray-disc-association-offers-insights-into-blu-ray-gains-in-2011/