I found this article on Wired about Netflix, and their plans for global domination, which is stuff I always love reading about. There’s two things about the future of television and movies I would totally love to see: First, for cable to completely fall on its face, and everything to become on-demand. Second, for video rental stores to go out of business so that on-demand will be the most efficient way to get stuff. Fortunately, it seems that the markets are heading that way naturally.
However, while Netflix is certainly the best contender right now, I think it’s worth pointing out that the content is still in its infant stages. Netflix can stream some movies, sure, but it’s selection is not anything compared to say, iTunes, in regards to music availability. One thing Apple did quite well was it got *all* the major studios to sign on to sell their music. That means that you can expect to find everything mainstream right there without much difficulty. Compare that to Netflix, who has *zero* major studios signed on right now. Hopefully that will change, but everytime I see articles like the Wired one, that tout Netflix’s library, I feel the need to clarify to people so they don’t get suckered in.
For example, here’s a quote from the article, “And the devices won’t just be streaming remaindered basic-cable or art-house fare: Already, Netflix customers can call up just about any episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, The IT Crowd, or Lost whenever they like. They can watch recent releases like WALL-E and Pineapple Express. In other words, they can get unlimited access to the kinds of programming that previously required a cable subscription.” (emphasis mine).
Just reading that, it *sounds* like Netflix is a drop-in replacement for cable access, which is not the case at all. Rather than trying to read between the lines and saying something like, “Oh, they have everything between Wall-E and Pineapple Express”, it’s far more accurate to say “Oh, I can watch Wall-E *or* Pineapple Express.” The selection simply isn’t there.
A few weeks ago, I bought my brother a Roku Netflix Player for his birthday (I’m such a nice guy, I know). He has two small kids, and one of the main reasons I got it was because Netflix *does* serve up a lot of children’s programming — quite a lot, actually — and I figured he would find that useful. It’s all available on demand, simple bookmarking, easy pause and resume, easy interface, etc. I talked to him about a week later and one of the first things he mentioned about it was that there weren’t hardly any new movies on there.
Right now, their only real provider for new movies is Starz Play. If you have an account for Watch It Now, and want to find the new stuff, that’s really the only place to look. Plus, it’s really hard to find stuff as well. The website for browsing DVD releases on the Netflix site is amazing. It’s intuitive, it’s quick and easy to search and find stuff, it’s great at recommendations and it gives you lots of info in lots of ways. Now, compare that to the Watch It Now navigation menus which are *completely* different. My take on it is that there is so little content there, that they forcibly dumb down the interface to obfuscate the fact that there’s really nothing there. It’s just taking the small amount they have, and spreading it around really thin so it looks like it’s more than it is.
So, anyway, while I really hope that Netflix does the right thing, and business-wise, they are poised to take over the market — Hollywood is holding them back. I wouldn’t blame Netflix in the least. It’s impossible to download *all* the new releases from any service anyway (from what I’ve seen). For instance, X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out on DVD the other week, and I wanted to check it out. I didn’t really feel like going down to Blockbuster to get it, so I checked to see if any of my online pals were serving it up. The Playstation Store had it, but you had to buy the movie, in standard definition, for $14. No thanks. Amazon’s Video on Demand didn’t have it, and neither did Netflix. I realize that’s a small sample to choose from, but there’s really not many more services out there — I think iTunes sells / rents new movies now, but I don’t have a way to watch them on my TV anyway, so I didn’t bother checking.
Once Hollywood gets on board, then things will really take off. I read in the news how Blockbuster isn’t doing well, and they are the last legacy distribution market. I kind of can’t wait for them to stumble, because if they are gone, the studios will have no other medium to even sell / rent new movies through, except through newer, leaner retailers like RedBox, Netflix, and on demand services. The future can’t get here fast enough for me.