New Deal Could Take Netflix to Infinity and Beyond

In their biggest exclusive content deal yet, Netflix has been handed the keys to the Magic Kingdom, as they signed an estimated $300 million deal with Disney that will give them access to the vaults of the famed production company.

The amount of content this gives the streaming powerhouse is nothing short of incredible. Not only will they be gaining access to the Disney classics collection (my inner child is freaking out), but they will also be securing new Disney releases during the same time that cable services get them (estimated to be about 6 to 9 months after theatrical releases), and starting in 2016 Netflix will become the exclusive provider of Disney films as they become available. Oh and, in case you were wondering, this means they gain the rights to the entire Disney family of films which includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Walt Disney (classics), and Disneynature.

My not so professional opinion? Yowza.

The timing couldn’t be better for the acquisition since Netflix has started to get behind their Just For Kids section in a big way, and the recent loss of Starz caused some to question if they could handle the impact of the missing content. Not that there was ever a bad time to acquire the films of one of the largest and most cherished production companies in the world mind you, and now the pressure is on the competition more than ever. While Amaon’s deal with Epix, and Hulu’s with Criterion have provided each some worthy bragging rights, they now may be forced to humbly admit that neither of them had the ability to pull off a deal of this magnitude, and they must now retreat to the drawing boards to formulate an effort that will match the even greater attention, and subscriptions, that Netflix will garner from the exclusive rights to one of the most widely regarded and beloved collection of movies available from a single source.

It’s a game changer with no hyperbole possible in describing its implications.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must patiently await the arrival of “Heavyweights” on Netflix Instant.

“Do It To It Lars!”

With New Search Parameters, Google May Actually be Taking Action to Cut Down on Pirated Material

What happened to you Google? You used to be cool.

As part of their collaboration with the film and music industry, Google is working on modifying its search engine parameters to filter out pirated material. Google’s current search method works off of hundreds of variables to determine which webpages are the most relevant to your search. The largest factor is possibly your page rank, which is determined, in part, by how many sites link from you.

A new variable will soon be added, however, that takes into account the number of valid copyright removal notices a site receives. Basically, the more that a site receives, the lower they fall on the overall search rankings. Since Google is processing more copyright claims than ever before, they feel that they are primed to recognize sites with pirated material, and divert searchers to legal sites like Hulu, and Spotify instead for their content needs.

So far the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Motion Picture Association of America are both highly supportive of this move as they feel it represents the largest step ever taken by Google to protect copyrights and combat piracy, and are happy to be getting support from one of the biggest companies in opposition against the recent Stop Online Piracy Act bill.

I’m not as convinced. This surely sounds like a proper move by Google, but really how much is it going to help? For one thing, can even Google process enough copyright claims in time to shut down that many websites from appearing in top hits, and even if they can couldn’t you just go to page 2, or *gasp* 3 on your search to find the site? Also, wouldn’t smaller sites with the same material just pop up instead in specific search results as the bigger ones go down, creating an endless loop of fresh pirated material? Speaking of search hits, will this still filter out specific searches? In the interest of not outing anyone, if I search say, Swashbuckler’s Cove for a torrent of “Game of Thrones,” wouldn’t Google still take me directly there regardless of the copyright claims?

What’s even better is that no mention of the Google owned YouTube is found in any of the statements on this matter. You know, one of the world’s most popular and prolific websites where just about any copyrighted material can be found free of charge (except for porn of course, in which case you need to go to PornTube, YouPorn, or PornPorn).

So wait a minute. Is it possible that Google just pulled a fast one on the continually technologically ignorant music and film industries by doing something to please them, while effectively doing nothing to aid them?

Pretty sneaky Google.

Paid TV execs really don’t get it

Satellites.I’ve been writing here a lot about the development of online TV services and my desire to be able to truly cut the cord and fully rely on the internet for my media consumption. I don’t currently have a cable subscription of any kind, which makes me really really happy, but my system isn’t perfect and could definitely stand to get a lot better.

The biggest thing standing in my way are the paid subscription services. They show up every few weeks to say stupid shit like this about Hulu and similar services: “If I can watch Glee tomorrow morning and I don’t have to pay a pay TV service –- I think that’s bad.” That’s Dish Network’s VP of Online Content Development and Strategy, Bruce Eisen. Sorry, Bruce, but you’re a moron. For starters, Fox – you know, the company that broadcasts Glee – allows me to do this. Why do they do this? Because customers want it. That’s what being in any sort of delivery service is all about – catering to your customers.

Somewhere along the road to present day, guys like Bruce Eisen forgot that their companies exist to deliver a product that customers want, not to dictate those wants by delivering a mediocre product at a ridiculous price. Not to limit consumer access to content but to provide it. Every time a cable or satellite exec says something like this, I can hear PR firms squealing in dismay. “Bruce! You just told the customers you don’t want them to have what they want! You want to bleed them dry before they can have it! These people aren’t stupid!”

And there’s the other problem. All these execs like to talk as though we don’t understand their business, like we can’t possibly understand the position Hulu has put them in. Sorry for asking you to think, Bruce. Sorry for asking you to adapt. Sorry for asking that American business men do what they were born to do. Make things. We’ve stopped making and become a country of consumers. Well I, for one, am done consuming and I’m ready to make.

Yeah, Bruce, that’s from 30 Rock. I loaded it up on Netflix just now, scrubbed forward to the part I wanted and transcribed it. Why can’t you make things like this:

And less like…wait…hold on a sec. Just have to fire up the old satellite and dig through the DV-ah, fuck it. Nevermind.

I hate platform wars

Hulu Plus on Roku.I hate them. Hate them hate them hate them. News broke this week that Hulu would be launching on Roku streaming devices, as well as TiVo premiere. It’s only Hulu Plus, for now, but the whole world is crying out against AppleTV as a result.

I think they’re right, too. AppleTV doesn’t have nearly enough options to merit spending money on. It’s a gamble right now, and unless you’re confident in your cracking skills and have a lot of your own video to stream, AppleTV just doesn’t make sense. EXCEPT…

That it’s the best looking software out there and the growth potential is huge. Unfortunately, Apple could pull together the support for launch, mostly because networks didn’t want to go down to $.99 rentals (but most networks show for free online – seriously, just give me free streaming already). Apple launched, thinking success would change some opinions, but with the market the way it is, there might not be massive support behind Apple, which means we get to watch the streaming marketplace splinter, just like Blu-ray/HD-DVD, and hope that whoever we picked wins out in the end. I realize this is kinda the point of capitalism, but I want to make my choice based on how good the product is, not who managed to buddy up with the owner of Hulu over the weekend.

Netflix sneaks past Hulu

Hulu vs Netflix.

Netflix and Hulu started dueling for streaming dominance some time ago, and for the most part Hulu has been winning that fight. It looks like Netflix may have taken a leg up, though, and I’m hoping it stays that way.

According to comScore, Netflix barely edged past Hulu in unique visitors this past month. I’ve really enjoyed Netflix streaming service, but the company needs to get up to current seasons if it wants to give Hulu a serious run for it. One of my favorite shows, Party Down (which none of you were watching, which is why it got the ax – shame on you), had current season streaming from Netflix and I watched it every week. It’s a fantastic alternative to a cable subscription, which tends to just fill my living room with a lot of noise.

Hulu’s trying to keep the top spot with Hulu+, granting access to full current seasons and some legacy episodes for a fee. The company’s ad structure could really hold it back, especially when competing with the Netflix platform.

Hulu Plus brings mediocre video to mobile devices

Jack and Liz looking fuzzy.The fabled Hulu Plus is real, it seems, delivering “HD” programming to your mobile devices and internet-connected TVs for just $10 a month. You’ll have access to full current seasons of shows like 30 Rock and Glee and a library of older episodes from shows like Arrested Development.

I say “HD” because you should take a look at that screenshot above. Yes, that’s a screenshot. Notice anything? That it looks like shit, perhaps? That’s a shot from my iPhone 4 on a Wi-Fi connection and it looks like total crap. Sorry, Hulu, but you’re going to have to do better. Even worse than the quality, you still have to watch ads despite your subscription fee. You guys do know how to make me feel like a dollar sign.

What I really want for streaming video is something more akin to the Netflix Watch Instantly system. It’s painless, easy, and for serial programming it’s better than anything (even NinjaVideo). I’ve been watching Party Down recently – updated weekly with the new episode – and I’ve fallen in love with the Netflix system. If anyone has the future of online video in hand, it’s these guys. It’s not as expensive as Hulu Plus and you get access to a library of movies as well.

If you want to see Hulu Plus for yourself, download the free app and check out some preview episodes or opt-in to the preview invite system over at Hulu.

Adobe brings Flash to the iPhone

Adobe Flash on the iPhone.Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Adobe’s found one. The iPhone was the only smartphone on the market that couldn’t comply with Adobe’s designs for Flash on every handset. Apple has refused to budge, insisting that blocking Flash increases security for the phone. There’s probably some truth to that, but it also isn’t out of the question to think Apple might have its own reasons.

Well Adobe got sick of waiting for Apple to cooperate, so it developed away around Apple’s blockade. For now the fix comes in the form of an additional export method for Flash programs. One option supports Flash, the other makes the program usable on the iPhone. This really opens some doors for Apple developers who might have otherwise shifted to other platforms for support.

To me this is just another great example of taking the control out of Apple’s hands. Sure, Adobe had to play by Steve Jobs’ rules, but it was still able to roll out a product that will have significant impact on the goods available in the App Store. Now what’s holding up that Hulu app?

Hulu Has More Viewers Than Time Warner Cable

Silicon Alley Insider Hulu vs. Time Warner chart.According to Silicon Alley Insider, Hulu has passed the nation’s second largest cable provider, Time Warner Cable, in monthly viewership. The comScore report for July puts Hulu at 38 million viewers, while Time Warner was estimated to be closer to 34 million.

As the SAI article points out, there’s not a whole lot to draw from this news. Cable is still drawing far greater revenues than Hulu, so it’s hard to say how the two will compare into the future. There’s also the matter of the content actually being watched. While it’s probably rare that someone would fire up the DVR just to watch a clip of the Colbert Report, those clips are probably a large part of the viewer count for Hulu. Then again, those Hulu viewers may end up logging more video time because accessing content is a little more active than flipping on the TV. In any case, the comparison isn’t quite one to one.

Hulu Gets Disney

Disney and Hulu: Together at last.All I can think is, what took so long? Of course, the deal has been in discussion for some time now, and I’m glad to see it came through. I’m not a huge TV watcher, but when I do, I like it to be streaming high-quality video. That’s the obvious benefit for both viewer and network in this deal. And if that iPhone app goes through, even better. For my severely Lost-addicted friends, this is huge news (maybe we can finally get a beer on Wednesdays?).

So why hasn’t CBS converted? A spokesperson recently gave us a lot of word vomit concerning CBS rights management and profitability in multi-platform blah blah blah blah. Seriously, get with it. Hulu is now the third-most-watched video site on the net, just behind Google (including YouTube) and Myspace. I would really like to see the CBS online viewing numbers, particularly after Hulu’s launch. Now people can catch everything they want in one place. Why bother with a slow CBS server when Hulu can stream anything else almost instantly? Did I mention CBS videos look like trash? I feel a strongly worded letter coming on. Now if they just had a show I cared to watch. I like you, Jay Mohr, but your show isn’t funny.

Hulu on the iPhone

Hulu iPhoneRumors have been going around about Hulu coming to the iPhone and I couldn’t be happier. If it’s possible to get similar quality videos to stream to my iPhone as they do on, then I’m all in. Supposedly Hulu is planning for it to work over WiFi and 3G. Streaming full length Family Guy, Daily Show, and Heroes over 3G? Hell yeah!

Of course there’s the issue of whether or not Apple will approve the app just like their hesitation to approve the Sling Player app but Silicon Alley Insider (the source for this story) has thoughts on that:

Why would Apple and AT&T approve this app, which will use up a lot of bandwidth and compete with Apple’s iTunes video store? Because it will help sell iPhones, iPod touches, and AT&T subscriptions. And that’s the whole point of the App Store. (And if we were Hulu, we’d offer Apple and/or AT&T an ad revenue-sharing deal, too.)

Let’s hope this app gets streamlined through Apple so we can all enjoy the free, limited commercial, beautiful quality, online TV and movie content of Hulu on our iPhones.