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!”

Netflix gets a price increase

Netflix rate hikeThere I was, late Monday night, getting ready to leave for Ohio the following evening. My girlfriend and I were going to drive through most of the night on Tuesday so we could miss the Wednesday traffic (sidebar: get it together VirginiaDOT – the 77/81 junction looks like it was designed by throwing spaghetti at a wall and letting a first grader draw the signage). As we both packed she said, “Sucks about that Neflix increase, right?” Check the email. Price increase. Back to packing.

I was worried when she first mentioned it, but really, the extra dollar a month doesn’t bother me. I’ve been unbelievably happy with my Netflix subscription, so the extra $12 a year is like a tip for good service.

On the flipside, though, I wish I could justify stepping down to the streaming-only plan. I would love a streaming video service that could rival my music service (MOG). Give me on demand everything, not just the old stuff. As it stands, I keep the DVD part of my Netflix subscription for those movies I want to watch while I work but can’t find elsewhere. I would love to get it all over the cloud, and would likely pay double my current Netflix fee to do it. Time for an industry shift, folks, and the first service to do it will get a helluva lot of subscribers.

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.

Those other two consoles can stream Netflix sans disc

Wii Netflix.Late last week, news broke that PS3 users could finally do what Xbox 360 users had been doing for some time: stream movies without the help of a pesky disc. Now the same is true for Wii users. So long as you have an $8.99 or higher Netflix plan, you can enjoy unlimited streaming without a disc in the drive.

From the Wii press release:

Beginning today, Netflix members in the United States and Canada can stream content through their Wii™ consoles with Netflix installed on their Wii Menu. The Netflix disc that was used for instant streaming on the Wii console will no longer be required. Netflix members who have a plan starting at $8.99 a month ($7.99 in Canada), a Wii console and a broadband Internet connection can now instantly watch movies and TV shows streamed directly to their TVs by simply downloading Netflix from the Wii Shop Channel. This new channel is available at no extra cost. The new disc-free option installs Netflix on the Wii Menu, making it convenient for Wii owners to quickly access streaming movies and TV shows.

I don’t really know why this took so long, or why PS3 and Wii users needed a disc in the first place, but it’s nice to see that it has finally been fixed.

U.S. Netflix subscribers may get a streaming-only plan

Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings speaks during the launch of streaming internet subscription service for movies and TV shows to TVs and computers in Canada at a news conference in Toronto September 22, 2010. The Canadian introduction marks the first availability of the Netflix service outside of the United States.  REUTERS/ Mike Cassese  (CANADA - Tags: MEDIA BUSINESS)

Netflix has been going through a bit of a rough patch with regards to PR. First there were the actors, paid to look excited about the service’s Canadian launch, and then Reed Hastings made an “awkward joke” when asked if he thought there would be an American backlash about the lower subscription prices.

How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It’s something we’ll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.

Hastings did do something a little out of character the other day when he hinted at a streaming-only option for US customers in a recent blog post.

I’m in love with Netflix on the iPhone

Netflix on the iPhoneEvery couple weeks or so I’m struck with a pretty vicious case of insomnia. It happened last night – no sleeping, no matter how hard I tried. When it happens, I still like to be in bed, just in case I somehow drift off, but I usually have my laptop with me and end up watching a couple episodes of whatever seems good at four in the morning.

The problem, though, is laptops are hot, and living in North Carolina, things are hot enough as it is. The last thing I want is a battery scalding my nethers through the sheets. Since the Netflix app launched for the iPhone, it hasn’t been a problem. The series of choice last night was Dexter, of which I watched three or four episodes, all on my iPhone, all of which looked fantastic, and none of which managed to kill my battery. In fact, I was able to watch them all and only lose about 35 percent of my battery life. The interface is easy to use, so even in my groggy state of unsleep, I didn’t have a problem finding and watching whatever I wanted.

Streaming costs Netflix 10 times less than mailing a DVD

Netflix StreamingNetflix streaming is just about the greatest thing around (yeah, it’s better than Hulu) for video content. The interface is clean, easy to use, and the selection is good enough for my $10 a month. Streaming has also saved Netflix a whole lot of money.

To stream a movie in HD costs Netflix around 5 cents, 3 cents for standard def. That’s it. Now granted, that doesn’t account for licensing and all that, but it sure as hell beats the pants off sending things through the mail. That cost could even go down as more competitors enter the back-end market responsible for supporting the Netflix streaming system.

My question – why aren’t more things available for streaming? If it’s so cheap, that extra revenue could be kicked back in part to studios for freeing up more streaming content. Everyone wins.

Source: Business Week

Netflix looks to buy exclusive online rights to Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM catalogs

Netflix streaming.According to the LA Times, Netflix is looking to add more titles to its streaming options by adding exclusive access to Paramount, Lionsgate, and MGM film catalogs. The deal, which would manifest as a partnership with EPIX, would cost Netflix something like a billion dollars for five years of exclusivity.

Any time Netflix says it will expand its streaming catalog, I’m a happy man. I do most of my movie viewing via streaming on my desktop, often while I’m doing work throughout the day. More options is always a good thing. Unfortunately, this deal would still suffer, as the current streaming system does, from Hollywood mandated “windowing,” pushing streamable titles beyond the rent date. Hopefully studios will start to get more flexible as streaming becomes more and more popular.

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.

Netflix for Windows Phone 7 is the best mobile idea since…ever

Netflix on Windows Phone 7.For all the features that have been billed to us as the ‘iPhone killer” in the past, nothing stands out quite like Netflix for Windows Phone 7. Granted, the media service will probably be coming to other platforms as well, but it’s being pioneered on Windows Phone 7, replete with subscriptions and 3G video streaming. What more could you want?

Unless Steve Jobs has something truly compelling up his sleeve this June, Netflix capability will make more than a few media geeks reconsider an iPhone purchase. There have been rumors of this and other similar applications coming to the iPhone for years now, but we haven’t seen much progress. There’s Slingbox, but that’s not quite the same situation. On demand streaming is where the world is pointing, from potential iTunes deals to the success of sites like NinjaVideo.net.

Gizmodo has a preview of the service working. It’s just a prototype, but usually the word prototype means it’s only going to get better.