Monday, December 8, 2008

Netflix + XBOX = The Future

First off, let me just say I love watching Neftlix movies from my instant queue on my XBOX 360. Now that you know my bias, we can continue on...

Second... whoever thought of bringing the Neftlix instant queue to the XBOX 360... give that man a Nobel Prize. For years now I've been waiting for the time when I could watch a movie instantly without any physical copy of the movie itself. It was clearly inevitable... I just didn't realize how quickly it'd come or even how easy it'd be.

However, nothing's perfect. Rewind and Fast Forward are clunky (as you might expect). The selection is unfortunately very limited. On top of that, sometimes movies are available for a limited time. I currently have 9 movies in my instant queue available until January 1st. A few more expire before that. The high def quality is a little low, and you can't browse for movies; you can only watch those already in your queue.

On the plus side, a lot of that is fixable. Everything except the available movies is hardware and software fixes or inevitable technology upgrades. The only real issue are the movies themselves. Movie and TV studios need to wake up and provide more programming on outlets such as Netflix and Hulu.com. Because of them, I was able to catch up on The Office, 30 Rock and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I missed these three shows from the beginning, so I never wanted to jump into the middle of them. However, since I now am caught up, I watch these shows... that means I'm a new viewer. Your ratings are up because I was able to see older episodes. It saddens me that old episodes for these shows get taken down. On Hulu, you can see only a few episodes of Sunny from season 3. That means someone out there may not be able to jump in as easily. I think season 2 of 30 Rock is the only one available on Hulu. It's tough to recommend these shows to people when they won't be able to see them all the way through.

I'd also like to pause for a second to praise ABC for putting up all seasons of Lost. It will certainly make it easier for someone to join in.

I will admit though that having movies and tv shows readily available like this makes it less likely for me to buy the movie or tv box set. Tv has a lot more to gain out of this arrangement though, as I pointed out, it's a good way to get new viewers. Viewers means ratings, ratings mean sponsors, sponsors mean money. Forget sales of box sets. I believe that time was short lived. It will continue on for a few years, helped by holiday sales (my mom is tough to buy for, so a year or two back my father got her a box set of one of her favorite shows). But if I were a tv exec, I'd plan for box set sales to drop.

What about the movie companies? Yeah, they really don't have much to gain. Most of their revenue will come from Dvd sales and theater tickets, both of which will drop due to Netflix and sites like Hulu. Dvd sales will be the first to go. But that isn't all Netflix's fault. Listen up Hollywood, I'm going to tell you what's wrong. This is stuff you can fix. Improving is a different story.
  • STOP with the exclusive editions. You only confuse the customer as to exactly what they're buying, and when that happens... they'll go for the cheaper one. Take tomorrow's release of The Dark Knight. At Walmart, you can get a commemorative coin and comic book. At Circuit City, the cover has the Joker instead of Batman. With a few exceptions, most people will go for whichever is cheaper.
  • STOP with the special editions. Likewise, you'll confuse the consumer and they'll buy the cheaper. Same Dark Knight example... you can buy the Blu-ray version with a miniature Bat-pod... for $50. Of the few people that own a Blu-ray player... some of them might be rich enough to want that. For the people who are buying a Blu-ray player with the Dark Knight as the first (and maybe only so far) movie for it, they'll want to save money to buy the player by not getting the special edition. So expect to see a lot of Special Edition Bat-pods to be sitting around after the holidays, which may get sold when the price drops on them. Then you're left paying off the marketing agency that thought to do that anyways.
  • STOP with the anniversary editions. It's frustrating to see a movie you just bought be re-released with more content. If you're going to do that, at least find some way to make that content available to people who already bought the previous version.
  • Widescreen vs Fullscreen. Put them on the same disc. It's frustrating when someone gets a fullscreen movie for Christmas and then has to go buy the widescreen version. While this may be good for you because you sell two copies instead of one, you're only driving people away from buying movies in the long run.
Don't get me wrong. Sometimes special editions and anniversary editions are cool. But don't oversaturate the market. You'll confuse the consumer. Exclusive editions do that better than special editions. Don't frustrate your consumers either.

Do inclue more digital copies. Keep in mind... Blu-ray, although it has a higher HD capacity and more content than Dvds or Netflix or Hulu, it is a short lived format. Downloads and digital is the obvious future. It's so clear when you pick up your XBOX controller and watch a movie from your queue. I haven't done it, but I think I can watch digital copies on my XBOX since it's connected to my computer.

If you want to be bold Hollywood... work out a deal with Netflix to make movies that are currently in theaters watchable instantly for $5 a viewing. I would absolutely pay that to watch a movie currently out at home. Think about it, it's what people want. That's why they download bootlegged versions. I HATE going to the theater. When I saw Live Free or Die Hard, some stupid kid sat next to me and talked during the first five minutes until I told him to shut up. I missed an important plot device. During the Dark Knight, some kid next to me was texting on his cell phone the entire time. In a dark theater... the light from a cell phone screen is pretty distracting. People with big hair in front of you, people kicking the back of your seat, sticky popcorn covered floors, overpriced food, overpriced tickets, the lines, the parking, talkers, annoying laughers, cell phones, children, uncomfortable chairs, some fat person who spills over onto your armrest, people who can't stay seated for two hours... for the love of god try going to the bathroom before the movie and restrain yourself from buying the extra large soda. I could have easily watched The Dark Knight many times for $5 while not having to leave my house. Not to mention all the movies I do miss, in which case I have to wait until they're on dvd so I can rent them from Netflix. Take this advice, this is a way to profit. You'll cut down on costs while boosting profits. Open your eyes, I love my Netflix Xbox. The home theater is the future of theater. Embrace it now.

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