Why Netflix is Still the King…

Politics is the ultimate entertainment.

Over at The Atlantic, a sober estimation of why TV is outperforming movies as quality entertainment:

Networks love the cable bundle for the same reason that viewers hate it: It’s a relentless (i.e. dependable) transfer of money from households to networks, regardless of what television or how much television we watch. “Basic-cable channels have to broadcast shows that are so good that audiences will go nuts when denied them,” Adam Davidson wrote in the New York Times. “Pay-TV channels, which kick-started this economic model, are compelled to make shows that are even better.” Thus, television has seen a race to the top while Hollywood has experienced an ostensible race to the middle-bottom.

Back to Netflix. The company’s business decision to chase exclusive TV rights was not an act of charity for TV fans; it was a business decision. Netflix has two things going for it: its deep library and its wonderful streaming technology. Keeping the library of quality titles deep is getting very expensive very quickly. And Showtime and HBO can compete with Netflix on streaming tech, even if they’re also tethered to the cable bundle. So, Netflix needs to increase its value in the eyes of the 120 million households who aren’t Netflix subscribers. Following in the footsteps of HBO and Showtime by going after original titles is the smart next step.

I’ve been watching House of Cards, Netflix’ original series starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and directed by David Fincher. It’s fun, even if not quite as epoch-making as Mad Men or Breaking Bad. A Machiavellian congressman with an unctuous South Carolina accent is a good role for Spacey, and the writing is smart. If Netflix has the money for Oscar-caliber actors and directors, then they have the money to compete with the Premium channels without drastically altering their price point (that $8 a month may creep up, but that’s still nothing compared to HBO on top of basic cable service).

Netflix is no longer the only streaming service out there, but it’s still the best. When I got my Roku XD box, I discovered that I could also stream Amazon Instant videos, some of them free with my Prime Membership. But Amazon’s library of free videos is small compared to Netflix, its browsing display shows you the same titles over and over again, and its streaming just isn’t as reliable. Last month I finally got around to watching Ted. It wasn’t a Prime video, so I had to pay $3.99 to rent it for 48 hours. It skipped and hiccuped in the last third of the film, and kept re-streaming at a lower quality rate, until by the end it looked like I was watching a VHS copy that had been soaked in bleach for a few weeks. I’ve had this happen a few times with Amazon’s streaming. It never happens with Netflix.

HuluPlus, which costs as much as Netflix, has a needlessly complicated navigation system, still doesn’t have distribution deals with CBS and F/X (No HIMYM, Sons of Anarchy, or Archer) and has several titles still Web only (I haven’t seen an episode of Happy Endings in months, as we can only watch it on wifey’s computer upstairs in bed, and I keep falling asleep). Netflix is elegantly simple: the stuff on your Queue, and the other stuff, broken down by genre.

The others, such as Crackle, VuDu, etc., are all so much background noise, me-too services. I imagine everyone’s going to set such a service up eventually, and eventually some of them will be able to compete with Netflix. But everyone who declared it dead when it split it’s DVD and streaming services turned out to be dead wrong. They’ve sucessfully shifted from being  the all-online Blockbuster to being the streaming king, and now they’re about to trade punches with the cable heavyweights. Invest in popcorn.

How Facebook Saved the Superbowl

Every technological advance contains cost; functionality does not always transfer. Some time over the holidays, after wrestling with Verizon FiOS, I finally pulled the plug on the cable. Verizon still provides my internet and phone, but I watch TV on the Roku box. Between Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime Instant Video, I had everything I needed as far as content for the idiot screen.

Until I had to watch the Super Bowl. The game was on CBS, and live streaming at cbsports.com, but the Roku does not live stream. So that means that I needed to supplement my up-to-the-minute tech with a throwback to my pre-digital youth: a set of rabbit ears for an HDTV.

Remember me? Remember how I required a series of movements and rituals to function properly? Remember how I would stop working anyway? HAHAHAHAHA!

So after church, mother, baby and I rolled into Target, seeking the digital equivalent of the old signal-diviners I used to scan UHF channels back in the 80’s. There are several models, all of which use a coaxial jack, which information prompted an arduous attempt by both of us to remember if our TV even has a coaxial jack. We conclude that it must, because we used to have cable. We then rummage around the store to collect items for our Target co-pay (it is not possible to get out of Target for under $50. That’s what the security guard is really checking for). Since we’re watching the game, we I want football-watching-type food: high-fat, high-calorie, high-chance-of-morning-regret little bits of fried yumminess. Also, some sheets.

And we take all this swag into the house, and we feed the baby, and we the missus futzes with the wall mount to get the coaxial plugged in, and . . . we get FOX. We fart around with the antennae. We get FOX and PBS. We try some more. We get FOX, PBS, and ABC. We give up and watch a few episodes of Parks and Recreation while Nora naps. We try some more. We get nothing. I complain on Facebook:

  Andrew J. Patrick

21 hours ago via mobile
So I buys a digital antenna so’s I can watch the game, having no cable as I do. And we have to futz with the mount on our TV to install it. And we get Fox, UPN, and PBS. Lame.

This prompts my aunt to come to my rescue, as she lives around the corner and has the game on hi-def, big screen. We head on over, pick up the family platter from Famous Daves right before kickoff. The rest, you know.

My favorite commercial.

And then, the lights went out, and for 34 minutes on Facebook, we all became wits:

Even electricity thinks this game is over.

Is FEMA running the super bowl?

Previously on superbowl

If I were in the Superdome right now, I’d be on the lookout for Bane.

Buffalo Wild Wings strikes again

Lots of things in New Orleans are half lit…what’s the big deal?!

Yeah we all needed to lose another 34 minutes of sleep before a Monday morning of work, right?

Some of those are mine, most aren’t. And then there were the visuals:

Needs no explanation, unless you’re an uncultured whippersnapper.

And this social media outlet saved me from having to emit to my host and hostess my usual whine about football commentators being the dumbest form of fauna in our ecosystem.

So when the game started again, I had to say:

I hope the Ravens win, because if the 49ers come back and win after all that, the City of Baltimore will be complaining about it until the end of time.

There are men of a certain age who still remember the Colts sneaking out of the city in the dead of night without warning, and can speak of it only with bitterness. My hope was that the current crop of Ravens fans would be spared that. But as it turns out, the 49ers belonged in the Super Bowl, and my prophecy nearly came true. But only nearly. As it turns out, the Ravens’ defense had just enough backbone to keep Kaepernick et al. from taking the lead. And that may be the first time I’ve ever seen a team deliberately give the other team points.

So what have we learned?

That Facebook Save My Super Bowl twice. Once by allowing me to watch it, and once by giving me something to do when it stopped.