Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb….
Todd Spangler, for Variety, reveals Netflix’s next move into online, streaming services – streaming special features:
“Netflix is now offering a DVD-style extra for original drama House of Cards on its Internet streaming service: scene-by-scene commentary by the directors of each episode… With the addition of HoC director’s commentary, Netflix is hoping to reinvigorate subscriber interest in the political thriller ahead of the show’s season 2 debut next month.”
Read the full article here.
Commentary tracks and special features, whether downloadable or streaming, are another innovative technique to draw in subscribers. The commentaries (by David Fincher, Joel Schumacher and many others) are not available on the DVD release of the series making the content exclusive to Netflix again. Indeed, digital content (streaming or download) is primarily the films themselves and clearly distributors haven’t figured out the best way to deliver digital content – film or additional features – yet.
The “ease” of digital content downloading is anything but as any Ultraviolet purchase has ever revealed. My own copies of Django Unchained, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Great Gatsby and The Dark Knight Rises all included Ultraviolet copies. To gain access to them, I had to open (1) a Sony account, (2) an Ultraviolet account and (3) a Flixster account. Three accounts to simply watch a film I’d already purchased. This is a concern raised regularly as buyers cash-in their online codes.
It is made worse. If you’ve already cashed-in your online codes for content on a different format (say, iTunes), then you can’t download again for a different brand of device. And, like me, if you own a Kindle and own any 20th Century Fox films then you cannot transfer these at all. The ironically titled “Plays Everywhere” application doesn’t play anywhere on Kindle Fire as they haven’t developed the software for this particular device. So Skyfall and Prometheus cannot be watched on the costly, media-savvy Kindle.
Remember, it is not that your phone, iPod or tablet can’t play the film (as those who, frustrated, turn to illegal methods to get round the system) – multi-media files can be viewed on every device (so it can be advertised that it “plays movies!”) – it is simply that the distributors are happy to make your life considerably more difficult for the clearly enormous financial benefit to their investors.
iTunes will never endorse Ultraviolet; 20th Century Fox are not going to hand over income for Skyfall and Prometheus to iTunes or Ultraviolet. The fact that, as customers, we require multiple programs loaded onto our devices, that all do the same thing, is ignored. The fact that, as customers, we need three different accounts and passwords (and all the spam mail that comes with it) because of bureaucracy on the other end, is negligible in comparison to the loss and profit to be lost and gained from owning the distribution service itself. I remember the old “the customer is always right” phrase – now it’s “the customer will pay for something they want no matter what so who cares if it’s difficult, as long as we make money” (or something to that effect)
Bottom line is, watching the epic The Dark Knight Rises on a phone isn’t the way Christopher Nolan intended. Squeezed onto a train, holding a tablet and watching a tense moment in Prometheus, is hardly going to spook you. I tried to buy into these download services but let’s leave it to the side – when I watch a Blu-ray, I put it in the player and press play. Easy.
Netflix releasing commentaries is interesting. Though I have no intention of watching The Hobbit on an iPod – I would be happy to watch the hours’ worth of extra content on my morning commute. In that regard, these studios have missed a trick. Extra features, commentaries and behind-the-scenes documentaries are difficult to watch at home. Unless the kids are excited about “The Appendices Part 7: A Long-Expected Journey – The Chronicles of The Hobbit Part 1”, you’ll find it difficult to watch it mid-week over dinner. But on your own while travelling or waiting for a friend – it might be ideal. Commentaries released as streaming content – or downloadable from the disc – is exactly what we need. And again, Netflix knows it. Whether the studios will figure it out… we shall see.