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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

good news from the cutting edge

Netflix has sold out of those new settop boxes that will let you download movies instantly and watch them on your TV.

And DVRs are actually making people watch more network television, at a time when the networks have been fretting about bleeding viewers to cable.

Hopefully someone is paying attention to these trends. More ways to watch movies and TV can only be a good thing for the industry… as long as the people who make the decisions about these things realize that not only do audiences want more choices, we’re taking those options when they’re offered.

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  • Unfortunately, the Roku/Netflix download box and similar technologies are going to die a premature death if the cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) carry through with their threats to start imposing monthly capacity limits on residential users. If I only get to download 50 GB a month, I for damn sure am not going to waste 8 GB of that capacity to download and watch a single movie.

  • JoshDM

    Unfortunately the Nielson ratings are not properly taking into account DVR / Tivo usage when delivering ratings and therefore certain shows are still being killed before their time.

  • bitchen frizzy

    The companies that use the Nielsen ratings don’t see it that way. Rightly or wrongly, they believe that the Nielsen’s are fine as is because a recorded viewing of the show doesn’t count for practical (for them) purposes.

  • I agree with all of the above comments and would state that it represents the ongoing conflict between Hollywood’s basic business model and the business models of technology firms. Hollywood’s success lies in formula, in pattern, and in predictability. Boy meets girl, Bruce Willis gets bad guys, etc. It’s very conservative (from an economics standpoint rather than a political standpoint) and it doesn’t react well to change. The institutions which have sprung up around it are very calcified and simply can’t adjust to any new paradigm quickly.

    Contrast that with the producers of new technology… any new technology. For them it’s all about smaller-faster-better. More storage space, smaller size, quicker download time, faster operation, etc. They benefit from capitalizing on new trends quickly, and if they ever become too entrenched in their ways (Blockbuster, say, or Kodak’s reluctance to embrace digital photography), they could find themselves in very hot water.

    Those models have smacking up against each other for sixty years or more. First it was television, then VCRs, then music downloads, then movie downloads. Hollywood can’t figure out how its audience wishes to view their product, so they try to crush the technology. When that doesn’t work, they try to attach limits and caveats and caps to it. That doesn’t tend to work either. I view the cable companies’ efforts to limit the Netflix box as no different than the music industry’s ill-fated stomping of Napster. You might stop the Netflix box, but you’re not going to stop the technological conceit behind it. Someone else will find a new way to package it and then they’re facing the same problem.

    To use an analogy, technology is like an ocean wave and the entertainment industry is a surfer. They keep trying to control the size and direction of the wave and can’t figure out why they keeping ending up face-down on the bottom with sand in their teeth. They need to learn to ride it wherever it goes, not shape it to their own ends. Whenever they’ve done that—VHS movies, DVD movies, iTunes downloads, etc.—they tend to find themselves with a very lucrative revenue stream.

  • MaryAnn

    Unfortunately the Nielson ratings are not properly taking into account DVR / Tivo usage when delivering ratings and therefore certain shows are still being killed before their time.

    No, no, no. Read the linked article — this is changing.

    if the cable companies (Comcast, Time Warner, etc.) carry through with their threats to start imposing monthly capacity limits on residential users.

    We’ll be in much bigger trouble if the cable companies are allowed to get away withi this. We *must* fight this however we can: it threatens the entire Internet as we know it today.

  • the rook

    why would teevee advertisers want to count dvr viewers? the whole point of teevee is to sell eyeballs to advertisers. how many commercials do you watch when you have a program recorded on a dvr or vcr?

    in commercial television, the viewers are the product and the advertiser is the customer. if teevee can’t deliver product to the customer, the customers are going to go away.

  • bitchen frizzy

    I read the article, and correct me if I’m wrong, but what’s changing is that advertisers are grudgingly agreeing to count some DVR viewership. Two things haven’t changed, though: advertisers still decide if they want to pay the asking price for a time slot, and everybody knows that viewers are fast-forwarding through recorded commercials. There’s only so much in the way of concessions the networks can wring out of advertisers.

    Networks have to get over the fact that huge hit shows that draw a third of TV viewers are becoming rarer and rarer as the audience diffuses. As long as they measure success strictly by ratings, instead of by overall profitability as cable networks do, they won’t be inclined to serve niche audiences. Jericho was profitable, but it didn’t have huge ratings, so Jericho gets axed. That’s still the logic.

    After getting caught deliberately nerfing high-bandwidth traffic, internet providers are going about capacity limitations the smart way, unfortunately. They aren’t actually proposing to cap monthly download volumes, they’re proposing surcharges on high volumes. The former is something utility companies have never been allowed to do; the latter is something they do routinely. They also have a valid argument that the internet is going to reach capacity limits on traffic if something isn’t done soon.

  • Hypocee

    Yeah – as far as profit and actions are concerned, adless TV = relevance zero. I expect advertisers’ willingness to halfheartedly pretend otherwise will be extremely short-lived.

  • MaryAnn

    how many commercials do you watch when you have a program recorded on a dvr or vcr?

    I do watch some, actually. If they’re funny or otherwise interesting, I will watch an ad.

    On the other hand, how many people watch ads while they’re watching a show live? How many people get up and go to the bathroom, to the kitchen, or talk to someone else in the room, or do something else beside stay glued to the ads? Not as many as advertisers would like to think, I bet.

  • This is why it is more important than ever for commercials to be as entertaining as the TV shows themselves, or moreso.

    I present, as an example, the “Grady the Badger” commercials from Johnson Automotive Group in Raleigh, NC. These commercials are, in my opinion and in the opinion of a lot of folks here in NC, some of the funniest commercials ever made. And even better, they’re eminently quotable. If more commercials were like these, people would stop FFing through them.

    http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=johnson+badger+commercials&search_type=&aq=0&oq=johnson+badger

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