Archive for category Netflix

Netflix Gone Wild

Netflix may have one of the best movie recommendation engines out there, but from time to time, their suggestions do get thrown off the track. I’m not sure whether this is proof that Skynet Netflix still has a long ways to go before it becomes self aware or evidence that their algorithms are so good, that they can spot connections, even when they appear ridiculous to us mere humans. Either way though, the results can be hilarious! After pouring through 100′s of nominations, I’ve put together a top 10 list of some of their more wonky suggestions.


#10 – Make Love Not War

One would think that Ken Burn’s award winning documentary on WWII would appeal more to those who are further from the cradle than the grave, but apparently senior citizens enjoy Angelina Ballerina and Barney too! (h/t – Plamere)

#9 – Who Said Kids Find Documentaries Boring?

This may be a case where it would be more helpful for Netflix to suggest something the kids might like a little bit less

#8 – Beneath the tough rapper exterior lies the heart of a romantic

It may not be all that exciting of an ice cream flavor, but romantic musical fans will melt for vanilla

#7 – Who Knew Mrs. Doubtfire was so angry inside?

Robin Williams’ dressed in drag was pretty painful to watch, but not chop up and eat people bad.

#6 – One Of Netflix’s Darker Comedies

Yup, that’s right, after you watch Reno 911, even Auschwitz will seem funny by comparison

#5 – Beware the Penguins?

Oh sure they look all cute and adorable, but not if you’re the fish. Something tells me that Netflix may have outsourced this movie category to Charlie Tuna.

#4 – The Scariest Movie on Netflix


Mallcop may have been bad, but it’s a pretty low blow to call it a horror movie


#3 – I’m pretty sure that most pregnant women aren’t that flexible

Is your significant other all of a sudden obsessed with Cirque Du Soleil? You may want to think about taking a pregnancy test h/t – Tgidenver

#2 – Netflix Suggests That It May Be Time To Consider Therapy

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one from a dysfunctional family. For those looking to deal with your Father/Daughter issues, Netflix recommends, the Call Girl or the steamy erotic thriller, Lie with me.

#1 – A Friendly Reminder From Netflix That You May Not Be Ready For Kids Just Yet

Don’t be fooled by the photo of the cute baby on the cover of the movie, It’s Alive probably isn’t something you’ll want to watch if you’re expecting

Still haven’t had enough? Here are a few more that didn’t make the top ten list;

Want to learn whether or not your new date has apartment full of cats back at home? Find out her thoughts on King Lear, Looking for Swamp People? Try the Kardashians, Did you enjoy the Last of the Mohicans? Well Netflix is pretty confident that you’ll enjoy The Last of the Mohicans, Netflix outs Top Gear driving enthusiasts for being closet Jane Eyre fans, Do you enjoy Louis C.K.’s edgy sense of comedy? Well you may want to think about going back to school because Netflix sees advanced Physics in your future, Frankly, the talking lobster already freaks me out, but Netflix thinks people who enjoy movies about LSD, will really like the Little Mermaid too, When I think of classical movies, Black Snake Moan isn’t the first thing that pops into my mind, If you ask them, GI Joe fans will deny it, but apparently they have a soft spot for furry little Sharpays, Family Guy fans take note, you may be a freakin’ genius, Freaks and Geeks are always welcome in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

Why Doesn’t AMC Want My Money?



AMC Empire
Originally uploaded by imoteph9


Most businesses are thrilled when someone wants to give them money, but for some crazy reason whenever you’re dealing with Hollywoodnomics, logic seems to get turned on it’s head. Case in point: MoviePass

I love the movies, in fact I’d argue that I’ve probably seen more films than 90% of the population. As a moviehound, you would think that I would be one of AMC’s best customer’s, but the truth is that in the last 5 years, I’ve only seen 2 movies in the theater. While there are a lot of reasons why, it essentially boils down to the fact that it’s hard for me to justify paying $9 for a film, when I can watch it at home for free*

Now in reality, my TV isn’t actually free, but psychologically, it feels that way because I “rent” my content through services like Netflix and TiVo. While I’m sure that PPV and Blockbuster would prefer that I take advantage of their services, the simple truth is that the transaction fee involved (no matter how small) has made them persona non grata in my lifestyle.

I’ll be the first to admit that watching a film on my 60″ TV isn’t the same as seeing it in Imax, but when the choice is to pay money vs. seeing something for free*, it makes it a lot harder to accept the premiums that the theaters charge. Four years ago, I noted that consumers were making a transition from a pay per view model to a subscription model and that movie theaters would be wise to endorse the trend.

“Why not offer a monthly subscription fee to your local movie theater chains. Consumers would be happy to spend $30 or $40 per month in order to have the privilege of seeing films the way I did when I worked for the theaters. Instead of collecting $40 per year from me now, theaters could instead bring in $480 each year with an all you can eat model.”

A long time ago, I worked as an AMC projectionist and every Thursday night, I’d stay up to the wee hours of the morning screening the new films before they opened. Because of this experience, I know first hand how powerful a theater subscription model could be, which is why I’m so confused that my former employer wouldn’t recognize the brilliance behind MoviePass. What makes this all you can eat movie experience so special isn’t the access to the big hits that you’re dying to see, it’s being able to see mediocre films in a larger than life environment without having to put your wallet at risk. Yet for some strange reason, AMC isn’t interested in attracting customers to their most empty theaters.

Now I can’t speak for everybody, but in my case, had MoviePass existed back then, AMC would have collected $1,920 in ticket sales. Instead they’ve earned less than $40 from me and that includes popcorn.

Not everybody chooses to rent their content, but when you look at the number of cable, satellite, Hulu, Netflix, etc. subscribers, it becomes clear that a huge segment of society chooses to consume the bulk of their content this way. This is why, when I saw that MoviePass was going to create a subscription theater service, I thought it was a no brainer for the theaters involved.

Instead, AMC decides that they want no part of this? Can someone please help me understand how this makes sense because AMC’s justification that “plans for this program were developed without AMC’s knowledge or input,” or that “it does not integrate well into our programs and could create significant guest experience issues”, rings hollow in my opinion.

AMC could have picked up a brand new customer willing to buy tickets in bulk and instead of nurturing a new source of revenue (while MoviePass assumes the risk of proving an experimental business model), AMC has chosen to ban it because they weren’t consulted first? This seems awfully shortsighted and petty on the part of AMC.

If AMC really believed in the mantra, listen, learn, discuss, decide, execute, measure and … repeat, then they would have at least taken the time to see if MoviePass could bear any fruit. Instead, they’ve jumped straight to an execution (with a promise to repeat if anybody else decides that they want to give them buckets of money without permission.)

I could almost understand this reaction, if AMC had some type of similar program that MoviePass was competing with, but the reality is that AMC has failed dramatically when it comes to the execution of their customer loyalty programs.

For 25 years, AMC ran a program called Summer Movie Camp for kids. The idea was basically a seasonal version of MoviePass, except restricted to handful of old kids movies. Given it’s long run, one would think this was a homerun for the cinema, but I can tell you first hand that AMC did a terrible job of running it. Even on their own website, AMC admits it was a failure.

“Unfortunately, the number of guests has been fewer in recent years, with many shows operating with less than 25 guests in the auditorium. Last year, attendance dropped so significantly that we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the program.”

AMC’s most recent program, also looks like it will be a dud. Not only do consumers now have to pay $12 a year for the privilege of frequent customer membership bonuses, but they only save 10% off for every $100 they spend. This means that you would have to pay to see 33 films in a year before you would actually earn a free one under the program. It’s nice that they want to be so stingy with their best customers, but MoviePass really wouldn’t threaten this.

If MoviePase attracts moviehogs, then it will be uneconomical for them as a business. If they attract consumers like myself, who refuse to pay transaction charges for their entertainment, then it’s complimentary to AMC’s existing program and could greatly expand revenue. It’s hard to tell what the future holds for MoviePass at this point, but with the major theater cartels going hostile against this new innovator, I can only hope that independent theaters will be more interested in collecting hundreds of dollars a year from me instead.

Netflix Makes Deal With The Devil – Now Streaming Snuff Film Online

I’ve always enjoyed violent movies. A quick look at my Netflix’s rating history reveals a pantheon of horror films. Whether we’re talking Michael Myers or Alfred Hitchcock, there’s something about gratuitous violence that tickles my funny bone. When it comes to real life violence though, I am generally much more squeamish. Nearly ten years after 9/11, I’m still haunted by the news footage of people jumping to their deaths from the burning buildings. While some might argue that this line really shouldn’t matter, this distinction is often the difference between a black comedy and a documentary.

This difference may also help to explain how I can be thrilled to see Netflix adding Pulp Fiction to their watch now service, but dismayed to learn that they’ve also added Death Scenes 1 – 3. For those not familiar with the Death Scenes series, it’s a collection of extremely graphic video clips that show the murder and execution of countless individuals. It is “narrated” by Anton LaVey himself, the founder of the church of satan.

Back in the 90′s, I had friends who would trade Faces of Death VHS cassettes, but Blockbuster was never foolish enough to rent them in their stores. Netflix on the other hand doesn’t seem to have a problem renting snuff films to their members and I think this is a mistake. While I respect the fact that Netflix doesn’t censor other people’s movies, they have drawn a line by not offering pornography on their service. Whether or not, Death Scenes is a pornographic snuff film or a documentary I’ll leave up to my readers to decide, but before clicking on this graphic link to view the evidence, you should take a look at excerpts from how other Netflix members have described the film.

“I was very disappointed in the fact that so many of the scenes had no commentary or too little and seemed to just be a shock value show” – Steathl

“In my opinion, this footage does not qualify as a documentary. Rather, Id consider it more along the lines of a smutt film or Faces of Death with a heaping scoop of pointless thrown in for your viewing displeasure” – QBS 1996331

“There a couple of scenes that will stay with me forever. One was a boy of about nine dressed in 30s style clothing with his hands tied behind him and laying sideways after being executed. The other scene that I have trouble getting out of my head was the pre execution footage of a guerrilla rebel all of about 16 tied to a pole awaiting a firing squad. He looks directly into the camera and you are looking at a boy, face full of rage, terror and, defiance. The next scene he is executed with the other rebels.” – Sedatme

While I didn’t waste my time watching every minute of this film, I did see enough to know that this is closer to pornography then it is to a “documentary” and I would hope that Netflix would be able to see that. The idea of watching people being brutally tortured or murdered may appeal to some niche quarters of the internet, but it’s not appropriate on a site like Netflix.

Update – A quick check of the website, seems to suggest that Netflix has taken the series offline. With so many films that they’re licensing, it’s probably hard for Netflix to watch everything that comes in. My guess is that this film somehow slipped through the cracks and once Netflix became aware of it they reviewed it and rethought whether it was appropriate for their site.

Ohio University Bans Netflix During Finals Week

Universities across the US have been at war with P2P for a while now, but this is more than a little bit ridiculous. In an attempt to manage their network, Ohio University has banned access to Netflix. A copy of the university’s email was originally posted to Reddit

“OHIO Students,

Due to extremely high demand, the university’s Internet connection currently does not have enough capacity to meet service expectations and results in noticeably slow connections at times. Traffic analyses have shown streaming media usage accounts for nearly two-thirds of our current demand, with Netflix being the largest single consumer of our Internet capacity. In an effort to free up the bandwidth faculty and students need to complete academic online tasks during finals week, the university will be instituting a temporary limit on the total bandwidth available for Netflix traffic. The restriction will go into effect this evening, Monday, March 14 at 6:00 pm. OIT appreciates your patience as this temporary corrective action is taken. We welcome and encourage your thoughts on a more permanent solution as we engage the university in planning on this critical issue.

Best regards, J. Brice Bible Chief Information Officer”

I’m not sure whether or not this will boost grades at the school, but it does say a lot about how popular Netflix is becoming. While this may be a temporary fix for the school, it isn’t a very good long term bandaid. The internet is more important than it’s ever been and students need access to a robust network to participate in that. If the school can’t keep up with demand, their customers (the students) will leave for places where they have unlimited bandwidth. Even if the school doesn’t upset their students, it’s not going to stop digital video consumption. A ban on Netflix will only drive their students underground where illegitimate sources of content can fulfill their entertainment needs.

The Compuservation of Television

Gossip Dirt

The more things change, the more things seem to stay the same. Over the last ten years, the internet has redefined nearly every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s how we communicate with old friends, how we get our news or how we do our shopping, I could give you countless examples of how this technology has changed the way we interact with the world.

Thinking back to when dial up was first getting started, it’s not too hard to imagine an entirely different future. You see, when internet service providers first got into the business, they didn’t want to provide unrestricted access to their subscribers. Instead, they wanted to create a massive intranet where they could charge businesses fees to reach their customers.

In this bold new world that they envisioned, people wouldn’t be buying search terms on Yahoo!, they’d buy keywords on AOL. Instead of being able to use any email provider you wanted, they would only allow you to log into Compuserve accounts. This balkanization of the internet almost succeeded and for a time, Compuserve actually ran one of the top airline ticketing services, but eventually consumers saw the forest for the trees and instead of paying $19.99 a month for a stripped down version of the world wide web, they insisted on unfiltered access to the internet.

Once a few consumers started to move, the rest of the industry followed and as a result we now have third party sites like Facebook, YouTube and blogs, that have been able to build an audience on the free and open web.

With online video still coming of age, it’s interesting to see how the same Compuservation is occurring again, except this time it’s around the television. NewTeeVee has a provocative post out where they argue that the smart television providers are becoming the new gatekeepers for content. This is better than having the cable companies control your television, but it’s is still a watered down version of what you deserve.

I don’t care whether we’re talking about TiVo, Boxee, Roku, AppleTV or any of the latest digital video solutions, all of them have placed restrictions (albeit sometimes unwillingly) over how much their customers can do with their hardware.

Some of these restrictions are because of frightened content owners. For example, customers who rent their TiVo from a cable company aren’t allowed to access Netflix because of agreements Netflix made with the studios. Some of these restrictions are because of plain old fashioned greed. Hulu has already had more than their fair share of conflicts from disabling access to their videos on devices that are designed to sit next to your TV and would love to charge hardware companies for access. Some of these restrictions are self imposed. There’s nothing stopping Apple from offering flash on their iPad, except for their own selfish desire to control 100% of their media eco-system.

Whatever the reason, no matter how you slice it, these “internet” enabled devices have all failed to actually bring the internet to your TV. Looking over the headlines from CES, it’s clear that tablets and “smart TVs” were all the rage in Las Vegas this year and while it’s neat to see content companies start warming up to these devices, if consumers are forced to continue at big media’s pace, it will take another 10 years before you’ll be able to access even 90% of the content that’s out there today.

Because of these restrictions, it’s become increasingly difficult for me to endorse these options as adequate solutions. Over the years, I’ve managed to sample and collect a large number of different media streaming devices, but by far, the most powerful digital media device that I’ve ever used was the cheapest laptop that I could buy from Walmart. Maybe I’m crazy and other people don’t actually want access to the internet on their TV, but from the very first moment that I plugged it into my television, it was just as liberating as the first time I used TiVo to free my TV.

Since almost all new laptops include an HDMI port, getting it connected to the big screen was as easy as plugging it into an HDMI cable. Not only will this setup let you access sites like Hulu without big media interfering, but I can also do PC related tasks on a big screen environment. For example, over the holidays I was able to connect to Skype and do a video chat with the entire family on the big screen. I’ve always been a fan of comic books, but the comic book experience is very different when you’re looking at the action at 40+ inches. Do you ever play video games like Axis and Allies? Being able to see the entire war map actually changes your strategy compared to when you have to view troop movements region by region.

The point that I’m trying to make is no matter how progressive and advanced these technology companies are, no matter how many “apps” developers create, until the CE industry and the content industry abandon their gateway plans, you’ll never get to experience everything that the world wide web is capable of.

Instead of navigating this minefield of short sighted media companies and a CE industry that has lost sight of who their real customers are, take my advice and buy an HDMI enabled laptop before you buy the latest and greatest half baked technology product. A cheap laptop won’t necessarily make it easy to record your broadcast television, but if you’re only going to own one media device for your TV, an HDMI enabled laptop will beat the pants off of any digital device on the market today.

Why Are Cable Prices Moving Higher? Because There Are More Of You Than There Are Of Me

Undercover

Looking for more proof that the pay television industry still doesn’t believe that cord cutting is really a threat? Analysts are predicting that those of you who haven’t cut the cord yet are likely to see price hikes across the board in 2011. Given all of the cool digital distractions that are out there, one might argue that this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the reality is that the telcos will continue their rate increases until the higher prices don’t offset the subscriber losses.

Last year may have been a watershed year for the cord cutting movement, but a closer look at the data reveals that most consumers haven’t been as price sensitive as those who quit pay television. As of October 2nd 2010, ESPN had approximately 100 million subscribers. I use this as a proxy for the pay tv industry since most basic cable, satellite and fiber customers receive the channel by default. A year earlier, ESPN had approximately 99 million customer. If we assume that the telcos averaged $75 for a TV subscription in 2009 and that they increased rates by 5% last year, then this means that not only were they able to net an extra $5.4 billion in fees last year, but they’ll get to collect again on these fees in 2011 and into the future.

So what happens when consumers finally start to resist these fee increases and the trend reverses, the cable companies still get fat and happy until they have a full scale revolution on their hands. Even if we assume that 2% of all telco customers will quit pay TV over every 5% increase in price, then we’re still guaranteed to see fee increases into the foreseeable future.

Don’t get me wrong, losing 2 million subscribers would hurt the pay TV industry, but at the new $78.75 average price, it would only cost them $1.8 billion in lost revenue each year, while they would be gaining an extra $4.125 billion with the higher subscription fees. While the pay TV industry may realize that their golden years for growth are now over, that doesn’t mean they can’t do basic math and engineer higher revenue while they have you over a barrel. Until a significant number of people say enough’s enough, they’re never going to take the threat of cord cutting seriously, so if you are still paying for your television, then you’re part of the problem, instead of the solution.

Over the long run, defections will accelerate and eventually they’ll be forced to abandon their annual price increases, but until then it’s clear that the pay tv industry is going to milk consumers for as much as you will let them. The only silver lining that I see in all of this, is that a 5% increase for the pay television industry is equivalent to a 50% increase in what Netflix’s charges for a digital subscription. This should give Netflix a lot of room to remain competitive while poaching the digital living room.

It’s Time For Netflix To Say Goodnight To Silverlight

In 2006, Netflix scored a grand slam when they announced a $1 million prize for anyone who could improve their recommendation engine by at least 10%. It took 3 years for a team of scientists to actually accomplish this feat, but the prize was ultimately worth far more than a million dollars in publicity and to Netflix’s bottom line. Better recommendations not only led to happier subscribers (less churn), but they also made it easier for Netflix to sell the niche content that they spend less money on. Recognizing the benefit that they received from the contest, Netflix was quick to announce a sequel, but ultimately had to suspend their plans over privacy concerns.

While a contest to replace Silverlight likely wouldn’t garner as much attention, I believe that the financial benefit to replacing this outdated codec, would be just as significant.

Some will argue that I’m being tough on poor old Softie and that Silverlight represents some of the best video compression out there, but consider my logic for a moment. From the way I see it, Silverlight has two basic flaw. It’s buggy as all get out and it’s a bandwidth thief.

The screenshot posted above is a real life example that I encountered of Silverlight in action. All codecs are prone to errors of course, but look at all the hoops Netflix makes their customers jump through just to support a buggy piece of software. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to restart my browser after a Silverlightning strike, I’d probably have .35 cents by now. Seriously, I have less trouble with Real Network’s codec and that’s saying a lot. Instead of putting up with these kinds of errors, Netflix should be actively searching for a more reliable alternative.

Given Netflix’s runaway success, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the big telco companies are running scared. While usage based pricing hasn’t hit the US yet, the Canadian telcos were very quick to raise rates the minute Netflix invaded their territory. When you consider how many internet service providers also sell video, it’s clear that Netflix will need a way to undercut these tactics, especially if they plan on expanding internationally. Currently, an SD movie over Silverlight clocks in at approximately 2 Gigs, while an HD movie will cost the user 3Gbs towards their cap. If Netflix could reduce the size of a movie file by 50% – 75%, without sacrificing quality, they could end the usage based meter for their customers, while also undermining a critical future component to their latest competitors’ business model.

Getting Hollywood to sign off on an outsourced video codec could be a potential problem for Netflix, but even if they were able to gradually ween their customers away from Silverlight by delivering independent films with the new technology, the benefit could still be substantial. Given how little they pay for traffic, they probably wouldn’t save $1 million on their bandwidth bill, but being able to stop telcos from nickle and diming Netflix’s members would be priceless and would help to future proof their business.

Has The DMCA Created A Legal Bermuda Triangle For Downloads?

For the last several years, the entertainment industry has been doing their darndest to put The Pirate Bay out of business. Whether it’s been suing TPB’s users, going after TPB’s hosting providers or trying to make the site’s founders criminally liable for the behavior of their customers, it’s clear that TPB doesn’t have many friends in Hollywood. More recently, we’ve seen a legal settlement industry spring up where mass lawsuits are threatened against consumers for allegedly participating in P2P activities. Whether or not the entertainment industry has been successful in these endeavours is open to interpretation, but in their zeal to put an end to filesharing, they may have created an even more dangerous monster.

One could argue that it all started with YouTube, but over the past few years we’ve seen a shift in consumer behavior away from P2P and towards streaming and downloading services. To see proof of this trend, all one has to do is compare the traffic of TPB with the streaming/downloading search engine FilesTube.

According to Compete.com, over the last year FilesTube.com has been able to consistently attract 50% more visitors than TPB. Not too shaby of a feat considering that Filestube.com didn’t even exist 3 years ago.

Given their animosity towards TPB, one would think that entertainment executives would be celebrating the cultural decline of TPB with a round of cold beers and high fives, but the reality is that instead of curbing piracy, they’re merely redirecting that illicit traffic towards safe harbors where consumers don’t appear to be at risk. In the immortal words of Princess Leia, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers”

By continuing to squeeze P2P users with countless numbers of lawsuits, the entertainment industry may have been able to establish a precedent that uploading content to the internet is a copyright violation, but what’s less clear is whether or not simply downloading that same content is actually illegal?

According to the Copyright.Gov FAQ website, “Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. ” [Emphasis added by me]

Setting aside the ethical question of whether or not it’s moral to download grey area content, it is clear that US Copyright law places some restrictions on infringing downloads vs. legitimate ones. From the same FAQ page,

Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law.” [Emphasis added by me]

Now I’m not a legal beagle, but I believe that this means that consumers can’t be prosecuted for downloading a movie, if the service they are using claims to be offering content with the blessing of the legal copyright owner. For example when I’m streaming (making a cached copy) of old episodes of Battlestar Galactica from Netflix, I’m not actually breaking the law because I have a reasonable belief that Netflix has licensed this movie for their subscribers.

Since many streaming sites are largely controlled by the company that is paying for the bandwidth, it would be relatively easy for the studios to hold these companies accountable if they did stray off of the straight and narrow path. Where the legal waters become more murky though is when service providers (streaming companies) allow others to upload content instead of taking charge of this themselves.

With YouTube receiving 35 hours of content per second, it would be impossible for them to screen every second of footage that is uploaded to their site. Because of this the DMCA offers YouTube a safe harbor as long as they respond to DMCA takedown requests and don’t encourage piracy. To date we’ve seen several lawsuits that have tried to challenge this exemption, but so far they’ve all been a bust for the entertainment industry.

So on one side of this digital triangle you have consumers who are exempt from legal liability as long as the service provider requires uploaders to claim ownership of everything that they upload, on the other side of the triangle you have the service providers who are exempt from liability as long as they respond to DMCA request and don’t uploading anything themselves and on the final side of the triangle you have the content owners themselves who must choose between trying to police an endless stream of piracy or to quietly embrace the millions of consumers who are now streaming their television instead of paying for cable.

In a perfect world, only the actual copyright owners would be uploading their content to these digital locker services, but because sites like Megavideo.com pay users based upon the number of plays their videos get, there is an economic incentive for rouge operatives to cheat the system by claiming content as their own. To Megavideo’s credit, they have a history of refusing to pay copyright violators, but from a practical standpoint there are many who’ve been able to collect royalties on other people’s content.

Also to Megavideo’s credit, the entertainment industry has a long history of embracing “piracy” while staying in the closet about this. For example, when Viacom sued YouTube for copyright infringement, some of the clips they sued over were uploaded by Viacom employee’s themselves. It would hardly seem fair to hold either YouTube or consumers who watched those clips liable for copyright infringement when Viacom was creating a honeypot to tempt web surfers with.

Some will argue that content owners would never do this, but there are many reasons why someone would choose to embrace piracy and the popularity that it can bring a film. Whether you’re trying to jumpstart a struggling TV series or you’re trying to increase licensing opportunities, just because someone doesn’t pay to view a video doesn’t necessarily mean that the creator won’t benefit from that attention.

One of the things I’ve noticed when browsing through the FileTube.com search results is that often times studios will be unrelentingly aggressive about filing DMCA takedown requests the minute infringing files are uploaded while other files will remain online for over a year without even being “noticed.” While it would be tough to argue that 100% of these files are being monetized by the original copyright holders, I do believe that many copyright holders have chosen to secretly monetize their content in this way, but aren’t able to publicly disclose this because of how it might impact their negotiations with more traditional video distributors.

While the uploaders who falsely claim ownership of copyrighted material certainly put themselves at legal risk, with most of the uploading activity occurring outside of US borders, it’s unlikely that many infringers will find themselves being dragged into US court.

Some will cry foul over this latest trend, but I do find it fascinating how alternative business models can thrive when copyright issues aren’t strangling internet startups.

For example, one of the unique ways that Megavideo is able to sell memberships for their service is by letting consumers watch a certain amount of video each day for free before being interrupted with a time out. By running their business this way, they are able to use each and every video as an advertisement for their paid service. Since you may be 80% of the way through a movie when the time limit hits, a consumer is given the opportunity to ask themselves whether or not the content is really worth paying for to see right away or if it is a piece of garbage that you don’t care about finishing anyway.

Can you imagine if you were able to go to a movie theater and didn’t have to pay for your ticket until you had already watched 80% of the film? It would probably hurt ticket sales for a lot of the big budget flops, but the really well made movies would be incredibly successful because they’d be able to convert a larger percentage of those free eyeballs into paying customers.

Whether or not content owners are embracing this business model may be unclear, but by aggressively pursuing P2P users, the entertainment industry has made it clear that downloading without uploading is a much safer alternative for consumers then participating in the P2P movement. As technology marches forward, we’ll find out whether or not this Bermudian Copyright triangle gets sorted out, but in the meantime the efforts to prosecute P2P users, only seems to be driving consumers from a clunky bandwidth intensive technological solution to offshore providers who are offering a more elegant experience.

It’s probably worth pointing out that the MPAA has claimed that movie streaming is still considered a form of theft, but instead of backing up their position by citing the appropriate copyright laws, they instead try to equate digital streaming with physical theft.

The problem with this position is that companies like Sony (one of the MPAA founding partners) is apparently offering a shoplifters paradise in the form of all you can stream free movies on their Crackle.com website. Other MPAA partners like 20th Century Fox have not only made their movies available online at their official sites, but have also licensed their content to a number of different distributors like Comcast’s Fancast.com. Since it would be impossible for the end consumer to know the contractual details of every one of these down stream relationships, it would hardly seem fair to hold the consumer liable if someone uploaded a clip that actually infringed.

While I’m entirely open to exploring other opinions that downloading (without uploading) is still a copyright violation, I’ve yet to see any legal evidence indicating that this is actually the case. What do you think, when you hit play on a Simpson’s clip on YouTube have you actually committed a crime?

Comcast Raises DVR Prices For East Bay Residents Yet Again

I think that most people realize that TiVo is about 1000 times better than the DVR that you get from your cable company, yet the cable companies still continue to rent out their DVRs by the truckload. This mostly has to do with the convenience of getting your set top box directly from your television provider, but some are under the false impression that they are saving money by renting their DVR instead of buying.

I was recently perusing my Comcast bill and noticed that they are once again raising prices on their DVR packages. At. $19.95 per month, it’s still 48 cents less per year than what TiVo currently charges for a TiVo premiere with no up front cost, yet millions of people still put up with a sub-par DVR experience at virtually the same price. Over the last 10 years, I remember TiVo raising prices once, over the same period it feels like Comcast has raised prices every 6 months. On the surface, $19.95 per month for a DVR may not sound like a lot, but thanks to the most recent rate changes, it now costs East Bay Comcast customers more to record their television each month, than it does to subscribe to their basic TV service.

It would be one thing, if Comcast was using your $240 per year in DVR fees to keep improving their DVR experience, but anyone whose used the device knows that it still suffers from severe lockups and buggy/slow interactions. Heck, even if the cable dinosaurs wanted to innovate, because of how much money they pay the content industry, they’re still prevented from offering services like Netflix on their DVRs.

Using Netflix + Pandora To Reinvent The Silent Film

Full disclosure: I’ve always been a huge fan of the rock opera. Tommy, Ziggy Stardust, yes even Aqualung. Some may celebrate the rise of the individual download, but I miss the concept albums that were designed to entertain for more than 3 minutes. I’m also a big fan of cinema. Even beyond the entertainment factor, I love being able to look into the past and see the shadows that film has left behind.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoy watching old films, the soundtracks during the silent era are almost unbearable. The Jazz and Ragtime ballads may have been popular in their day, but they usually cause me to fall asleep within 20 minutes of starting a silent film. Because of this, I’ve more or less ignored nearly 2 decades worth of cinematic history, so when I saw Reddit user Feverdream post the following suggestion, you can understand why it may have caught my interest.

“[1]Put on silent movie “Metropolis” on Netflix [2]turn down volume [3]Custom quickmix on Pandora in a separate tab [5 6 7 8 9 ...]“

After trying out the instructions exactly, I’m proud to report that the results were amazing. In and of itself, Metropolis is a fantastic film. As a sci-fi fan, I’m really happy that I was able to see it. Even today, it’s probably still 30 years ahead of it’s time. When I combined it with music that was relevant to me, the film took on a life of it’s own. Just like when you sync Pink Floyd’s dark side of the moon with the Wizard of Oz, there were all kinds of intersections where the film and the music collided. It almost felt as if my custom Pandora mix had been made exclusively for that film.

What’s even better about the experience is that it’s not just limited to the film Metropolis. You can literally mash up any silent film on Netflix with a Pandora custom mix and it creates a very personalized experience. The dialogue, the acting and the plot all remain unchanged, but the addition of music that you actually enjoy creates a different sort of connection when watching the film. Throughout my experience, I noticed that my mind seemed to drift more. Instead of getting distracted by the explosions and witty one liners, I was actually thinking about the plot and trying to anticipate each step. It was as if the music was forcing the story to play out in my mind instead of on the screen.

Netflix only has about 25 silent films on their watch instantly service right now, but since you can sort by star rating, it’s pretty easy to find the ones that you’re most likely to enjoy. YouTube also has a pretty impressive collection of public domain silent films for those interested in playing at home.