Netflix Customers Outraged at Price Hike

 Blu-Ray, Budget, Computers and Technology, DVD, General Ranting  Comments Off on Netflix Customers Outraged at Price Hike
Jul 132011
 

If Netflix had filed Tuesday’s price-hike news in a movie genre, it would be either drama or horror.

U.S. customers of the DVD-by-mail and Web-streaming service are storming the Internet to protest Netflix’s plan to increase the prices of its most popular packages.

“The changes you guys have made in the last 4-6 months have turned me from a serious Netflix Geek into considering cancellation. It’s a damn shame,” wrote a customer named Justin Block, one of almost 6,000 commenters on Netflix’s blog.

Netflix’s Facebook page attracted more than 28,000 comments as of Wednesday morning, most of them critical of the move. And thousands of consumers were voicing complaints under #DearNetflix on Twitter.

Netflix has adjusted its offerings, separating physical disc mailings from Internet video. DVD-only subscriptions start at $7.99 per month, the same price as a streaming-only plan. But a monthly plan that combines physical DVDs with Web streaming costs almost $16 — a 60% price increase.

For prospective customers, the new pricing structure went into effect on Tuesday. For current subscribers, the rates will change on September 1.

Netflix, which did not respond to a request for comment, outlined the adjustment in a company blog post. In the message, a spokeswoman was very upbeat, describing each plan as “a terrific value.”

Commenters weren’t as enthusiastic.

“The only way that this is terrific for the customer is if you plan to offer your entire collection available for streaming,” wrote Scotty Fagaly, a self-described longtime customer whose comment was “liked” more than 4,800 times. “Otherwise, this is just yet another way to choke more change out of your customers.”

Netflix has more than 23 million subscribers. The company has a very popular online streaming program that’s available on dozens of electronic devices, including computers, video-game systems, television set-top boxes, smartphones and tablets.

In Canada, Netflix offers only the streaming service, not the DVD mailings.

However, the streaming program’s convenience and ubiquity is sometimes overshadowed by its dearth of quality movies available for streaming, relative to those contained in Netflix’s extensive DVD catalog.

“I realize Netflix cannot stream what the studios do not allow, but this is a disparity that really should be acknowledged in the price scheme,” wrote Travis McClain, a decade-long Netflix subscriber who felt compelled to express his frustrations on the company’s website.

The price hike came shortly after Sony Pictures Entertainment pulled its films from Netflix’s streaming program last month — a move Netflix maintains is “temporary.”

Rivals Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and other online subscription programs have failed to match the size of Netflix’s catalog.

However, Netflix can’t fall asleep on the couch. The cost to license from Hollywood is likely to increase substantially as deals expire and Netflix gains more influence on the studios’ businesses, analysts say.

As a workaround, Netflix plans to ink exclusive licensing deals with high-profile producers, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said at a technology conference last month. For starters, the company will broadcast “House of Cards,” a show starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, maker of “Fight Club” and “The Social Network.”

Media executives have not been bashful in their recent panning of Netflix.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wasn’t convinced about Netflix’s impact on the industry, he said at a recent event hosted by Fortune magazine. Likewise, Jeffrey Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, which is working on competing initiatives with HBO Go and TV Everywhere, likened Netflix to the unthreatening Albanian army. Time Warner also owns CNN.

In this case, Netflix is likely in search of additional revenue to offset the growing bandwidth and infrastructure costs, analysts say.

Until now, customers have been getting streaming services at a bargain, said Robert Levitan, the CEO of Pando Networks, a firm that provides streaming software to gaming companies and previously to NBC Universal.

“Consumers have an unlimited appetite for consuming streaming right now,” Levitan said. “We all tend to think, as consumers, that we just click ‘play,’ and it comes down. We don’t realize the physical and financial costs of serving that data.”

Among many consumers, Netflix is beloved. The company has ranked No. 1 for customer satisfaction in four consecutive years, according to surveys by market research firm ForeSee Results. But Amazon.com, which recently launched its own video-streaming service, narrowly edged Netflix in the most recent annual survey.

DVD and Blu-Ray Extras Fall Short

 Blu-Ray, DVD, General Ranting  Comments Off on DVD and Blu-Ray Extras Fall Short
Apr 102009
 

Extras, included with DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray have seriously
lost their luster, at least for me. In the early days of DVD, I would wade
through the extras, including the commentaries as if the movie itself simply
didn’t justify the purchase without them. I eagerly purchased the multiple disc
versions and watched in astonishment when others selected the single disc
version, geez, anyone can see that 2 discs are better than one.

More than a decade later I simply don’t care, I watch the
movie and remove the disc from the player with very few exceptions. The
exceptions are when I know there is a great gag reel or short movie, like the
squirrel in the Ice Age movies or the penguins from Madagascar. I admit, I
can’t get enough of the penguins, or the squirrel, or any number of Shrek sing
along shorts. These my friends are the rare exception to the rule.

Blu-Ray (and once upon a time HD-DVD) promised to provide a
huge leap forward in the extras department, BD Live removed the limitations
that disc space once  enforced, so why
then am I still so severely underwhelmed by the extras? Easy, they suck, they
have no imagination and outside of the rare exception, they, oh I already said
it.

There are commentaries I must have, all of which are found
on the excellent Criterion versions, these guys know how to spruce up a movie.
Kevin Smith commentaries are also worth a listen just for the laughs. The vast
majority of commentaries however are worthless, they might as well mike up one
of my dogs, the sloppy licking sounds would be far more entertaining and
provide more information.

Gag reels should give us a few laughs, hence the term gag
reel. Somewhere along the line the need to include extras lost focus and the
gag reel is now more likely to make us gag than laugh. While not a great piece
of cinematic art, Marley & Me should have been able to piece together a
good or even great reel. I was saddened by its complete lack of funny however.

There is one gag reel I must mention as excelling, once
again, not a great cinematic treasure but one of my biggest guilty pleasures. Armageddon’s
criterion 2 disc set has the funniest reel I have ever seen. Bruce Willis and
Billy Bob Thornton  are a couple of very
funny guys, give this one a chance, you won’t regret it.

Blu-Ray is a huge improvement in picture and audio, so why
is it failing so miserably at delivering the interactive extras it promised us?
Lack of creativity is the best I have been able to come up with but I am sure
there is an accountant behind the scenes who hasn’t laughed in 20 years and
would prefer to keep the rest of us from doing so as well.

Studios, are you listening? Give us something to smile
about, show us the awe and wonder you promised. We love the improved picture
and sound but for the extra bucks to get the Blu-Ray disc, well, give us something
that really blows our socks off.

The Second Half of the Film, The Soundtrack

 Blu-Ray, DVD, Home Theater  Comments Off on The Second Half of the Film, The Soundtrack
Mar 122009
 

Movies are designed to place you deep inside their world, well good movies are. Watching a movie on a large television or even projector is a wonderful experience but the picture only tells half the story. Movie soundtracks envelope you, they bring out emotions, surround you in their make believe world, and complete the fantasy.

If you are listening to movies on the speakers in your television or on a cheap, uncalibrated sound system you are missing the movie. From the explosive sound effects to the softest whisper, a good sound system brings the movie to life.

Films are NOT a visual medium, they are a combination of video and audio. If you haven’t watched your favorite films, no matter what the genre, in the theater or a home theater with a full 5.1 sound system, then you need to do so, right now. The difference is night and day. The importance of the sound track to telling a story on film was known even before talkies came out. Music was always played during the showing, music designed specifically for the film and timed to elicit the emotion, the action, the laughter being displayed on the screen.

Don’t cheat yourself by cutting out the second half of a film, bring them to life in a whole new way. Experience the entire artistic vision of the director and invest in a sound system worthy of the movies you love.

 

The Return of Pan and Scan for the 21st Century

 Blu-Ray, DVD, General Ranting  Comments Off on The Return of Pan and Scan for the 21st Century
Mar 092009
 

For years I have preached about the evils of pan-and -scan. Thanks to VHS and the public’s inability to endure any movie that didn’t fill their entire 4:3 screen, pan-and-scan became the way we endured movies, even the early days of DVD were filled with the criminal act. Criterion had the vision and guts to start releasing movies in their original aspect ratio during their beginning with Laserdisc and eventually helped all of the studios see the value of putting out DVD’s in their pristine and full aspect ratio.

Aside from the occasional release that comes in both flavors, pan-and-scan has slowly vanished, thanks in part to the popularity of HDTV with its  16:9 aspect ratio. Now a new evil has started to find its way onto DVD and Blu-Ray. The most current release of Gulliver’s travels, a movie with an original aspect of 4:3, has been released in an altered 16:9 format.

No movie should be changed from its directors vision, in any way. I don’t want to see any of Stanley Kubrick’s 4:3 films in 16:9,  that wasn’t what he wanted, that wasn’t his vision.  The general public needs to be educated all over again it seems… wait, that isn’t it at all.

The studios need to be smashed over the head for this idiotic practice and belief that John Q Public won’t accept black bars on their screen. People have finally come to understand that some movies don’t fit their screen. If they don’t like it they can select from a number of options to stretch the picture (a practice I am appalled by but tolerate) and fill their screen. It makes no sense whatsoever to leave those of us who wish to see the movie as it was presented on the big screen.

I am hoping this practice dies quickly and I certainly won’t be purchasing movies, in any format that don’t present the movie properly. Take a stand and force the studios to do the right thing, skip the purchase until the movie is offered in the format it was filmed for.

I will go into the lesser evil of not offering original sound tracks in a later article, it upsets me just as much however so be prepared for another rant.

Genesis (1970-1975) a Gift for the Fans

 DVD, Music Review  Comments Off on Genesis (1970-1975) a Gift for the Fans
Feb 242009
 

Genesis (1970-1975)  is a dream come true for any early Genesis or Peter Gabriel fan. The early works of Genesis, with Peter Gabriel at the helm showcases the artistic vision and showman ship Gabriel brought to every show, every song, and just about everything in his life.

Gabriel put on exotic costumes and brought shows to a standstill with 30 minute poetry readings or political rants. This made him a little hard to swallow, especially for his band mates, it eventually broke the band apart and ushered Phil Collins to the front of the stage from behind his drum kit.

This is where I left Genesis behind, no longer relevant in my  mind as they began to pump out pop candy like an 80s hit machine, a bad one, at least in my opinion. The early years hinted strongly at the creative powers of Gabriel, the showmanship, and the production mastery that became focused during the 80s and downright masterful in the 90s and beyond.

This 7-CD, 6-DVD box set sounds wonderful. The surround mixes are aggressive, letting Gabriel’s artistic vision flow around the room, recreating the energy and feel of the music. The surround mixes are hit and miss, you will find favorites throughout. The CD versions are solid and well mastered, placing the listener at the front of the band.

If you are a fan of early Genesis and Peter Gabriel, this is a no brainer purchase. Order your copy today and let the music pull you back in time, to the birth of a master, a true artist who is finding his legs in these recordings.