You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Digital Viewing Transition: The Rise of Netflix

Digital Viewing Transition: The Rise of Netflix

Thompson on Hollywood

In their excellent year-ahead discussion on KCRW’s The Business, host Kim Masters and guests John Horn (the LAT) and Michael Schneider (Variety) agreed that 2011 marks a watershed year in the transition from traditional to digital viewing choices. They think the shift will come faster for movies than television. “The studios are burning along with huge overhead and a lot of movies that aren’t working,” says Masters, a confessed Luddite who defends theater-going.

“This year could be the year the movie theaters become the record store,” argues Horn, who says the hopelessly old-fashioned movie industry is driven by economics.

“The revolution won’t be televised this year,” says Schneider, while admitting that Netflix and Google TV are enough to give network executives serious anxiety. “There hasn’t been a lot of evidence of cord-cutting, but that’s what the networks want to hold off…we’re dealing with fire here.”

In my household, at least, last Christmas Santa delivered a PS3 for blu-ray viewing, Netflix streaming (with disc) and Rock Band (which was a hit with me, my daughter and our friends). But we never did get the PS3 to connect to the internet via wifi. Under the tree this Christmas was a TiVo upgrade with HD, broadband, Amazon VOD, YouTube viewing, and instant Netflix streaming. (Check out J. Walter Thompson’s things to look for in 2011.)

Oprah’s OWN Network (which made a strong debut New Year’s weekend; see Caryn James’ review), True Blood, 30 Rock and Boardwalk Empire all look way better in HD. If I upgrade my sound system, my home entertainment center will be ship shape. Consumers like me only make things tougher for theater owners, who are fighting to keep the studios from shortening their ancillary windows.

While I am not close to considering cutting my cable cord, I do know many folks without cable who watch TV and movies via Netflix, iTunes and Hulu on their laptops. My daughter is watching the first season of Madmen now. But this story forecasting huge numbers of viewers abandoning cable due to Netflix streaming seems overstated.

The home page of Netflix (streaming instantly…) invites you to “connect devices like these [Wii, PS3, Xbox 360] to your Netflix account to watch instantly on your TV. Watch as often as you want, whenever you want. Plus watch instantly on iPad and iPhone too!” Netflix has been making more big deals with the likes of Starz. Niche films especially are doing well on Netflix.

Meanwhile, our family gained two Kindles this Christmas, but my tech-savvy college student daughter is more resistant than I expected. Maybe the e-book revolution will take longer than people think.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,



I’m something of a dinosaur in that I still watch a lot of VHS tapes, although I have at least entered the Blu-ray era, thanks to a Christmas gift from my thoughtful nephews. I know a lot of people who watch movies and TV via Netflix streaming, DVR, and websites like, etc. My problem is that I’m attached to physical media. I like to know that a particular film or series episode is in my collection, something I can pick up and hold in my hand. When I need to seek out a particular film, I just go to my VHS or DVD shelves and pull it out. I teach college classes and do public presentations that require film clips and I’ve never learned how to transfer stuff to disc or computer files. I always make sure there’s both a DVD player and a VCR on site. DVDs are difficult to use in public presentations because you have to wait for the FBI logo to pass and the menu to appear and you have to set up subtitles and audio choices and you have to pick your clips based on chapter stops. VHS tapes are easy to use: you cue them up in advance, pop the tape in and press “play” and there’s your clip. One young co-worker who saw a presentation I did kept urging me to put everything on computer disc or file. But the problem with that is that you can’t improvise or change clips in mid-stream, which is something I like to have the freedom to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to teach with something other than tapes or discs.

There’s probably a way to make it easier for someone like me, but none of the techies I know seem to have any clue how to make things easier. Or at least they don’t know how to explain it in a language I can understand. As far as I can tell, it always just gets more complicated with every new “upgrade” and every new format. I’ve seen far more screw-ups at presentations involving computer discs or files than I ever did at events relying on physical media like 16mm film or videotape. I work in a TV station and we have to accommodate a multitude of new delivery formats. And we have far more problems than we did in the days when everything was on the old 3/4″ U-matic tape format. The techies don’t always know best.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *