Archive for the ‘DVD’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (24 January 2016)

Sunday, January 24th, 2016
PC Build - Boxes

PC Building Step 1: Find a place to store a lot of boxes

A pretty quiet week. I wonder if it’s because of MLK Day, but certainly the news stories only started to flow at the end of the week, too late to make it into this edition of the WNR.

Some update on the PC build front – all the parts have finally arrived, and the build can begin proper. Keep on eye out for our series of blog posts on this, which will feature plenty of hints and tips for those looking to start on their own build. In the meantime, feast your eyes on these glorious pics (of a very messy section of my office).

PC Build - Boxes, close up

Let’s get started with this very short WNR.

Copyright

Smartphone Music Headphones

People may be using piracy to sample new music

Some would like you to be believe that piracy is always bad, and that it always leads to losses for the rights-holders. There are also those that say piracy is never harmful, and it may even be beneficial. But like most things in life, the truth lies somewhere between these two extreme, and it’s far more complicated than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.

And so concludes a new study which looked at (admittedly old data, from 2008) piracy and how it relates to sales, and found that piracy does indeed negatively affect sales, but can also boost sales at times. According to the paper, piracy affects physical purchases, while helping digital sales, and the least well known artists have more to lose than those that are more popular. This last point is interesting, as it seems to suggest that pirates are picking and choosing which music they pirate, and once they do that, which music they end up paying for. It’s almost as if they’re treating piracy as a discovery tool, to trial new music without having to pay the full price. Good, popular music have less to lose from piracy (and may even gain from it, thanks to the word-of-mouth effect), while bad or unpopular music aren’t being purchased when there’s a free pirated version around.

This is perhaps why Spotify and others like it has become so popular, so quickly, especially among (former) pirates. Spotify is giving them the chance to discover new music without having to be out of pocket, the difference now being that, thanks to ad-supported listening, the artists can get something out of it. Not much, but certainly more than what they would get from piracy. But if you make bad music nobody wants, don’t be surprised that people will listen to it on Spotify and not pay for it.

High Definition

Jurassic World Blu-ray

Jurassic World was 2015’s biggest Blu-ray release

With news hard to come by this week, I finally had the time to write the 2015 Blu-ray sales analysis article, Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2015. Based stats that I’ve been posting weekly through the entire year, and comparing with the same stats from a year ago, the conclusion definitely seem to point to 2013 being Blu-ray’s peak year in terms of sales revenue. Things have been going backwards for two year’s in a row now (although 2015’s decline was slower than that experienced in 2014), despite there being no lack of big titles, including Big Hero 6The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesFurious 7Jurassic World and Minions. Jurassic World was the title to beat in 2015 though (just like The Force Awakens is likely to be hard to beat in 2016), not surprising considering that at the time of its release, it was the third biggest movie in history. There was nothing like it in 2014, and yet Blu-ray revenue was still higher then.

Of course, falling Blu-ray prices contribute to the decline in revenue, but the digital evolution is obviously having an effect too, especially considering you can get pretty good quality HD (and even 4K) from most of the digital outlets, including streaming.

Will Ultra HD Blu-ray lift Blu-ray revenue out from its steady decline? Probably not. There’s just not enough display hardware, and software available in 2016 to make a huge difference, and even if it turns out to be a mainstream success, all it will do is to eat into standard Blu-ray and DVD sales number, without necessarily creating new customers (like DVD did when it first came out). I think the people that will dig Ultra HD and 4K, are those that are already heavily invested into Blu-ray – they will spend money, maybe a little bit more money than normal on Ultra HD, but the average Joe is already looking way from discs, towards streaming and downloads.

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And I’m already looking away from my monitor, towards getting my new build up and running. See you next week!

 

Blu-ray: The State of Play – 2015

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Welcome to another edition of our annual Blu-ray sales analysis, where we look at how Blu-ray has performed over the last year. We’ve updated the format of this article slightly to hopefully try and make it clearer, while removing graphs that we think are no longer particularly relevant or useful.

The data used in this analysis derives from our weekly updates, based on figures released by Home Media Magazine. Some of the historical figures you’ll see have also been adjusted, due to slight tweaking of the metrics used by HMM to create these sets of data, although the changes have been very subtle and does not change the bigger picture in any way.

For 2014, we saw for the first time since the Blu-ray format’s inception a decline in revenue compared to the previous year, and at that time, we called 2014 “the year that Blu-ray went backwards”. We declared boldly at that time that it appears Blu-ray’s popularity had peaked in 2013. Were we premature in proclaiming “peak Blu-ray” had been reached, or will Blu-ray make a come-back in 2015? Read on to find out!

Blu-ray Market Share

As has been the case with all of our “Blu-ray: The State of Play” reports in the past, we start with the ever wider Blu-ray Market Share graph. Blu-ray market share represents weekly Blu-ray sales as a percentage of total packaged disc sales. So a Blu-ray market share of 45% means that 45% of all disc packages sold in that week contained a Blu-ray disc (inversely, this also means that 55% of disc packages sold only contained the DVD version of the content). In the graph below, we also point out some of the more obvious milestone releases. 2015’s major releases, at least those that had a significant impact on Blu-ray market share for the week that they were released, were Big Hero 6The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesFurious 7Jurassic World and Minions, and notable mentions to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Interstellar, Fifty Shade of Grey, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Inside Out.

 

Blu-ray Sales Percentage – 4 May 2008 to 26 December 2015

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2015 – Click to see larger version

Note that because Blu-ray market share is proportional to DVD market share, any drop in DVD sales will also result in a higher Blu-ray market share, even if Blu-ray sales are steady. With DVD on a steady decline, Blu-ray market share will continue to rise as long as it’s own sales decline is slower than that of DVD’s.

Below is the same data condensed and with a trend line added. As you can see, Blu-ray market looked to be on the way down until the second half (or rather, the last quarter) of 2015, when the big releases started coming out (starting with Furious 7). The big peak you see in graph below, which represents the current time record in terms of Blu-ray market share, came in the week Jurassic World was released (Blu-ray market share of 48.62%), a movie which, had it not been for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, would have been this year’s biggest movie, and the 3rd biggest of all time worldwide (now down the 4th). Star Wars could break this record again when it is released in March or April, most likely.

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2015

Blu-ray Market Share – 2008 to 2015

Blu-ray Revenue

For actual revenue, unfortunately, no records were broken as you can see from the graph below. The peak you see in the graph below again corresponds to the two important sales period, the Black Friday/Cyber Monday week, and the pre-Christmas sales period. 2015’s peaks are comparable, if not slightly higher than that for 2014, but neither of the past two years could compete with 2013. So our earlier premise that 2013 was the peak year for Blu-ray appears to be holding true.

Outside of the two major peaks, the other significant weeks came in the weeks that Furious 7 and Jurassic World were released.

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2015

Blu-ray Revenue Growth – 2010 to 2015

2014 vs 2015 Comparison

So let’s take a closer look at how 2015 did compared to 2014, starting with Blu-ray market share as shown in the graph below. It’s much easier to see the initial decline and then major rise in market share from first half of 2015 to the second half. Those big releases mentioned earlier had a major effect on Blu-ray market share,

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Market Share: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

Revenue wise, the differences between 2014 and 2015 were less visible – certainly the first part of 2015 were disappointing for Blu-ray, but the second half at the very least matched, and often beat, the performances of 2014.

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

Blu-ray Sales Revenue: 2014 vs 2015 Comparison

We can get a clearer picture by looking at the raw numbers. Out of the 52 weeks in 2015, 31 of them had a weekly revenue lower than the same week in 2014. 21 weeks recorded a revenue result that was higher than the same week in 2014 (with 11 of these weeks coming in the last four months of the year). This is an improvement compared to last year, when 35 weeks performed poorer than the same weeks in 2013. So if Blu-ray is in decline, the decline definitely slowed in 2015.

But did total Blu-ray revenue decline in 2015? Unfortunately, it did. Total Blu-ray revenue for 2014 was $2.156 billion, compared to $2.041 billion in 2015, a decline of 5.35%. This makes 2015 only the second year in which there was a year-on-year revenue decline, since Blu-ray was first launched in 2006.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • Blu-ray market share grew, but it may largely be due to the decline in DVD than any rise in Blu-ray sales
  • Jurassic World was the title to beat in 2015
  • Blu-ray revenue declines for the second year running

These results seem to confirm that 2013 was indeed the peak for Blu-ray sales. 2016 will be an interesting year, with Ultra HD Blu-ray coming onto the scene (still unsure how sales will be tracked at this point), and with a couple of big releases already lined up (Spectre, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, The Martian …), not to mention the tent-pole releases of 2016 (Batman vs Superman, Star Trek 3, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse …), it’s hard to say whether we will see a small bounce in 2016, or whether the decline will continue.

Weekly News Roundup (15 November 2015)

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

First things first. Our hearts and thoughts are with all of those affected by the tragic events in Paris. It’s times like this that makes you truly reflect what’s important in your life, and makes you appreciated all the little things that make life a simple joy. As for what happens now, I really don’t know, but I do hope that we start discussing the tough questions, the ones about why it has become too easy for young people to want to be, and to actually be radicalized, and also to seriously examine what the best course of action is when you’re fighting an enemy that’s mostly just an idea. An insidious, evil idea, that somehow has become far too attractive for far too many.

It’s hard to still consider anything that I usually write here important after the events in Paris, but we all have to continue doing what we have to do, what we want to do, to continue to love, to show compassion, to be kind and understanding – that’s how we show those that want to divide us that they will never win.

Copyright

Privacy

There’s no room for privacy concerns according to the MPAA

Now, I’ve written a lot over the years about the piracy issue. From time to time, when I’m especially tired or drunk or both, I accidentally write ‘privacy’ instead of piracy. So instead of writing “The MPAA hates piracy”, I might write “The MPAA hates privacy”. Fortunately, this is now much less of a problem because the MPAA now also hates privacy (not a typo).

Those pesky Europeans and their privacy laws that protect their citizen’s rights, are giving the MPAA a headache when it comes to going after the pirates. The MPAA made the complaint to the USTR, something they do every year to let the US Trade Representative know all the things that annoy Hollywood around the world. But the EU’s new directives that adds extra privacy protection to IP addresses and the removal of mandatory data retention, means that the MPAA now has to work a lot harder to get what they want. Just exactly what that is, I’m not sure, because it sounds like the MPAA is mad they’re no longer able to go after individual downloaders, but that has never worked to stop piracy, and to be fair, the MPAA has never engaged in this kind of legal activity. If they wanted to go after the piracy site operators, then they already have the tools to do that (see the Popcorn Time/YIFY story last week).

So basically, it’s just the MPAA trying to blame someone or something else for their woes. Something they’ll do again this time next year.

High Definition

DVD vs Blu-ray vs 4K

4K is gaining momentum, but discs are on the slide

Moving on to digital video stuff, it appears that sales of Ultra HD TVs have gotten off to a good start, despite the relatively small amount of available Ultra HD/4K content.

(While I’m here, I would just like to further clarify the differences between the term “Ultra HD”, which is more of a marketing term, and 4K. 4K refers to 4000 horizontal pixels of resolution, most commonly available in the resolution 4096 x 2160. Ultra HD is actually just shy of 4K, in the more accessible 16:9 resolution of 3840 x 2160 – basically double both the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p. The more you know!)

There definitely doesn’t seem to be the kind of price premium you usually associated with new tech that’s with 4K TV (I managed to pick up one, albeit a budget crappy one, for less than $300 just recently), and while the much needed content hasn’t yet arrived in disc form, it’s already available via streaming.

And that’s exactly the problem facing discs at the moment, with the latest Q3 home entertainment earnings report showing that, for the first time ever, revenue from streaming has risen above that for packaged media. In fact, almost everything related to digital was on the up, while almost everything related to packaged media was on the slide.

When everything was added up together, total revenue was little changed, which just goes to show that the transition seems to be going smoothly.

Gaming

Xbox One Halo 5 Edition

Halo 5 has helped the Xbox One beat the PS4 in October

The October NPD results are in and once again the PS4 was the best .. wait a second, that’s not what actually happened. The Xbox One has finally managed to break the PS4’s winning streak by becoming October’s best selling console in the US market. The win was largely due to the release of Halo 5, a Xbox exclusive that always helps to drive console sales. With Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, and with backwards compatibility and a major dashboard update all coming, there’s definitely some momentum building for the Xbox One. Microsoft will be hoping that these new additions in these established franchises, and the BC, will help convince the huge number of Xbox 360 owners who haven’t upgraded to upgrade.

While I’m here, I guess I also have to mention Fallout 4, considering my preoccupation/obsession with the previous game in the series. I haven’t played the game yet, haven’t even purchased it (other than the Xbox One Pip-Boy edition in order to get the Pip-Boy – the PS4 and PC editions were sold out when I found out about it, so I had to make do with the Xbox One edition even though I don’t own a Xbox One) – I will do both when I get some free time, and if I managed to get more free time, I might even play it on my brand new dream gaming PC that I plan to build from scratch (a side project that I’ve been eyeing for some time now).

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That’s it for the week. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (30 August 2015)

Sunday, August 30th, 2015
John Oliver

It was a real pleasure seeing John Oliver in person at the Palais on Thursday

I had the good fortune (and quick online ticket ordering skills) to catch John Oliver performing at the Palais Theatre here in Melbourne last night – it was a fantastic show from a fantastic comedian. He really doesn’t like our Prime Minister, which isn’t all that strange because nobody likes him, not even people from this own political party. All very funny stuff.

This week’s news stories are not that funny. Not just because I’m not a particularly good comedian (or a comedian at all), but because these stories were never meant to be funny anyway. Most of the stories you read here carry a fog of sadness, and at best, they’re funny in a “I would laugh if this wasn’t so depressing” kind of way. I bet you can’t wait to read them now!

Copyright

Some more Windows 10 headlines this week, as it’s been revealed that some old games with outdated DRM won’t be supported by Microsoft’s new OS. Many of these old DRM toolkits were notorious when it comes to being security risks, and Microsoft has said enough is enough when it comes to these being supported on their brand new OS.

Windows 10

Windows 10’s default privacy settings are disconcerting

Unfortunately, Windows 10 is also getting a bit of notoriety due to Microsoft playing fast and loose with the new OS’s privacy rules. Apart from the bizarre Wi-Fi password sharing feature, which shares an encrypted hash of your Wi-Fi password with your email, Skype and Facebook contacts, via Microsoft’s server. Microsoft’s justification is that this means you no longer have to share your password with you people (which may be more insecure), but sharing anything with so many people, especially a group as diverse as your contacts list (many of whom on mine I’ve only ever talked to once, and probably only via email), can never be that secure. The fact that the password hash is also stored on Microsoft’s servers, is also troubling.

And with this, along with other troubling behaviour from W10, including sending the results of local searches to Microsoft, plus the company’s data sharing with a well known anti-piracy firm, and also add to this last week’s news story about Microsoft’s controversial service agreement changes, has now led to many torrent trackers banning users who use the OS.

It does seem like an overreaction to me, to ban an entire OS. Yes, the privacy in Windows 10 is an issue, but there are workarounds, plus some of the claims are more speculation than actual privacy intrusions (for example, Microsoft has been working with anti-piracy firm MarkMonitor for years, not just with Windows 10).

I’ve been using Windows 10 for a couple of weeks now (after accidentally agreeing to upgrade from 8.1 – stupid dialog box popping up while I was typing something), and it’s clearly Microsoft’s best OS since 7. More and more people will start to use it, and to ban everyone just because of a few problems, and a few misconceptions, doesn’t seem quite right.

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Spotify Mobile

Please don’t mess with Spotify’s free plan – it’s the only thing keeping piracy at bay

Some in the music industry are not happy with Spotify, because the company isn’t earning much from the ads on the free tier of the subscription service, and so isn’t paying out much, despite the huge number of people listening to songs. Spotify argues that the free tier’s real competition is with radio (also free to listen) and piracy, and that it should be used as a promotional tool, rather than a revenue earner. Those in the music industry argue that this devalues their work, and ultimately affects their earnings.

So the pressure has been building on Spotify to drop their free tier, and basically do what Apple Music is doing – a long trial, but after that, it’s pay or go away. But Spotify warns that if this were to happen, the only real winner would be piracy.

To me, it’s clear that free Spotify’s real benefit is its anti-piracy effects. Not only does it help convert pirates to paying customers, through ad revenue, it also convinces others of the value of upgrading to a premium plan. And most importantly, it’s helping to create a new generation of music listeners that have never had to resort to piracy just to listen to a new song (Taylor Swift songs aside). And this has to be worth something to the music industry.

High Definition

Those keeping up with my weekly Blu-ray revenue updates will have noticed the very depressing trend lately. Lack or really good releases haven’t help, but Blu-ray revenue seems to have plateaued. But new data shows that discs are still quite popular, and still making studios most of their money when it comes to home entertainment. In fact, Nielsen’s data shows that 20% of users still exclusively buy movies on discs.

The data also shows that SVOD is changing how people watch their movies. It’s making them go to the movies less, and also buying less TV shows on discs. And I bet if you actually asked one of the respondents, they would tell you it’s also making them buy less crappy movies and TV shows, the kind of stuff that’s very prevalent on Netflix and others, and stuff you used to buy from the bargain bin (or go watch at the cinema, ideally using a discounted ticket offer, when there’s nothing else to do). I know it’s saved me a lot of money already, and that has made me far less guilty about my disc buying habits!

Gaming

Xbox One Controller

What is this obsession with adding or removing Blu-ray drives to Xbox consoles?

Add another one to the “Xbox One Slim” rumor pile. Or rather, this one is for the Xbox One Mini – a Xbox One console that removes the Blu-ray drive, making it only a digital only console.

I’m not sure I quite believe this one. While removing the Blu-ray drive is the easiest way to make the Xbox One both smaller and cheaper, I’m just not sure if we’re ready for a digital only game console. Maybe the Internet situation in the US is a lot better than here in Australia, but I wouldn’t want to wait ages to download GBs of game data. And what happens after you fill the HDD? Start deleting games and then re-download them later if you want to play them again – what a waste of time and bandwidth! A digital only game console would only work if it had a huge (I mean 5TB+) hard-drive, and when fiber broadband becomes the norm.

This particular rumour also brings back memories about the obsession of adding a Blu-ray drive to the previous Xbox console – a popular and long running rumour about a Blu-ray add-on drive for the 360. I’m sure it was mostly spread by PS3 fans, mocking 360 owners for not having Blu-ray capabilities and for Microsoft’s backing of HD DVD. But now that the Xbox has a Blu-ray drive, all the rumours are about getting rid of it. Kind of ironic!

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That’s it for another week, same bat-time, same bat-channel, next week!

Weekly News Roundup (26 July 2015)

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

A nice and short one for you this week, but very likely still much longer than next two week’s WNR. The reason for the abridged versions of the WNR in the coming weeks is that I’m going on a much needed vacation, and it might be hard to find time to write up news stories, as well as the WNR.

No time to waste, lots of packing and planning still left to do, so here’s this week’s news stories …

Copyright

KickassTorrents Logo

KAT suffers Google penalty

Scammers may be profiting from Google’s decision to remove KickassTorrents pages from their search results. Google appears to have applied some kind of penalty to the site, pages from the site have either been removed or down-ranked (possibly down-ranked to position 1000+, something that Google typically does when it brings down the ban-hammer). Without official KAT pages in Google’s search results, using KAT related keywords now bring up a bunch of unofficial results, many stealing content from the real KAT and inserting their own (often adult) ads, or even malware sites offering fake KAT branded downloads.

This complete site removal doesn’t seem to be piracy related, since Google’s anti-piracy penalty doesn’t seem to down-rank sites so much. Plus whatever is happening seems to be unique to KickassTorrents, with no other piracy sites appearing to be affected.

Putting on my webmaster hat for a moment, the way KAT moved their site to a new domain could be responsible. If they did not use the “permanent” 301 redirect code, and instead used the default “302” redirect, or if content wasn’t redirected and was instead duplicated on both the new and old domains, then Google could have problems with this (although a quick redirect check now doesn’t seem to indicate this is the actual problem). Google does provide a tool that lets website owners tell them ahead of time about site moves.

But this kinds of highlights the problem with Google. It’s really hard to get any sort of concrete feedback from them when it comes to penalties (Google wants to keep website owners confused intentionally so they can’t find loopholes to exploit in relation to Google’s algorithm), and even if KAT fixes whatever was causing the penalty, it won’t be lifted immediately (may take 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months … nobody really knows the answer). So it could be a while before official KAT links are back on Google’s results pages, and that’s assuming the people running KAT ever figure out what the penalty was for.

On a somewhat related note, uTorrent’s site and downloads were blocked by Google Chrome earlier in the week, similar to what Google did to major torrent sites earlier in the month. Google’s anti-PUP (potentially unwanted software) algorithm has been turned up to 11 in recent weeks, and it has caught out many sites. Some were complete false positives and some were semi-false positives like with the major torrent sites and uTorrent (these sites advertised or had downloads that included bundled offers and things like toolbars, which Google considers PUP. But these are not as malicious as actual fake downloads and scam-ware, which is the real problem Google is trying to tackle).

Google Auto-complete BitTorrent

Google seems to be going after piracy sites, but that’s not really what’s happening

For the casual observer, all of this seems to add up to a new war against piracy sites, but for now, it all appears to be coincidences or unintended consequences or Google’s ongoing war against, um, a lot of different groups (webmasters who try to game the Google search rankings, bundle ads providers, malware distributors …).

At least with bundled offers, you always have the option to not install them if you pay close attention to the installer. What’s less optional these days is insecure DRM that potentially opens up your system to all sorts of nasties. The last place you’d probably expect to be forced to install DRM is during a long flight, but that’s what United Airlines is forcing passengers to do if they want to watch movies on their own personal devices. And not only that, users also have to install the insecure Flash plug-in.

But the blame doesn’t really lie with United, but with paranoid Hollywood studios that genuinely fear users will go to all the trouble to book a flight on United just so they can rip movies, most of which have been out on DVD for years. You and I might think this is ridiculous, but Hollywood’s paranoia goes way beyond reason.

High Definition

Sony Blu-ray

Blu-ray revenue stagnating – is it because of digital downloads and streaming, or the lack of hit releases?

Blu-ray revenue is on the slide, with a recent week’s revenue figures falling to levels not seen since 2010. Those that follow our weekly Blu-ray revenue analysis will have seen the signs, and there is no doubt that since about the second half of last year, Blu-ray’s meteoric rise has been stalling.

A lot of it has to do with the poor release slate for this year. There have been some big releases this year, including Gone Girl, Interstellar, Big Hero 6, Fifty Shades and American Sniper, but these cannot compare to Thor, Frozen or The Lego Movie (but mostly Frozen). Interestingly, I think Blu-ray’s fortunes will pick up later this year and next year when Jurassic World, the new Avengers movie, Inside Out and the coming attractions M:I 5, the last Hunger Games movie and the new Star bloody Wars, all make their way onto Blu-ray in 2015 and 2016.

So it’s a bit early to write Blu-ray’s obituary, but things have definitely slowed down.

It’s easy to blame things like streaming for the potential downfall of discs, and services like HBO Now and Hulu that gives you access to newly aired TV episodes may affect TV box set sales, for new release movies, Blu-ray and DVD is still the best choice for many.

Speaking of Hulu, the ad-supported streaming outfit is considering going ad-free via a higher priced subscription plan. Considering how many people freaked out when Netflix experimented with in-house ad-spots for its original programming a while back, I’d say going ad-free can only make Hulu more popular (currently 19 times less popular than Netflix, according to user download data). It always struck me as weird to be forced to watch unskippable ads even after I’ve paid a monthly fee, regardless of how new the content is compared to Netflix.

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That’s it for the week. Wasn’t as short as I thought, but this will have to do for the next couple of weeks while I’m holidaying it up. Talk to you soon.