Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

Weekly News Roundup (September 1, 2019)

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

And we’re back! Quite a few things have happened since the last WNR, and I know I promised to keep this thing regular, but sometimes everything else seems to just get in the way. No more promises though, but I will try my best in the future.

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If you’re an Aussie and you like the sort of things I like, then you would have been ecstatic about the news of Disney+ coming down under, and for the really good price of $8.99 (that translates to less than the US pricing of $6.99).

What’s more, with Disney’s fan event, the D23 Expo, happening just a short while after the pricing announcement, Disney used the event to give fans even more information about the service.

We got trailers for the new Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian (and the trailer looked fantastic – if the show if half as good, it will be epic), original films Lady and the Tramp and Noelle. There was also a bunch of announcement for new Marvel shows, and a big one, Ewan McGregor coming back as Obi-Wan in a new TV series.

From a technical standpoint, there was also some exciting news that all Disney+ accounts will have access to 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. This makes Disney+ by far the cheapest streaming plan to included these advanced features, $9 per month cheaper than the Netflix plan with the equivalent feature.

Those in the U.S. can also bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for only $12.99 per month, saving almost $5.

A screenshot showing the Disney+ Interface
Disney+ will be worth having

With so much enticing content, a great price and unexpected feature-set, it looks like Disney is very very serious about going head to head with Netflix. All the talk about Disney+ not being a competitor for Netflix (and most of that talk is coming from Disney, which is telling) is technically correct, but with Hulu under its wings, there’s no reason, from a content point of view, that Disney can’t take on Netflix.

It will be good news for us consumers, not so much Netflix shareholders, I think.


And in the near future, when you’re watching a 4K Disney+ stream on your new TV, you might notice that there might be a new mode on your TV called ‘Filmmaker Mode’. If you see it, you should enable it.

Announced this week by the UHD Alliance, along with CE partners Panasonic, LG and VIZIO and along with the Directors Guild of America and The Film Foundation, Filmmaker Mode will be a shortcut that turns off all the post-processing features on the TV that distracts from the film-watching experience. You know the ones – motion smoothing, the over-sharpening and unnatural colour corrections, and when combined, makes movies look more like daytime soap operas.

The logo for Filmmaker Mode
Filmmaker Mode will make it easy to see films the way they are supposed to be seen

But now, with just one setting, you can watch the film as the filmmakers intended, with the right colour reproduction, and more importantly, the right framerate.

The new mode seems to be made for UHD Blu-ray discs, but there’s no reason why it can’t be used for streaming as well. So there won’t be any more excuses for films to be played back with the soap opera effect turned on. No excuses!!


That’s it for the week. Back to making trailers for me. Until next time!

Weekly News Roundup (July 21, 2019)

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of the WNR. Hope you’ve been keeping busy? I’ve been busying myself with this and that, include a few more trailers since we last talked (Spies in Disguise, Mulan, Onward, Playing with Fire, the hugely popular Top Gun: Maverick, and the stuff nightmares are made of in the form of the new trailer for Cats).

Please, Hollywood, stop making human-animal CGI hybrids. Learn the lessons from the Sonic trailer, I beg of you!

Oh yes, the news.

Copyright

Google’s DMCA take-down regime is in the news again, this time it has been co-opted by pirates and scammers to their own advantage. Apparently, people are pretending to be rights-holders and submitting fake take-down notices, to remove the URLs of competitor sites. One person recently pretended to be the MPAA to take down links from a Turkish piracy site.

A screenshot of Google's Copyright Transparency Report website
Google’s DMCA take-down regime under question over fake notices

It’s possible that it’s other piracy sites that are doing this, in order to knock off competitors and increase their own rankings. It could also be scammers trying to do the same thing.

And all of this is possible because Google often does not verify the identities of those submitting DMCA notices, and so anyone could pretend to be a rights-holder and get their submissions approved, as long as the sites they’re removing are genuine piracy sites.

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Things are getting more difficult for Netflix. Not only is Disney+ on the way Warner Media has now also decided to launch their own streaming platform, combining HBO’s premium content with Warner’s vast library to form HBO Max.

HBO Max logo
HBO Max may cost as much as Netflix and Disney+ combined, but will have all of HBO’s premium offerings along with everything Warner has to offer

Unlike the much cheaper Disney+, HBO Max goes for the other end of the market and will be priced higher than Netflix (and Disney+ combined). The premium-ness of HBO is the main reason for the higher price, although one could argue that shows like ‘Stranger Things’, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and ‘When They See Us’ has the budget and quality to out-HBO HBO. It’s an interesting pricing strategy, but one that I’m not sure would work.

It’s also not great news for us consumers. HBO Max will increase fragmentation in a market that’s already becoming far too fragmented. With Disney (and Fox) pulling their stuff from Netflix, and now Warner possibly doing the same, it means you now have to subscribe to yet another service if you don’t want to miss out on some of the best content.

But it’s undoubtedly worse news for Netflix, and the most recent results for the company showed it actually went backward when it came to domestic (U.S.) subscriber numbers (our sister site Streambly will have more on this soon). This, coupled with ballooning content acquisition and production costs, means Netflix has some important decisions to make on what kind of service it wants to be.

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And that’s it for the week. Excuse me while I go and meditate to try and get the disturbing pictures of human-cat hybrids out of my mind. Until next time …

Weekly News Roundup (March 31, 2019)

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Welcome to another edition of the WNR. It’s going to be a light one this week, as while we have a big announcement from Apple to cover, that was pretty much it.

Still, it gives us plenty to talk about this week, so let’s not waste any time.

High Definition

So the big news of the week was Apple’s entry into streaming video courtesy of their upcoming Apple TV+ service.

First of all, let’s talk about what it isn’t. It isn’t really a Netflix rival, at least not yet, because Apple TV+ will only host original content that Apple themselves have produced. So there won’t be any third-party licensed content that’s still the bulk of content on platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Photo showing Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell at the Apple TV+ launch event
Apple will hope its big star line-up will help to make Apple TV+ a success

And even with relation to original content, Apple’s content spend of $1 billion is only a fraction of Netflix’s annual spend on original content, so Apple’s ambitions, so far, are much more limited compared to Netflix’s.

Apple TV+ also won’t work on most of the non-Apple devices you actually own. While Apple is opening up Apple TV slightly, allowing it to work on selected smart TVs and even on the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV+ won’t be accessible on your Android device, on your PC or in your browser. This could change at some point, but it looks like Apple wants the content on Apple TV+ to be mainly consumed on an Apple device (which is not surprising).

Using unique content to draw users into the Apple ecosystem is one thing, but what Apple may be even keener to do is to keep the Apple TV hub relevant in the age of Roku, Amazon Fire and Google Chromecast. Apple can’t make their 30% off of Netflix if Netflix doesn’t think it’s worth having their app integrated into Apple TV, and Netflix won’t think Apple’s 30% money grab is worth it if Apple TV is not popular enough.

Apple will hope that exclusive Apple TV+ content from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah, J.J. Abrams, and shows starring the likes of
Jenifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, will help grow the Apple TV user base. Or at least grow it enough to make Apple TV an essential platform to be part of.

This talk of Apple reminded me of an old news story from way back. Way back as in when Steve Jobs was still alive, and when Toshiba’s HD DVD was still trying to beat Blu-ray. Jobs said then that Blu-ray was a “bag of hurt” and despite Apple being a member and a board member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, Apple never did bother to include a Blu-ray drive with any of their computers.

Apple never bothered with Blu-ray, but discs still have a place

Now Apple is getting into video distribution having skipped discs entirely, and this probably means something for discs (and not in a good news kind of way). But discs do still have a place (anyone who regularly tries to download high-quality 4K content will know this is the case), and they will be around for a while yet, even if they are no longer the default go-to for most people. What do you think? Do you still use discs? Let us know by voting in our latest poll.

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That’s all I have for you think week. Let’s wait and see what the next week brings us.

Weekly News Roundup (February 24, 2019)

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Only a couple of days left in the shortest month of the year, which is just as well, as summer here in Australia has become unbearable. With March comes possibly one of the best seasons ever, and it is also my favourite month as it will be my birthday again. Yes, I’m quite vain and I definitely think this song, and the entire month of March, is all about me.

A little ’70s music trivia aside, we have a few news stories to go through, so let’s get started.

High Definition

Well, it may not be the actual end of an era, but to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it definitely feels like the beginning of the end. Samsung has confirmed that it will stop launching new Blu-ray player models in the US. Initially, it was thought that only 1080p Blu-ray players were affected, but it soon became clear that Samsung plans to stop launching even new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players!

Samsung's UBD-M9500
Samsung’s UBD-M9500 4K Blu-ray player, the last the company plans to release in the US

Those following Samsung won’t be too surprised by the move, as the company hasn’t brought out a new Blu-ray/4K player since 2017. Samsung’s denial of support for Dolby Vision also meant that their players just weren’t what people wanted, considering how popular Dolby Vision is compared to the rival HDR10+ format. The unpopular nature of Samsung’s players, and the fact that the marketplace for Blu-ray players is quite crowded may partly explain Samsung’s decision, but it is still quite a blow for physical media.

That a major CE firm is ending support for such a major disc format, and so soon in the format’s lifespan, does not bode well for the format, or physical media in general.

The decision is also a weird one because Samsung’s TV business is doing quite well, and it’s weird that Samsung would then force its TV owners to seek out a rival brand’s Blu-ray player. With that said, it’s not as if Samsung will stop selling Blu-ray players, but merely not planning on releasing any new models in the future – they will simply continue to sell their last released players, the UBD-M9500 (in fact, the 2016 model, the UBD-K8500, is still for sale too). The fact that there’s not a lot of upgrade potential for Blu-ray and 4K players, probably also contributed to Samsung’s decision.

But buyers not satisfied with a 2017 model will definitely have to look elsewhere.

And part of the reason why Samsung is defocusing from its physical media business is the existence of streaming, and in particular, Netflix. But just because Netflix is dominant, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things that the streaming giant is worried about. Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, appears to be one of those things.

Netflix and Disney have previously worked together well as the Hollywood studio used the streaming platform to offer its movies and shows to a wider audience. While this generates some revenue for Disney, it also loses them some in terms of physical and digital sell-through for the same content, but with a wider audience now caught up to the happenings of the Marvel Universe, for example, it has led to higher box office receipts for the studio. There are many terms you can use to describe Disney, but stupid is not one of them.

Still photo from The Punisher
Marvel’s The Punisher cancelled by Netflix, who no longer wishes to help Disney now that the studio is launching its own streaming platform

But this past partnership is now proving to be a problem now that Disney, whether they think so or not, is directly threatening the dominance of Netflix with Disney+. Disney+ will now host much of the same content that has drawn subscribers to Netflix, and will create new content based on franchises that Netflix wish they had.

So Netflix’s steely move to cancel all remaining Marvel co-productions, including ‘The Punisher’ and ‘Jessica Jones’, is a quite understandable one. Better to lose a finger now, than a hand, later.

And the ominous statement following the move from Marvel TV’s Jeph Loeb shows the frenemy side of Netflix and Disney’s relationship, as well as a hint on how Disney will take it to Netflix via its Marvel (and other) franchises. Loeb wrote in response to the cancellations: “Our network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters … but you know Marvel better than that.”

Wow!

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So while we await the Avengers like epic battle between Netflix and Disney+, we have come to the end of another WNR. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (February 17, 2019)

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

So how did you spend your Valentine’s Day/Singles Awareness Day/Just Another Thursday then? Whichever way you spent that day, hope the rest of your week was good nonetheless. We do have a bit of news to go through this week, I guess the year has started proper now, so let’s get through ’em!

Copyright

In this week’s “I didn’t see that coming! #sarcastic” story, YouTube’s copyright take-down system is now being abused by blackmailers.

This is how it works. Blackmailers are submitting fraudulent copyright abuse notices, resulting in some smaller channels getting two copyright strikes. Channels that receive 3 copyright strikes in a 3 month period will have their channels disabled, and the blackmailers know this. This is when the extortion attempt occurs, with the blackmailers sending an “offer” to channel owners to pay up (and have the 2 strikes reversed) or face the prospect of a third strike.

Screen capture of a video in which YouTube user  
ObbyRaidz informs his subscribers of the extortion attempt
YouTube user
ObbyRaidz informs his subscribers of the extortion attempt in a video

Channel owners can appeal any of these strikes, but the laborious process could see their channels disabled during the process, which can take weeks.

Two channel owners who were at the end of such a scam reported it to YouTube, but the streaming platform didn’t do anything about it until both aired their problems publicly, on Twitter (and incidentally, the scammers also tried to get one of the channel owner’s Twitter suspended as well for not following instructions to stay quiet) and Reddit. It was only when both attempts at seeking help became a news story, that YouTube finally acted and cleared all the fraudulent strikes, and banned the blackmailer’s accounts too.

The fact that YouTube didn’t take the matter seriously until they were called out for it in the public arena is troubling, but unfortunately, not that uncommon.

It wasn’t a huge loss for the blackmailers, it turns out, as their accounts were only recently created ones attached to a throwaway email account. It’s very likely they will attempt the same trick again, only this time, the unsuspecting victims might not get a viral response to their pleas. It’s also very likely that they’ve already tried found success with their previous efforts!

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Poster for Russian Doll
Russian Doll is an instant Netflix hit, at least when it comes to binge bragging rights

Over at Streambly, the latest “binge chart” saw Netflix’s Russian Doll go straight to the top after its recent release. The strength of Netflix, in particular, the strength of Netflix’s Original shows can be clearly seen in the top 10, with no less than 5 Originals in the top 10, and with some of the others being Netflix streaming exclusives as well.

There were only two shows in the top 10 that were older shows that had already ended their run. In third place was ‘Friends’, which Netflix paid a significant amount of money for, and ‘Gossip Girl’, which is also on Netflix.

Hopefully, the weekly binge report will become a regular feature on Streambly, so keep an eye peeled for more updates here if anything interesting happens.

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That’s all we have for this week. I know it’s not much, but sometimes that’s just how the week goes. See you next week.