Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

My Response to the Changes at Netflix

I was puzzled when a late evening email from Reed Hastings arrived in my inbox on September 18th, with the subject line “An Explanation and Some Reflections.”  I almost deleted it as junk mail.  It turned out to be an oddly-worded message from the co-founder and CEO of Netflix, the largest internet/by-mail movie rental company in the US.  Netflix recently angered subscribers by raising their rental fees and restructuring their services.  This email from Hastings was both an apology and a press release about even bigger changes coming to Netflix.  Instead of smoothing things over, this latest announcement has increased subscriber dissatisfaction.  Over 27,000 comments have been posted on the Netflix blog responding to the news.

I’m not happy with the decision to split the company into Netflix (streaming services) and Qwikster (DVDs by mail) with two independent websites and separate credit card billing.  I guess I will be switched over to Qwikster, because I’m currently only getting DVDs by mail.   That’s because what I want to watch either isn’t available streaming yet or streams so poorly, stuttering along with bad resolution, that it’s not worth paying for that kind of frustration.  The biggest hassle for folks subscribing to both services will be having to check two sites to see if a movie is available in either format.  In the past, one site showed all this information in one place.

Still, my reaction to the changes coming to Netflix has been overshadowed by my feelings about this statement by Reed Hastings: “Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. ”  This is completely ridiculous.  Perhaps Mr Hastings is more of a businessman than a film buff, but I’m still shocked at his ignorance.  

According to the National Film Preservation Foundation, approximately 50% of all US feature films made before 1951 no longer exist.  Around 80% of all US feature films made in the 1910s and 1920s have been lost.  These figures even don’t take into account all the films made in other countries.  Some estimate that 99% of all silent films are gone.  Many went up in flames or simply deteriorated due to the instability of nitrate film stock.  Many more were deliberately destroyed because few believed that the films would have any lasting significance.  Even the films stored in archives today are at risk while they sit waiting for the funding needed for restoration.

If you’re a lover of foreign films, you know that “nearly every film ever made is published on DVD” does not apply to overseas titles available to US viewers.  Many independent films have never received a DVD distribution deal, regardless of their country of origin.  Picture all these numbers, then narrow them down to the actual number of film titles that you can rent from Netflix.  My “saved” queue of films on Netflix is almost as long as my rental queue.  These are the films with no known release date.   This list also includes titles that are currently available to buy on DVD, but Netflix doesn’t know when or if they will ever be available for rental.

What Netflix isn’t saying directly is that the US Postal Service is bankrupt and in crisis.  With threats to end Saturday delivery or shut down altogether, nobody knows how long our Post Office will be able to deliver DVDs quickly and reliably.   The closest Reed Hastings came to stating the problem in his announcement was this: “DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible.”  The folks at Netflix are obviously scrambling to switch over to streaming content in order to stay in business, leaving those of us with older equipment and bad DSL service behind.  I may have to give up my Netflix/Qwikster habit if things continue in this direction.  I’ll just have to wait and see.

Since this news announcement on September 18th, I’ve stopped receiving Netflix email notifications telling me when a DVD has been received and informing me what my next title will be.  I hope this is not the kind of customer service Qwikster will provide in the future.

I’m interested in hearing your opinion.  Please post your comments.

Update 10/10/11:  Netflix announced today that the company will not be split up.  The price increase—and the separation of DVDs and streaming into two plans—will stay in effect.  Supposedly there will be no further price increases, but we’ll see about that.  I’m just wondering what will happen to the new CEO who was going to run Qwikster.  So much for the promotion.

A Netflix Petition to Sign

There’s an important petition that I’m encouraging everybody to sign.   Here’s the information from the email I received from a friend:

There’s been a lot of blowback since Netflix announced its rate hike this week. But far fewer people are talking about the fact that Netflix regularly discriminates against its deaf and hard of hearing customers by denying them access to 70% of Netflix’s streaming videos.

That’s because only 30% of Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” content has captions or subtitles. Additionally, there’s no way to search among the limited options for a specific title or even a genre, just one long list of titles. Which means that if you’re a deaf or hard of hearing Netflix subscriber who wants to watch, say, a comedy, you could spend most of your night clicking Next… Next… Next…

Ask Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to make all streaming videos accessible for deaf and hard of hearing customers.

Sebastian St. Troy lost most of his hearing last December due to an infection. Sebastian is a movie buff, and losing his hearing opened his eyes to the vital importance of closed captions to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Sebastian told us, “I’m an avid Netflix subscriber. I learned that Netflix didn’t provide enough streaming content with captions, so I was challenged as to what I could watch.”

That’s why Sebastian started a petition on Change.org asking Netflix to make all of its content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Sebastian has been pursuing this campaign for months, but Netflix has dragged its feet on responding, despite legal action: The National Association of the Deaf is suing Netflix for not fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Deaf and hard of hearing Netflix subscribers shouldn’t have to wait for a prolonged legal battle to play out before enjoying equal access to streaming videos — particularly since Netflix has already put many video stores out of business. Netflix can and should start taking good faith steps (like making captioned content searchable) today.

Please sign the petition today to ask Netflix to give deaf and hard of hearing customers equal access to content:

http://www.change.org/petitions/netflix-make-films-accessible-for-the-deaf-hoh

Thanks for taking action,

– Weldon and the Change.org team

*********************************

I’m not deaf or hard of hearing, but I use captions and subtitles all the time.  This is something that will be beneficial to everybody.   Please take a moment to add your signature!

The Band’s Visit

Sometimes I get a movie from Netflix, and it just sits there on the table because I’m not in the right mood.  Then when I finally get around to watching it, I realize that it is just the right movie at the right time.  I’m sure I would have liked The Band’s Visit anyway, but seeing it this week, it resonated with a lot of the things I’ve been thinking about and feeling. 

 The Band’s Visit is a small, unpretentious film about an Egyptian police band that arrives in Israel for the opening of a new Arab cultural center.  The eight men get on the wrong bus and end up stranded in a small town in the desert.  To even call it a town is a stretch; it’s really just a clump of ugly apartment buildings rising up in the middle of nowhere.   The band spends the night among the locals, and then they leave in the morning to play their concert.  It’s so simple, but in the course of the night, these individuals find a little bit of common ground.  Their loneliness is eased, or at least it’s shared and understood by someone else. 

The blind date, the local guy and the band member.

 

Even though this film is in three different languages, it really takes place in the quiet spaces between the words.   One of the funniest and most touching sequences happens at a cheesy roller disco.  One of the band members has invited himself along on a local’s blind date.   This local guy can’t skate, he’s awkward around girls, and his date ends up sitting next to him crying quietly.  Playing Cyrano, the band member coaches the local on how to comfort the girl.  He does it by demonstrating, and the local guy mirrors his actions.  It’s difficult to describe in words, but delightful to watch on film.  

Another one of the band members has never been able to finish a concerto for clarinet that he’s written.  He plays it for a local man who’s struggling with his marriage.  After they spend some time together in his home with his family, the local tells the band member, “Maybe this is how your concerto ends.  I mean, not a big end with trumpets and violins.  Maybe this is the finish, just like that, suddenly.  Not sad, not happy.  Just a small room, with a lamp, a bed, a child sleeps, and tons of loneliness.” 

This naturally reminds me of what Thoreau expressed when he wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation….”  I’ve been thinking this week about loneliness and isolation, about how we fail to communicate with others, about how we can be surrounded by people and still be alone.  Hardly groundbreaking or original, but what’s important is whether these reflections lead to any positive action.  In the week ahead, I’m going to try to shut up and listen.  To reach out to the people around me in a deeper and more meaningful way.  To try to recognize the loneliness and pain in others.  In other words, I’m going to take a visit outside of myself and have a good look around.  I will report back what I find.

Impatience

My current obsession with Matthew Goode drove me four blocks to my nearest neighborhood video store to rent Leap Year today.  I have temporarily suspended my Netflix account while I’m short on funds, and frankly, I’m tired of waiting in a long queue for new releases.  I’ve come to rely on the redbox around the corner for new DVDs, a bargain at a dollar a night.  Except the redbox doesn’t have Leap Year yet.  I couldn’t wait.

I should have waited.  No, seriously, a dollar would have been about right.  I didn’t see the film in the theatre because the reviews were so bad, and I hadn’t yet fallen for Matthew Goode.  Unfortunately, no matter how much you like a particular actor, a bad film is still a bad film.   The main problem is the script. It suffers from minimal character development, a complete lack of subtlety, and no logical reason why the two main characters should be drawn to each other.  The Irish scenery is lovely, and so is Goode in his scruffy way.  It just isn’t enough.

*******************

This morning I picked up my borrowed copy of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest to begin reading.  (Thank you, Kathryn!)  This is the third book in the Millennium Trilogy, an international bestselling series by a Swedish author who died before the books were published.  That was back in 2004.  It’s taken six years for this final book to be published in the United States, which will be released on May 25th.  My copy was purchased from the UK, where it was released on October 1, 2009.   I’m sure there’s a reason for the long delay, but it seems like bad business to me.  I know lots of people have given their money to UK booksellers instead of US ones because they couldn’t wait that long.

There’s an odd little difference between the UK and the upcoming US versions of this book, and it’s right there on the cover.  It’s the punctuation in the title.  The UK version is Hornets’ Nest while the US version is Hornet’s Nest.  I don’t know enough about the differences between American and English punctuation to explain it.  I hope somebody else will.  My best guess is that Hornets’ is more correct since presumably more than one hornet occupies a typical nest.  Then again, I know less about hornets than I do about punctuation. 

%d bloggers like this: