Warner Brothers and Trakt

November 4, 2011
It’s not secret that Big Content is more than a little schizophrenic when it comes to technology, seeing death knells in the very disruptions that later become their lifeblood. In this vein, I saw the other day that Warner Brothers Australia has begun including shouts from Trakt users on their movie pages. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see them making use of the service. It just amuses me, because using Trakt involves “scrobbling” the videos you watch, much as Last.fm does for music. It interfaces with software like XBMC that plays movies and TV shows stored as digital files.

Do you see the disconnect here? The information Warner Brothers is using to add value to their website is generated by people watching digital files – files that must be created by ripping a DVD you own, thus breaking the onerous DRM, or by downloading a rip made by someone else, usually shared through peer-to-peer software. This also takes place in Australia, the country where it is currently illegal to rip a CD you own to mp3.

Essentially, Warner Brothers is endorsing behavior they and their industry cronies have and continue to champion against, decrying it in all sorts of inflammatory language. Why? Because the people behind the website recognize correctly that it adds value to the content and simply makes sense, something most of us have inherently understood for years.

Today in Netflix

October 11, 2011
Yesterday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would be moving in still another new direction, in a reversal of decision made only a few weeks prior. Qwikster, Hastings’ stillborn attempt to save his precipitously declining customer base by forcing them to cancel two subscriptions instead of one, will be resorbed by the original Netflix company it was preparing to leave. 

Hastings will continue to whiplash former customers who ragequit their relationship with Netflix after the 60% price increase by emailing them, yet again, notifying them of this most recent change and begging for them to reenroll.

In the email and attached video, the beleaguered CEO – whose stock options have lost half of their value – admitted to doing “copious amounts of coke,” and apologized for “…basically trashing my company, and my mucous membranes, with my poor life choices.”

Former Dunder Mifflin executive Ryan Howard commented that “[the situation] is just a bend in the road to greatness,” adding that “I’ve been there too and we’re both riding the elevator back to the top.”

A Netflix subscriber who recently terminated his relationship with the company during the mass exodus summed up what is likely to be an opinion shared by many: “All I want is a hassle-free way to watch movies and shows on my TV, at an affordable price. I guess I’ll just have to go back to the infinite library of free stuff online.”


Netflix's War on Customers

September 20, 2011
It's no secret that the big media "old guard" want absolute control over how we as individuals experience culture. Rather than viewing the internet and the technologies and services it enables as exciting new opportunities to eliminate the cost of distribution and reach a global audience, they have insisted on clinging to a scarcity-driven business model that becomes more outmoded every year. From the "sue 'em all" campaigns of the oughties to the one-sided laws they continue to force through governments around the world, their desperate attempts to turn back the clock have met with utter failure.

Enter companies like Netflix and Redbox who focus on giving customers what they want as conveniently as possible, at a reasonable price point – what the studios should have been doing years ago. Their existence breathes new life into the doddering DVD rental business. Naturally, the studios respond not with effusive praise but by drawing battle lines – erroneously assuming that the success of these companies is driven by worthless studio content, and not by a quality service. They demand exorbitant sums of cash (a la Pandora) when the money should be flowing in the opposite direction. In these kinds of conflicts, the customers lose. The companies have little choice but to acquiesce to the studios' demands, even at risk of destroying their own business. Redbox negotiated release delays, while Netflix tried to avoid this by passing the cost to us in the form of a 60% price increase.

I had some good back-and-forth on twitter with Mark Hamilton, Caitlyn Mayers, and Ross Pruden about this. Here was an opportunity for Netflix to take the side of their customers. They could have explained that the increased prices were the result of the studios' demands, charging the premium only to those customers who wanted to see the studio movies – directing at least some part of the resulting customer outrage at the correct target.

Instead, they tried to pass off corporate codswallop as honesty, providing hastily penned excuse after excuse to explain, justify, and apologize for what happened,, shielding the studios from any responsibility. The half-baked decision to split the company and "rebrand" is only making things worse. Customers have clearly shown that they want to obtain videos from a convenient source at an affordable price, and the company is quickly becoming one that provides neither. Netflix had a choice, and they appear to have sided with the media dinosaurs in their futile war on customers to regain control over our culture – and as a result, the company is paying a terrible price.

Who Really Has the Moral High Ground on Filesharing?

September 22, 2009

A number of people I have talked to claim that they do not engage in filesharing because “it’s wrong,” a sentiment that seems deeply rooted in the idea that sharing files involves taking something that doesn’t belong to you; that is, stealing. These people believe they are taking the “moral high ground” by refusing to participate in this “theft” even when millions of others around the world are doing so. For once I’d like to avoid getting into all of the specific reasons of why filesharing isn’t stealing at all and investigate the idea that this position is actually closer to a moral wrong. (more…)