The Future of Netflix: Secure?

AKIE BERMISS: Netflix getting knocked off the throne of online streaming?  I don’t think so.  Take it from a guy who knows!  I haven’t had a television for over a year.  Any kind of home-viewing of movies or television shows is done from my computers.  As such, I have Netflix *and* Amazon Prime. I rent movies from iTunes at least once a week.  And recently, I’ve even begun thinking about getting a HULU+ membership.  From all that, I can tell you one thing for certain: when it comes to streaming Netflix does it best, makes it the most available, and has the best potential for growth.

Now Amazon and other companies may start making a lot of noise about having thousands of titles for download and letting you use the cloud and all kinds of stuff.  But what really matters, at this point, is which company out there first and set up the paradigm.  Netflix gave us the idea of not having to leave the house to watch movies (even when they were a snailmail service).  Netflix created the Watch Instant concept for online rental services (GoogleVideo was out then, but wasn’t really trying to make the same moves).  It commodified hooking itself up to your television (though AppleTV and ROKU have been trying to make the same move in recent years).  And, most importantly, the culture of online streaming belongs to Netflix.  I mean, before the early 2000s I can’t remember hearing the word “queue” coming out of American mouths in anything but the rarest — and most elite — of circumstances.

And now? Now we all know what a queue is.  We all spend a few minutes every now and again cleaning up our queue or adding to it.  We check for new titles — on Netflix.  We get excited when we hear about new movies being available.  I hear people talking about saving something in the queue for a good night.  And these days, when you recommend a show or movie to somebody don’t they ask you: “Is it on Netflix? Is it on Instant?!”

And isn’t it great saying: “Yes!?”

Finally, Netflix is starting to get into original programming.  To be sure, the first few productions are likely to be awkward and a bit forced, but even the recent “LilyHammer” — which just went up — is challenging old paradigms.  Netflix made a complete season and just put the whole thing up at once.  No need to wait each week for a new download.  Here is a story in some arbitrary number of parts.  Watch at your leisure.  There was a time when people though HBO was crazy for trying to make original programming,  you know.  I suspect that in a decade, we’re going to see Netflix as not only an outlet for recent movies and television shows, but also a time-capsule for much of the last 100+ years of recorded visual entertainment as well as a place to find new, challenging programming.  Instead of writing web series for networks, people are going to start writing for Netflix. It will start to lure in the more creative and self-driven folks and even cable television is going to be left in the dust.

I’ve been saying it for a while now, but it bears repeating in every germane circumstance: about ten years ago, the music industry was in the same position and instead of embracing the new technology they tried to strangle it and control it.  But art is not like fossil fuels — consumers can switch to a brand new bag in just a matter of months.  The companies that see where the future is tending can take hold of those currents and navigate them with some authority.  The rest will be along for the ride and simply hope that their juggernaut status will give them enough gravity to outlast the tempests.

The stumbles of late last year  – when they tried to pump us all for double-money by paying separately for DVDs and Instant service — notwithstandin

Netflix was ground-breaking when I joined up in 2001.  They were ground-breaking when they starting Instant Watching around 2006.  And they remain in the vanguard today.  But not only the vanguard — they also dominate the field.  Everyone else is vying for a very, very distant and uncomfortable second place.

Remember Blockbuster video?

HOWARD MEGDAL But Blockbuster is precisely the comparison here. Netflix was first; that won’t give it a permanent stranglehold on the market. The question, at a certain point, will become: who do you trust to do it in a more customer-friendly way? The company that gave us the Quikster debacle? Or the company that has already laid waste to traditional publishing?

I’m putting my money on Amazon.

Like Akie, I currently have both services. At the moment, I use Netflix more often. But I also expect that to change.

Unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime doesn’t keep a bunch of its movies out of view. They simply charge for them. This is a simple recognition: if the technology exists to provide a service, and someone will pay for it, why on earth wouldn’t you, a company, make that service available?

Amazon gets it. Make everything available. Netflix doesn’t. In an omnivorous content world, that is all the difference.

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