Monday, 19 September 2011

09:52 – I’m sure Reed Hastings’ email will be reproduced elsewhere on the web, so I won’t bother. The big news, of course, is that Netflix is splitting into two independent companies, with Netflix keeping that name for streaming and the disc rental service renamed Qwikster. Separate memberships, separate queues, separate billing, separate user ratings, separate everything. Oh, and Netflix might as well have casually announced that GameFly is now toast, since Qwikster will also be renting games.

My first reaction was negative; I don’t really want to have to manage two separate queues without any links between them. The stuff we watch sometimes changes from disc-only to disc-plus-streaming and then back again. More than once, we’ve watched the first episodes of a long series on disc, watched others streaming, and then had to switch back to discs when the streaming contract ended. That hasn’t happened as much lately. Of the 92 titles in our instant queue, only three–The Planets, Walking with Cavemen, and Occupation–are currently showing as expiring. As usual, we get only a few days notice, in this case until the 23rd.

I really do wish that Netflix would negotiate permanent unlimited streaming licenses. It’s fine if they delay streaming availability until a few months after the DVD releases. For example, series 3 of Sons of Anarchy just released on DVD. Series 1 and 2 are available streaming, although only Netflix knows for how long. Series 3 will, no doubt, be available streaming in a few weeks or months. So why doesn’t Netflix negotiate a standard contract with the rights owners to Sons of Anarchy? Agree to pay them a fixed sum for permanent unlimited streaming for each episode as the new seasons become available, after a window to allow DVD sales. Most DVD set sales occur very soon after the set is released, and there’s little in the way of paying markets for old series episodes after that. Sure, a few people may buy episodes or even the entire season from iTunes or whatever, or they may be able to sell re-run rights to local TV stations, but an old series is basically spent in economic terms once the DVD set releases.

Licensing on this basis would be win-win-win for the copyright owners and for Qwikster and for Qwikster subscribers. The copyright owners would get “free money” from Qwikster, and Qwikster would build its back-catalog of good TV series and subscribers would have a lot of good content waiting to be discovered.

Of course, people like Barbara and me would love to see such a plan. More and more people are doing what we do; wait until a new series is available on Netflix/Qwikster before starting to watch it. I adore Emily VanCamp, for example, and she stars in a new series that debuts in a couple of days. In the past, I’d have set up our DVD recorder to record the episodes as they were broadcast and then zap the commercials. But we won’t watch it on broadcast TV. Instead, we’ll wait until next summer, when it will release on DVD, and watch it commercial-free.

Work continues on the biology book. I’m currently prototyping the biology kit and putting together purchase orders for a small number of the kits. I plan to have the book 100% complete by year-end, so I have to have kits ready to ship soon after that.