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Does Netflix want to kill DVDs?

Does Netflix want to kill DVDs? (photo)

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The film world is still buzzing with the news that Netflix is separating their DVD and streaming movie services and raising their prices, in some cases as much as 60% per customer. In an interview today on CNET, Big Champagne CEO Eric Garland puts forward a theory for Netflix’s shift in strategy that I’ve heard before and discounted in a way that makes me want to reconsider it.

That theory is that Netflix split their two businesses because they want to get out of one of them, namely the DVDs-by-mail model. There are reasons why that theory made sense to me — mostly because the DVD represent the past and streaming represents the future — and a few reasons why it didn’t, including the fact that Netflix’s own press release on the subject claimed that they wanted to invest more resources into their DVD business, not less. So Netflix, this massive supplier of DVDs, wants to destroy half their business? The whole thing kind of sounded like a conspiracy nut’s fantasy.

Garland’s perspective, though, goes a long way toward explaining why Netflix might indeed want to accelerate the destruction of a big portion of their company. He even cites precedent, comparing the move to the moment when Steve Jobs and Apple decided to release a Macintosh computer without a floppy disk drive. That decision was met with widespread scorn and skepticism at the time. Now? When was the last time you even thought about a floppy disk?

So the thinking goes that Netflix is working along the same lines: killing the old to encourage the new. The counter from skeptics like me would be something like: “Netflix’s streaming selection isn’t deep enough to satisfy many of their customers. Won’t they lose a lot of business as a result?” But Garland gives CNET a pretty devastating counter to that counter:

“Reed [Hastings, Netflix CEO] is deliberately creating dissatisfaction. He’s creating dissonance precisely because that title availability, those first-run titles, needs to be available more immediately and more widely as a (video on demand) or as a streamed offering. So this is a leverage play. This is Reed saying you can’t bifurcate. You’re going to have to make all of your content available in a way that your customer has clearly indicated that he or she wants. Netflix is wagering that if all parties are dissatisfied; if Netflix is unhappy because Netflix customers are unhappy and if Hollywood is unhappy and if everyone is unhappy then we’re going to speed the clock on new solutions. You know that theory of vine economics, you let go of the last vine (like Tarzan) and reach for the next one. If he takes away that last vine then everyone is really going to reach for the next one. That’s what he’s trying to do here. He’s trying to remove the complacency that comes from an easy dependency on that legacy product. If you take the comfort of that DVD away that dissonance is going to demand remedy. You ask ‘what about all those DVD titles? You want those movies. So does Reed Hastings. And so does every other customer and movie fan. And now the pressure under which Hollywood finds itself has been ratcheted up.”

And why won’t customers just flee to some other service? Well, they might, which is all the more reason why Hollywood, which has had a love/hate relationship with Netflix, might have to open up more of their libraries to streaming. Right now, the only outlet that can compete with Netflix in terms of ease of use, variety, and (even after this price hike) affordability is piracy. That might force Hollywood into a choice between offering improved content to Netflix or losing more of their customers to illegal downloads.

A provocative theory. Even if it’s true, though, it still seems like a pretty risky gamble. Now that Netflix’s proven the value of streaming rights online, why won’t the studios start making them available through web portals they own? True, a studio-run Netflix-like streaming site would have a fraction of Netflix’s content, but it could have the all-valuable new releases that many users crave (and which, by and large, aren’t available from Netflix via streaming). And if the studios could play nice and pool their resources, they could really get something going.

Do they hate Netflix enough to work together? I wonder. This online movie business, man. It’s murder.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

E.coli-class-

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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