October 19, 2015

Streaming Scream Queens for Halloween: Special 13 Day Countdown Edition

“Poor” Netflix! With all the service changes and pricing miscues, apologies from the CEO, withering criticism of its streaming catalog, and persistent predictions of its imminent demise in the face of rising competition, it still singlehandedly accounts for nearly 37% of all U.S. bandwidth usage at peak hours.  Netflix was just in the news again, with its feckless CEO blaming credit card companies issuing new chip-based cards for the slump in their subscriber base growth. Yep, you got that right — in this industry, you don’t actually have to lose customers to get unwanted attention. All it takes is an unanticipated dip in the growth of new subscribers to get you scrambling for some excuse, any excuse, to appease critics and shareholders.

Netflix error screen capture
My purpose here is not to beat up on Netflix alone. I don’t think I have to polish my credentials as an implacable, remorseless media industry critic. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may have run across some of my finer moments in taking the suits who run these media empires to task, for instance, here, here and here.

The fact is, I’m just your run-of-the-mill, patriotic American consumer. I want what I want. And my wants are simple. I want access to a video/film catalog complete with all the obscure, old B movies that I have taken a shine to and that are the staples of this blog. I want to be able to rent or purchase copies, stream or download, and I want them playable on all my devices — HD TV, desktop computer, tablet, phone and in the near future, that chip in my head that plays HD movies in the back of my eyeballs. I never, ever want to see that a title is no longer in my streaming queue because the license expired. And, I want to be able to freely and legally rip small portions, not more than 2 or 3 minutes (hey, I’m not greedy!), from any digital video to store in my YouTube account and embed in these here posts, just like I have the right to quote from passages of any friggin’ book that I might be reviewing!

So, you humorless media industry suits, step back from all your feuding over licenses and copyright and intellectual property and patents and whatever, and get busy making me and others just like me happy! We’ll even pay you — a reasonable, but not exorbitant, amount.

I won’t hold my breath. Even with the recent profusion of streaming channels, platforms and assorted options, it seems like the train is headed in the wrong direction. I admit that I have a collector’s (and reviewer’s) mentality. I get bored with the 2015 equivalent of channel surfing — firing up Netflix or Hulu or the streaming service of the moment and browsing through the endless lists of “trending” or “recently added” movies and shows, trying to find something even mildly interesting. No, I’m much more oriented to that specific title that I ran across in a book, or an article, or through word of mouth, or even that thing that ran on TCM months ago. I want to check it out, give it a spin, see if its something I want to cover for the blog… whatever. And I don’t want to spend a fortune in time or $ hunting it down. Amazon Instant Watch is the closest thing to that online union catalog of video, for rent or purchase in the cloud, that I covet. It has its holes, and some of the pricing is inscrutable, but kudos to them nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the industry trend is away from the online title by title smorgasbord to the locked down subscription package deal. You want titles X, Y and Z? Sure, Netflix has ‘em for a measly $7.99 month and so many more! Wanna binge on that show everyone’s watching? Great, just add another $11.99 to pick up your Hulu subscription for that and a million other shows. Add another $9.99 for the other service that has the content that the first two don’t carry, and maybe yet another, and suddenly you’re looking at your credit card bill and wondering where you’re going to get the bucks for gas and groceries. This is obviously where the suits want us. Feeding off us, month after month. So much better than the hit or miss, occasional purchases of downloaded titles and doing with them as we see fit. iTunes is dead. Long live Apple Music.

We are like living batteries that the suits have hooked up to their enormous greed engines, draining us minute by minute, month by month. We’re so entranced by the streaming spectacles that we don’t wake up until it’s too late, until we’re nothing but dried, lifeless, penniless husks. What movie does that remind you of?

Neo is thinking about his next TV binge

On the other hand, we might as well enjoy the trip to lifeless huskdom (huskdomness? huskiness?). In the best spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” I want to a.) promote some lurid B titles that have wormed their way into otherwise respectable streaming services; and b.) emulate those evil but savvy industry suits by doing a little bit of my own synergizing and building up of the Films From Beyond media empire.

Part of that empire is the Films From Beyond Facebook page. If you haven’t already, get over there and like it. As an added incentive, for the next 13 days through to Halloween, I’m going to be Facebook posting on Streaming Scream Queens available now at an online service near you. We’ll see you back here on the blog after Halloween!