Thursday Links: Netflix, Indie, Hulu Notes

Yes, I should be working on my syllabi.  But a few recent news stories keep distracting me (and I’m not even ready to start thinking about that Apple tablet thingie):

  • A number of people have reported the story that Netflix and Warner have made a deal that would significantly expand Netflix’s ability to offer streaming versions of Warner films in exchange for delaying rental of Warner titles until 28 days after they go on sale.  This gives Warner a short retail window that might allow them to boost DVD sales while providing Netflix with access to more streaming content.  As NewTeeVee points out, it’s much cheaper for Netflix to stream videos rather than distributing them on DVD by mail.
  • Wired Magazine has an interesting article about The Asylum, a low-budget studio “specializing in shamelessly derivative knockoffs that are not-so-affectionately dubbed ‘mockbusters.'”  I’ve seen a couple of their titles, I think, at my local Blockbuster (including Snakes on a Train), but although the studio made approximately $5 million last year, they typically are ignored when we talk about “independent filmmaking,” one presumes because their films are perceived as schlocky or derivative.  But, as the Wired article astutley points out, there is a long history of this sort of practice, and given the glut of indies out there playing one or two festivals, we might benefit from thinking about studios like The Asylum, and how they fit into narratives of independent cinema, because they do make films that get relatively wide video distribution.
  • The most recent comScore analysis shows that viewers watched 31 billion online videos in November alone.  Google sites (i.e., including YouTube) accounted for nearly 40% of the total.  The nearest compeitior, Hulu, clocked in at 3%.
  • NewTeeVee also has some interesting, if somewhat odd, notes on Hulu’s audience, as compared to attendance at a number of blockbuster films.  I’m not sure what we learn from seeing that 42 million people saw a video on Hulu in October while nearly 20 million attended New Moon on its opening weekend, but the comparisons are worth a look.


  1. Ramón Calderón Said,

    January 9, 2010 @ 5:40 am

    It’s worth to note that Hulu is restricted to US whereas anyone can watch YouTube videos all over the world. No doubt YouTube is still the undisputed winner but it would be interesting to have a look at the number of viewers only inside US of both Youtube and Hulu.

  2. Chuck Said,

    January 11, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

    Ramon, those territorial issues are worth thinking about, especially when Hulu is restricted to such a tiny part of the globe.

  3. Jennifer Wuester Said,

    January 13, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    I’m torn in regards to the Netflix announcement that you referenced. It was important news to me for several reasons, one of which is my love for film. Another reason being that I have been a Netflix subscriber for years, and actually visit movie release sites so that I can more effectively maintain my Queue with the absolute latest releases listed at the top of it. 🙂 The last reason, and perhaps the most important reason, being that I am the proud owner of a PS3.

    Approximately six months ago, Netflix announced a deal they had made with Sony in regards to expanding their business into the gaming industry; by the middle of 2010 I can supposedly expect the latest and greatest video games to be streamed to my PS3, in addition to the now not so latest and greatest films (due to their deal with Warner). Two months ago I received a disc in the mail that once inserted into my PS3 creates an online library of movies to watch instantly with no buffering issues to speak of. I now no longer have to connect my laptop to my television to stream movies, but the content of the online library is and has always been dismal. To enhance this end of their business, which as you referenced is cheaper, they bargained with Warner on the delay of the new releases in exchange for the expanded online library.

    As a filmer (as opposed to a gamer), this news was somewhat disappointing, though I do see it as a win/win for Netflix. They have expanded into the gaming industry by making an exclusive deal with PS3, solved the at-home viewing buffering issues associated with movie watching on one’s computer by streaming to the PS3, expanded their online library, and have only had to take a minor hit with Warner by delaying their new releases. After my initial disappointment, I considered the fact that while Warner is one of the big dogs in terms of studio/production/distribution/do everything companies, they are just ONE of the many.

    Sigh…I suppose limiting the new releases by Warner is a small price to pay for the added variety of my online Queue, and the ability to eventually stream games to my PS3 for my kids; but that’s just my take on it all. One woman’s opinion.

  4. Chuck Said,

    January 13, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

    My guess is that Netflix is slowly but surely trying to move away from the red envelope and closer to online, streaming distribution, which is certainly cheaper and faster. I’d also imagine that Netflix may have to cut other deals like the Warner one in order to get more streaming content that audiences want. Whether it will help DVD sales for studios is another matter. Given the current economy and the widespread acceptance of streaming, I’d imagine that there will be less incentive to buy and collect DVDs. Some parents may want them for kids, and serious cinephiles may feel the need to purchase hard-to-find DVDs, but why, for example, would I need a copy of a relatively commercial hit that I could find on Netflix, at Blockbuster, or in dozens of other easily available formats?

  5. Jennifer Wuester Said,

    January 13, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    I sincerely doubt that it will boost Warner’s dvd sales; I don’t know that anything would/could do that right now. I consider myself to be a relatively hard-core movie buff, and I myself stopped purchasing dvd’s (with a few minor exceptions) many years ago when Netflix increased their distribution centers and my turnaround time became 1 day. Indeed, there is no need to purchase the dvd when it seems that everything in this modern world is becoming “on demand.” And with the current state of the economy, I find Netflix to be a highly budget-friendly alternative to what seemed to be my ever growing (and space consuming) dvd collection. In fact, I finally bit the bullet 2 years ago and purchased an electronic media center, and began the process of ripping my dvds to it to create my own virtual library of movies, without the need to remove the dvd from the case to watch it. Ah yes…how lazy I do feel while I flip through the virtual dvd collection. But isn’t that what Netflix is feeding; our progression towards a society in which we simply have to push a button to produce something? First the appeal of not having to leave the house; the movies were delivered to our door. Then the appeal of not having to walk to the mailbox; the movies are delivered to our computer! My ultimate guilty pleasure is the fact that we built a movie room in our home; I haven’t actually been to the big screen in years. But that leads to an entirely new subject matter, and I have a habit of segueing severely. I will leave it at this: I believe that Warner has the wrong idea entirely in even trying to boost the sales of their dvds. They are not looking at the big picture; they are not looking towards the future of film distribution, and the direction that it is headed.

  6. Chuck Said,

    January 13, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    Basically I think you’re right about the future of DVD purchasing practices, and I’m sure Netflix knows this, and Warner probably has some idea. They can see pretty clearly that Blu-Ray is not really taking off nearly as well as DVDs did and that DVD sales in general are flattening, even as overall box office goes up.

    The window offers some measure of protection, but fewer people are keen to have a bunch of DVDs laying around doing nothing, especially when so many movies are freely available online. Collectors will still exist and “special” DVDs may sell well, but beyond that, streaming and other “instant” formats seem likely to dominate.

    That being said, the fastest growing movie rental service is the decidedly low-tech Redbox vending machine, so who knows where all of this will go??

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