Just a quick pointer to a fascinating bit of stunt comedy, in which Mark Malkoff took on the challenge of finding out how many hours of Netflix he could watch in a single month. Reasoning that he wanted to get the most value out of his $7.99 monthly streaming bill from Netflix, Malkoff watched 252 feature-length movies in a single month, meaning that he paid approximately three cents per movie. It’s an intriguing experiment to me, in part because it takes the promises of the long tail to absurd lengths, and for the most part, Malkoff was an attentive and reflective participant. He also notes, for example, that his use of streaming video consumed a lot of data, even joking that his cable company is likely “mad” at him for using so much bandwidth, and calling attention to one of the “hidden” costs of streaming video and long tail economics.
He points out that he had more than enough films to watch, given that Netflix has thousands of titles available on its streaming service, so although it is easy to complain about a “content drought” on Netflix, these complaints may be shaped by expectations that we should be able to stream the most recent titles. He also discusses, in this New Tee Vee interview, how he used a balance of social media and recommendation engines, such as Instantwatcher, to find movies that he wanted to see. He also points out that streaming (at least on Netflix) still makes it difficult to watch with the bonus features familiar from DVDs. To correct the situation, he gets a bemused Jason London to comment on Dazed and Confused and a bedraggled Andrew McCarthy to pull him on a wagon through Central Park while he watched St. Elmo’s Fire on his iPad (a subtle reminder that streaming content is also mobile). The video is quite obviously great PR for Netflix, although Malkoff professes that he was never in contact with the company until after the experiment was complete, but it’s also a quirky illustration of how our viewing expectations and practices have changed in the streaming era.
Update: I forgot to link to Malkoff’s complete list of movies that he watched over the course of a month. There are a number of really good films here, ranging from film studies staples (Bonnie and Clyde) to silents (plenty of Keaton and Chaplin) to indie and cult classics (Tiny Furniture, Big Lebowski), although toward the middle he seemed to decide to be a little masochistic and watch some of the “worst” movies possible (Battlefield Earth, Gigli).