Tag Archives: Netflix

Renting Isn’t Dead : DVD Rental Culture in Japan

Do you remember when you would go with your family down to the local DVD rental store and pick out a movie to watch over the weekend? Feels nostalgic, doesn’t it? When’s the last time you’ve rented a physical copy of a DVD? 5 years ago? 2 years ago?

With the rise of Netflix and other streaming services through the internet, it’s safe to say that DVD rental is dying, if not already dead in the U.S. Remember a store called Blockbuster?

Well what if I told you there was a way to relive that time in your childhood and a magical place you could go to to rent out DVDs? No, this place isn’t some museum.

Welcome to Japan!

dvd rentalJapan is a country known for its modern technology. While it does have the latest developments in robotics, some things that are outdated here in the United States of America are still common in the land of the Rising Sun, including renting DVDs! That’s right. In Japan, it’s still very common to go out and rent physical copies of DVDs!

I studied abroad in Japan for one year. While I was there, I was shocked when I realized everyone was used to simply going to a store and renting DVDs in 2015. For me, it seemed as if I had stepped into a time machine, relieving my childhood. I hadn’t rented DVDs in years!

My host family would rent DVDs all the time, in fact they took me to a DVD rental shop several times. I’m not the only one who felt like they were seeing a “living fossil” and like they were “slipping back into [their] childhood.”

dvd rental
Picture of me the first time my host family took me to Tsutaya.

Tsutaya is one of the biggest DVD rental chains in Japan. The two top video chains “account for 70% of all video rental stores in Japan.” Tsutaya has 1,461 stores in Japan (as of the end of December 2013). It also has 7 stores in Taiwan making it a grand total of 1,468 stores total.

Renting DVDs there is simple. All you need, is a membership card. Once you have that you simply go in, choose from a wide selection of DVDs and take home with you your selection for up to a week. Of course, new releases will be more expensive and can only be rented for a few days, but there is a wide of variety to choose from. From old to new, international domestic, you will be bound to find something that peeks your interest to take home with you.

The first Tsutaya opened in Hirakata, the city where I studied abroad, in 1983. They also launched an online service in 1999. Now, a streaming service is available for subscription members as well as mail delivery even though physical purchases, sells and rentals still seems to be more popular.

 DVD Retal

Why is DVD renting still alive and well in Japan? There might be several reasons. First, Tsutaya isn’t just a DVD rental shop. It also sells and buys books, CDs, games and DVDs. It also rents DVDs, books, magazines and CDS (for some reason, video games cannot be rented in Japan). Tsutaya also recently started opening big buildings called T-sites which include Tsutayas and other stores such as tech stores and even apple stores! Tsutayas can be found everywhere including across every block. Some Tsutayas even have Starbucks inside their stores, similar to like some Barnes&Noble in the States.  Tsutaya was even featured in a list of the “20 most beautiful bookstores in the world”.

Another reason might be that Japan is one of the few countries that watches more of its domestic content than imported content from Hollywood. This creates a wider demand for a more varied and larger range of media.

What do you think? Would you go Tsutaya if you ever go to Japan? How would you feel about renting DVDs? Nostalgic? Why do you think DVD rentals are still popular in Japan? What is Tsutaya doing differently than U.S. DVD rental shops did and why or why not is it being effective? Do you think DVD rental would have survived if the same marketing strategies had been implemented in the U.S.? What do you think the future holds for Japan’s DVD rental culture? Do you think the Japanese DVD rental culture will suffer the same fate as in the U.S? Only time will tell.

Clara Tosi

How to Compete with Netflix: Where the Streaming Industry Stands

Dan Harmon, the creator of critically acclaimed shows such as Community and Rick and Morty released a short series, Harmonquest, exclusively on the streaming service SeeSo. Naturally, I signed up for a free trial and binge watched the show in five hours. Beyond Harmonquest, SeeSo offers a load of popular comedy shows as well as quite a few entertaining original shows. To top it all off, it’s only $4 a month! However, I decided to promptly end my subscription afterwards. But why wasn’t SeeSo able to retain this subscriber to their service? What is SeeSo and the rest of the streaming industry doing wrong?

netflixWhen it comes to streaming movies and television shows, consumers aren’t asking for an be-all, end-all product. Here are the three most important characteristics of a quality streaming service. First and foremost is abundance and customization. Big streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all have a wide selection of quality shows, with the ability to favorite shows and customize their viewing experience.

Almost every single service offers customization by making your own account, and services like Crackle and Tubi TV have tons of content to pick from, however, if you subscribe to Crunchyroll or Acorn TV you’ll find yourself surrounded with content directed at niche audiences. This can both work in favor or against a particular service, but may still fall within a customizable experience.

The second factor, and arguably more important than the first is that a streaming service must provide high quality, smooth streaming. This is where many free services, and some paid ones fall short.

netflixOn Crackle, if you go on their site to watch a movie, you are stuck with the highest quality stream at 480p. For those wishing to immerse themselves in whatever they are viewing, images riddled with blurry artifacts and muddy sound takes away from the experience. On SeeSo, when I subscribed back in mid-July of 2016, playback would often stutter despite having high connection speeds. Further research shows they have yet to optimize their playback technology for browsers. But even ignoring stuttering playback, there is no option to adjust quality settings for SeeSo, and with no high definition options available, SeeSo commits an unforgivable sin for a paid service.

The final part of streaming’s Holy Trinity is that the desired service can’t cost too much. The streaming industry has been giving cable providers trouble with super competitive pricing at less than $15 a month per service to cable’s monthly $100+ and it’s no surprise why. But this isn’t about how expensive a service is compared to cable, it’s about how they compare against other streaming services. SeeSo, Acorn TV, Crunchyroll, Mubi.com, all cost less than $8 a month. In fact, you could pay for SeeSo and Crunchyroll for the price of Netflix’s standard subscription fee. This is where many smaller streaming services beat the big players, and Netflix continues to gradually raise their subscription prices.

A similar war was fought before the video streaming war even began, and that is in the music industry. Services like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora Radio, are constantly competing to gain and maintain subscribers to the services.

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But how do they go about doing it? Unlike the realm of video, music streaming services can’t rely on simply specializing on a single genre like Acorn TV or Crunchyroll. Their war is shaped a little differently. Pricing will always come up when comparing services and Spotify has taken several steps to directly compete with Apple Music – lowering their family plan from $30 a month to only $15 for six users directly competing with Apple Music’s family plan at the same cost and number of users, and exclusives shine in the spotlight with Tidal pulling in users by getting first dibs on popular new releases.

While it may be nice to stick with comfortable picks like Netflix and Hulu, there are hundreds of other streaming services out there that have a lot to offer to consumers whether it’s unique, quality exclusives or just incredible bang for your buck. Ditch your comfort zone, end try leaving your Netflix or Hulu subscription behind to explore what else is out there for a month, while some experiences may not work out, there’s a chance you’ll find a service that is exactly what you’re looking for.

Kevin Thorn

Onscreen Superheroes: Will they Live or Die?

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”  -Harvey Dent.

This very quote can be applied to the superhero screen genre, from Marvel and DC comics especially. When the first superhero films and TV shows came out, fans couldn’t get enough and were clamoring for more. Now after the superhero genre has dominated the box office the last few years, and even started to take over certain networks on TV, there are those who believe it has become overplayed and are predicting its demise.

Since the year 2000, Marvel and DC have produced a combined total of 54 movies, which comes to about four movies per year. While this number doesn’t seem that large, the average rises significantly when you take a look at just the past five years, with an average of more than five movies per year. Next year alone there are seven superhero flicks scheduled for release from the two powerhouse comic franchises.

Superhero movie release

You may assume that I am part of the group that believes that the market for superheroes is oversaturated and needs to slow down for fear of falling apart. On the contrary, I love how the superhero genre is flourishing right now and it is my belief that is will continue to do so. I hope the genre continues to find success and will be here for the long run.

Some have likened superhero films as today’s modern western. Some find that comparison a sign of good fortune and others a sign of doom. For example, Steven Spielberg stated, “We were around when the Western died, and there will be a time when the superhero move goes the way of the Western.”

On the opposite side, screenwriter Stephen McFeely one of the writers of Captain America Winter Soldier, believes that superhero movies are the new Western, but not based on their similarities in popularity, but grounded in the ideals they embody. Ideals about honor and looking out for the little guy.

In the wake of film box office success, superhero TV shows have become increasingly popular. With some networks, such as the CW, and streaming services, like Netflix, offering many new shows. The CW is even referred to as the DC Channel. With the addition of Supergirl to its lineup the network now has four shows DC comics properties.

Netflix has also made deals with Marvel, with three current Netflix/Marvel original series in its lineup, and with many more to follow. Are superhero television series dependent on the success of the movies, or will television shows continue to stand on their own?

You may wonder what will happen when they run out of superhero storylines to adapt. How will they continue to succeed? But don’t forget that superhero movies are not based on fact or history they are movies based on works of fiction and comics are always expanding and the storylines are ever changing.

Marvel Comics has recently introduced a number of new characters, and these characters have yet to be incorporated into films. There is the new Iron Man character, Riri Williams, and new Spiderman character, Miles Morales. These new characters will allow for additional movies.

Superhero Riri Williams   Superhero miles morales

Another factor that comics fans sometimes don’t take into account is the use of time travel, as used X-Men Days of Future Past. The use of time travel in a film or television series allows for the slate to wiped completely clean and start new. You can even using the same characters in different ways.

I truly believe that the superhero genre is here to stay and is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, with the introduction of new characters and storylines I think it is only going to increase in popularity for the years to come.

Colin Stroehle

Piracy: Stealing the Industry’s Booty

It’s a Thursday evening, you’re tired and just looking to have a “chill” evening. Maybe you’ll invite that girl or guy you’ve been chatting with on social media over, but then what will you do? You could pay five dollars at Marcus Theatres, but realistically that is just too expensive of a price to pay for a movie, especially on a college budget. So you do the next best thing (or so you think…) and hop on Kickasstorrents or The Pirate Bay to stream that new film you’ve been wanting to see. You hope to impress your date by entertaining them without spending a dime or leaving the house, but let’s take a look at what’s really being forfeited here.

The Pirate BayWhen you look at the bigger picture, the one that resides outside of your janky two-bedroom apartment, you would see the industry is losing a lot by people streaming pirated films. According to forbes.com, some independent film distributors, such as Wolfe Video, have seen their profits cut completely in half by piracy. This could result in projects being scrapped altogether for fear they won’t make the big bucks. The other thing you should consider is when you neglect to pay for your content, is that someone’s salary somewhere could potentially be affected. Do you want to explain to little Jimmy that his parents won’t be able to feed him because you “can’t afford” five-dollar movie night?

But the industry is fighting back. Since most of the time it’s streaming and convenience that you want, they created popular pay for sites that people are more willing to buy into to get their content. These services include such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, Spotify, and Itunes. I bet you never suspected you were fighting a battle against the pirates while partaking in “Netflix and Chill.” Not only can any of these be downloaded as an app to your favorite technological device, but they are also a pay monthly service giving you a ton of great content for one low price that even you can afford (at least we should hope so.)

Of course, there are still a few loopholes to this method of fighting piracy, one being password sharing.

Sharing your password with someone outside of your family or household is very common and in a report by Variety is apparently taking away $500 million from the industry. However, it doesn’t seem to have any negative effect on them as of now, but don’t be surprised if these guys start cracking down in the near future. You might need stop using your grandma’s lover’s son’s college roommate’s password, and get your own one of these days.

Sam Fickett

Distributing Flix Via The ‘Net: Netflix Lives Up To Their Name

Media distribution is an ever evolving industry, from stone tablets and etchings in the dark ages to illuminated manuscripts in medieval times to the newspaper boys of the late 19th century to film houses and cinemas of the 20th century to blogs, vlogs, RSS feeds and online versions of your favorite magazines of today. People want to consume media, and there have always been business people who will get it to them, for a price.

Netflix_logoOne relatively new entry into the media distribution market is Netflix. They started as a mail-order DVD rental service, transformed into an online video streaming provider and then transformed again into content creator now worth more than CBS. Netflix first ventured into original content creation a few years ago in 2011 with a few (awesome) television shows. If you haven’t watched their version of House of Cards or caught up on the binge-worthy Orange is the New Black then you are certainly living under a rock.

However successful Netflix’s original series have been, they have all been streaming video only available online which is Netflix’s bread-and-butter: watch whatever you like, wherever you like, however you like. Now though, shape-shifting as ever, Netflix is trying on another hat: film distributor.

Beasts of No Nation is the film adaptation of a novel by Uzodinma Iweala about a boy soldier in a war-torn African country. Netflix bought the distribution rights for $12 million this spring, and organized a limited theatrical release of the film last month: showing it in just 31 theaters. It is difficult to be sure exactly why Netflix would show the movie they bought to distribute theatrically in so few theaters, but it may have something to do with the four biggest theater chains (AMC, Regal, Cinemark and Carmike) in America boycotting the film. The theater chains did not appreciate that Netflix would be streaming the film online at the same time it was in theaters. There is usually a 90-day window of time when a film is solely available theatrically.

Abraham Attah
Abraham Attah, star of Beasts of No Nation at the Venice International Film Festival

The film only made $90,777 theatrically, but it garnered critical acclaim at the Venice International Film Festival and received generally favorable reviews from film critics.

Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t release viewing statistics of their content, so we don’t know how many people have streamed Beasts of No Nation online in the three weeks since its debut. This leaves us in the dark to whether or not it should be considered a success.

Netflix is certainly hoping the film will earn an Oscar nod or two, but will it? Has this $12 million gamble paid off? Will it solidify Netflix’s place not only in the realm of content creators, but in award-winning content distribution, outside of the internet? Will we see more Netflix content in theaters?

Eyes will be on the Academy this coming January to see how they handle the newest face of the ever-changing company that is Netflix.

Sommer Darland

Netflix’s Reed Hastings: Honesty Is the Best Business Plan

You can’t discuss the overwhelming success of Netflix without giving due credit to its CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings. Hastings’ visionary direction for Netflix and, coincidently, television has undoubtedly shaped an entire culture, and he isn’t planning on letting up anytime soon.

NetflixBut what really sets Reed Hasting apart from other CEOs isn’t his influence over an industry movement, but his genuine servant attitude in the delivering of content to consumers. These visions and concepts of the company’s future have been clear since the beginning when he decidedly dubbed it the name Netflix (rather than something obvious like Mailflix or Postflix). Hastings and his company have always had their sights set towards the possibilities of the future and online distribution, so it only makes sense to see how personal he takes the issue of persevering on the Internet.

Today most rival streaming services are busy developing and perfecting their own personal streaming infrastructures. However, Hastings is helping further the development of not only Netflix (both home and abroad) but the entire infrastructure of the Internet in general, constantly voicing his opinions in redefining the relationships between businesses and ISPS with their consumers.

Reed HastingsWith great power comes great responsibility, and Hastings has far from taken his influential position for granted. He has been know notoriously for speaking out against the powerful grasp of ISPs saying, “Comcast would love to be the post office and be a national monopoly collecting on everything, but that’s not the way the Internet works”.

Hastings understands the infrastructure of the Internet and is a strong supporter of a neutral Internet with free interconnectivity. While we wait to see what the recently passed Net Neutrality rules have in store for the Internet, Hastings remains cautious and realizes it is a mere stepping stone to achieving a true free and open Internet.

In addition to his business savvy, Hastings has brought to the company (and to the entire Internet) a sense of honesty and well-being to consumers. As a powerful CEO, we’ve seen Hasting is quick to adapt to a changing market, to experiment and take risks. Even more importantly, he has proven again and again to be just as quick at admitting fault when those innovations fail.

Most recently, He has been one of the most prominent voices speaking out against Comcast’s potential 45 million dollar acquisition of Time Warner Cable (currently awaiting FCC approval to move forward). Hasting argues that the current system is already backward enough saying if “1/3 of the Internet use is customers using Netflix member, we (Netflix) should get 1/3 of Comcast’s revenue. If they (Comcast) want to give us (Netflix) 1/3 of the revenue, we’ll give them (Comcast) 1/3 of the cost… Do you really want 50 percent of the Internet controlled by one company?”

These values of honesty and transparency, which Hastings has passed on to his company, have been a huge contributing factor to Netflix’s propulsion as the industry leader in subscription based video on demand (SVOD).

Whether it be admitting to the press that he loves HBO (he’s openly stated multiple times that Veep is his favorite shows) or speaking well of the very conglomerates Netflix is lobbying against (referring to Comcast’s Brian L. Roberts as a “great guy”), the sense of humanity and truthfulness Hastings brings to Netflix, and the entire industry, is a breath of fresh air during this time of online uncertainty.

Netflix’s unwavering flexibility to change with the times coupled by Hastings’s undivided willingness to provide media consumers with the best viewing experience (as well as the best Internet experience) will undoubtedly help set Netflix apart from the competition of emerging SVOD.

– Aaron Sprengeler

You will Marvel at Netflix’s New Programming!

In 2015 Netflix is adding a slew of new and original programing from Marvel to its already vast library of content. Among the list of new shows are “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist” and “Luke Cage,” which will unfold over multiple years of original programming and take the viewer into the world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to thirteen episodes for each series and a culminating Marvel’s “The Defenders.”

netflixFor Netflix this is a step in the right direction. Marvel is known to attract people just based on brand name recognition, and for Netflix to give them creative license to create content that will add to the Marvel Cinematic Universe will certainly help them. This will be Marvel’s first attempt at establishing comic-based characters for television shows other than “Agents of Shield,” which airs on ABC.

“Daredevil” is the first of the shows to be produced and is a personal favorite of mine. “Daredevil” is the story of Matt Murdock, a lawyer who has special abilities that develop after being blinded as a young child. His main ability is a special sense that allows him to see through sound, like a bat. This opens up his other senses in special ways, and he uses his talents and agility to fight crime in Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil.

Daredevil/Matt Murdock was one of the first roles to be cast for the show and will be portrayed by actor Charlie Cox.   Others to be cast are Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. The show offers an opportunity to distance itself from the movie “Daredevil,” which many consider a flop.

Netflix’s new original TV deal follows their landmark movie distribution deal. Beginning in 2016, Netflix will be the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for first-run, live-action and animated movies from the Walt Disney Studios, including titles from Disney, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Disneynature and Lucasfilm. Netflix members can currently enjoy a wide range of Disney, ABC TV and Disney Channel films and shows across the 41 countries where Netflix operates.

As of now there isn’t much information on the other shows that Marvel is producing, as Daredevil seems to be the main focus for the time being. My personal take on this is that Marvel is on top of the world and can do no wrong right now.

Despite the dislike of fans for some Marvel movies they still earned a lot of money and are deemed successes. The company is still going forward with more and more plans for television shows and movies. I am looking forward to the new programing, and I’m glad that I have Netflix to be able to watch them when they come out.

Ian Shilhanek