Saturday, April 02, 2011

Digital Digest: Netflix - The Future of Digital Home Media?

Welcome to Digital Digest, our weekly blog feature about all things digital in the world of sitcoms! We have another slow news week this week (as typical), but we also have a blog feature story about Netflix and how it may just be the future of digital home media. Let's get going!


DIGITAL NEWS

The Simpsons is a series that will seemingly never end, and as long as it is continuing, DVDs have to continue too, of course! Although the series still has quite a ways to go to be caught up with the current season, the fourteenth season is on the horizon for later this summer, though an exact date is not yet known. It is expected that it will contain plenty of special features (as always) and there will likely be a Blu-ray Disc release of the season.

In keeping up with the trends of releasing value-priced "best of" collections of series, Universal is now getting into the game with four separate releases containing "best" episodes of some of their classic 80s action dramas. Set to be released on June 14 at a $14.98 MSRP, be on the lookout for two-disc sets of The A-Team, Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I., and Miami Vice.

The Wonder Years is a series that seems as if it will never get a DVD release, and that is too bad... but don't lose hope on seeing it in a digital format! A recently announced deal between Twentieth Century Fox and Netflix is about to make the series available for streaming online for Netflix subscribers! This isn't a total victory for everybody waiting to see the series on DVD, but it is significant in that it finally provides a way for fans to watch the series at their leisure. It isn't available just yet, but hopefully it will be soon. We have more on Netflix in our feature story today.


UPCOMING WEEK PREVIEW

Tuesday (April 5) brings us only one release in the sitcom world, with House of Payne - Volume 7. We hope to have a review of this set soon.


BLOG FEATURE STORY

Netflix - The Future of Home Media?
by skees53

Just two weeks ago, we talked about how physical home media could be dying out. It sounded like all gloom and doom, but it isn't. We've talked about Netflix on here several times (even before Digital Digest started), and how they began streaming TV series online, and in many cases not just a few isolated episodes but entire series.

It really all started a few years with a few series from the Universal library, but it has widely expanded now to include many other series. As we mentioned earlier in today's Digital Digest, a new deal was recently announced that will bring library series, including The Wonder Years (which has only seen two single episode DVD releases, both of which have been out of print for over a decade) and Ally McBeal, among other Fox library series to Netflix.

It all sounds promising, and they will be far from alone when they join Netflix. Already, you can enjoy every episode or at least many episodes of series including 3rd Rock from the Sun, 30 Rock, The Addams Family, Arrested Development, Cheers, The Cosby Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Family Guy, Futurama, The Munsters, The Office, Roseanne, Scrubs, Soap, South Park, That '70s Show, and many more series, including edited versions of episodes from every season of Saturday Night Live. For just a low monthly fee, you can watch all of these programs at any time you want.

The most obvious way to watch this programming is through your computer (you can view them on any Windows or Mac computer), but there are even better ways that you can watch the programming. We'll start with the "big picture." If you have a TV (which I'm sure that just about everybody reading this blog does), you can buy certain Blu-ray players and even televisions that have Netflix capabilities built right into them, provided that you have an active internet connection. You can also watch the programming on all of the major current video game systems, including those from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. And if you don't have any of those, there are still even more options out there, including Apple TV. But what if you want to go portable? Well, if you own any one of Apple's current wi-fi or 3G enabled "portable devices," such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, you can even download a free app from the App Store that will allow you to watch all of this programming anywhere you go provided that you have an active subscription. And recently, a test application for Android devices was leaked online, although it isn't functional, but it does suggest that an Android app is on the way.

There are downfalls, however. A series becoming available on Netflix is not a permanent arrangement. When you purchase a DVD, you own that DVD for life, and unless your home is burglarized or destroyed, you own that DVD forever. With Netflix, everything comes down to limited term deals which decide when a series will be available on there and how long it will be available on there. There are many series which were previously available on Netflix such as Gimme a Break!, Simon & Simon, and The Twilight Zone (just to name a few) that are no longer available to view on there at any price. There could be multiple explanations as to why they were removed; maybe they weren't popular enough among fans, maybe they removed them so that they could free up server space for new programming, or maybe content deals for the series expired. Additionally, if you stop paying your monthly fee for Netflix, you obviously won't be able to access this programming anymore.

Another potential problem is streaming issues and quality. In a perfect world, we'd all have an internet connection that runs at the speed of light with no hiccups at all. But we live in a world where we still have internet connections that, while being much better than the 14K than we used about a decade and a half ago, are still not ready for all of this streaming activity. As a result, when you watch many of these programs on Netflix (as well as other streaming video sources), you may occasionally have your program stopped for buffering and won't necessarily get a picture that is up to par with true high definition quality. That isn't to say that some people won't get great results a majority of the time, but very rarely is streaming video as easy and reliable as sticking a DVD or Blu-ray Disc into your player and watching it play smoothly (assuming that the disc isn't damaged).

Still, streaming video seems to be the future of home media, for better or for worse. And it appears that as time goes on, it will get better, and it will provide us with more options than physical media could have ever dreamed of offering us. I was hesitant to use it at first, but once I finally signed up for Netflix a little over a year ago, I realized that the streaming video is the best part of it, and it places a very large library of programming into your hands at a relatively low price, with benefits of being portable and no organization of DVDs to worry about. Hopefully, as time goes on, we'll have the ability to watch just about any episode of any series that we want to watch at the palm of our hands, although it would certainly be best if DVDs and Blu-rays (or their higher-tech future replacements, whatever they may be) continued on into the future for those who want the thrill of ownership of their favorite programs.


LOOKING AHEAD

We come to an end for this week's Digital Digest, and we hope that you are logging in or signing up for Netflix right now to watch the great programming that is already on there and anticipating what is to come! We hope to have more positive news regarding Netflix and other similar services in the upcoming weeks, but of course, we hope to have more DVD and Blu-ray news as well! In the upcoming weeks, you'll see some reviews of even more classic Hanna-Barbera animated series from the Warner Archive Collection. Until then, keep it digital!


New on DVD/Blu-ray (December/January)

American Dad! - Volume 11 Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized) The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two Hooperman - Season One

12/06 - Family Guy - Season Fourteen
12/13 - American Dad! - Volume 11
12/13 - Newhart - The Complete Seventh Season
01/03 - Girls - The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)
01/10 - Broad City - Season 3
01/17 - I Love Lucy - Superstar Special #2 (Colorized)
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume One
01/17 - The Love Boat - Season Three - Volume Two
01/24 - Hooperman - Season One
01/24 - Hooperman - Season Two
01/31 - Ballers - The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, January 17

The Middle - "Pitch Imperfect" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Axl begins to panic when he realizes that he only has four months of college left before he graduates, and he hasn’t sent out any job resumes – something he should have started when he was a junior. Meanwhile, Brad agrees to lead Sue’s no-cut a cappella group as they enter a music competition, and Brick desperately asks for Frankie and Mike’s advice when girlfriend Cindy tells him that he reads too much, and if he doesn’t stop, she’ll break up with him.

American Housewife - "Surprise" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Oliver tells his parents that he’s so embarrassed by their modest house that he’d rather not have a birthday party at all. Katie decides to teach him a lesson by ambushing him with a surprise party at home with all his wealthy friends.

Fresh Off the Boat - "The Best of Orlando" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
When Louis is named “Small Businessman of the Year,” Jessica is overflowing with pride and invites everyone they know to join them at the awards ceremony. But when Louis forgets to thank Jessica during his acceptance speech, he suffers the repercussions at home. Meanwhile, Eddie, Emery and Grandma start their own clothing line and quickly discover the challenges of running their own small business.

The Real O'Neals - "The Real Acceptance" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
After Kenny and Brett officially become a couple, Kenny starts to think of plan on how he should break the news to his parents. Meanwhile, Jimmy surprises everyone when he scores a high SAT score, forcing Eileen to hold up her end of a deal that she had previously made and takes Jimmy car shopping.

New Girl - "Cece's Boys" (Fox, 8:00PM ET/PT)
As Jess tries to find a new vice principal, she discovers that she has a real problem when it comes to making decisions. Meanwhile, Cece enlists Jess and Reagan to help her recruit new models, and the guys are in for a surprise when they enjoy a day at the spa.

The Mick - "The Fire" (Fox, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Mickey tries to quit smoking. Meanwhile, Ben meets a new friend.

Teachers - "First Day Back" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
As the teachers return from summer break, Ms. Watson tries an ultra premium online dating service and Ms. Snap learns that she’s been given the worst group of kids in school. Mrs. Adler is assigned to a mobile classroom.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of January 16)

Tuesday, January 17

  • Katy Mixon (American Housewife/Mike & Molly) - Catch Katy on Jimmy Kimmel Live! at 11:35pm on ABC.
  • Michael Keaton (Working Stiffs/All's Fair) - Michael appears on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Billy Eichner (Difficult People) - Billy is a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Tracee Ellis Ross (black-ish/Girlfriends) - Tracee visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Patrick Warburton (Crowded/Rules of Engagement/Less Than Perfect) - Patrick stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on PIX11 Morning News on WPIX in New York.
  • Anders Holm (Workaholics) - Anders is a guest on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Rory Scovel (Ground Floor) - Rory appears on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
  • Kathy Griffin (Suddenly Susan) - Kathy is a guest on Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Christian Slater (Breaking In) - Christian guest co-hosts LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Louie Anderson (Baskets/Life with Louie/The Louie Show) - Louie drops by LIVE! with Kelly, so check your listings.
  • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Stark Raving Mad/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Neil joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Yvette Nicole Brown (The Odd Couple/Community) - Yvette joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
  • Andrew Dice Clay (Bless This House/Hitz) - Andrew is a guest on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Kym Whitley (Young & Hungry/Animal Practice/Sparks) - Kym visits Cleveland on Steve Harvey, so check your local listings.