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!


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.


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.


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.


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!

Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Tuesday, March 20

The Middle - "Hecks vs. Glossners: The Final Battle" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
It’s the Orson showdown of the century when the Hecks – along with the Donahues and Bill Norwood – wage a war against the Glossners after they steal Sue’s car.

Fresh Off the Boat - "King in the North" (ABC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Honey plans a relaxing vacation before the baby comes, but Jessica turns the trip into a crazy quest to get Stephen King’s endorsement for her novel. When Grandma Huang decides to move out, Louis panics and does everything he can to make sure she knows how welcome she is. Meanwhile, Eddie, Nicole and their friends plan to wear matching suits to the school dance until a dress code demands that the girls must wear dresses, leading Eddie and Nicole to rebel.

black-ish - "Things Were Different Then" (ABC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Dre reluctantly helps Junior plan Pops’ 65th birthday party and starts to see his dad’s past in a new light. Meanwhile, Bow decides to say “yes” to everything for a whole year and Jack & Diane take advantage of her.

Modern Family - "The Long Goodbye" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT) (Repeat)
Phil and Claire realize that Alex may be more self-sufficient in college than they give her credit for when they drop in for a quick visit. Meanwhile, Manny is determined to avoid a long tearful goodbye after Gloria and Jay move him into his college dorm. Finally, Mitch may have accidentally accelerated a planned renovation, and Hayley gets an unexpected opportunity when she befriends a wealthy female member at the country club.

LA to Vegas - "Overbooked" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
The crew is forced to figure out how to get the passengers to give up their seats when the flight is overbooked; Nichole makes good money selling snacks while the flight is kept on hold; Artem has an argument with an surprise seatmate.

The Mick - "The Car" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Jimmy and Mickey mistakenly lock Ben inside an old car Jimmy purchased at a police auction; Alba discovers that Chip has been assuming the identity of Sabrina's online crush in secret, but Alba decides to actively encourage his actions.

Baskets - "Basque-ets" (FX, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Chip laments becoming a fake Christmas tree person.

Complete TV Listings

Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 19)

Tuesday, March 20

  • Bob Saget (Fuller House/How I Met Your Mother/Surviving Suburbia/Full House) - Catch Bob on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC.
  • Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) - Thomas appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Laura Benanti (The Detour/Go On/Starved) - Laura is a guest on Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
  • Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) - Will stops by The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet) - Drew visits Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Trevor Noah at 11pm. She also talks about Santa Clarita Diet on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am and in the 10am hour with Liv Hewson and Skyler Gisondo.
  • Bryton James (Family Matters) - Bryton and the cast of The Young and the Restless are guests on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
  • Patti Labelle (Out All Night) - Patti drops by LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Jay Pharoah (White Famous) - Jay appears on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Carly Chaikin (Subrgatory) - Carly is a guest on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Tisha Campbell-Martin (Dr. Ken/Rita Rocks/My Wife and Kids/Martin) - Tisha visits The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Terry Crews (Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Are We There Yet?/Everybody Hates Chris) - Terry stops by Steve, so check your local listings.
  • Sam Lerner (The Goldbergs) - Sam visits Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • John Corbett (Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll/United States of Tara/Sex and the City) - John talks about his movie God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness on Home & Family on Hallmark Channel at 10am ET/PT.
  • Adam DeVine (Workaholics/Modern Family) - Adam talks about Game Over, Man on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
  • Nia Long (Uncle Buck/The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) - Nia talks about Roxanne Roxanne on the BUILD Series at 10am.
  • The Cast of You Me Her - Greg Pohler, Rachel Blanchard and Priscilla Faia are guests on the BUILD Series at 12:30pm.