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!


Sitcoms Airing Tonight

Sunday, May 27

none scheduled

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of May 21)

Friday, May 25

  • Jamie Lee (Crashing) - Watch Jamie on a repeat of The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
  • Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) - Alec chats about hosting the series Match Game on LIVE! with Kelly and Ryan, so check your listings.
  • Sutton Foster (Younger) - Sutton is a guest on a repeat of Harry, so check your local listings.
  • Vivica A. Fox (Mr. Box Office/Getting Personal/Out All Night) - Vivica appears on The Real, so check your local listings.
  • Candace Cameron Bure (Fuller House/Full House) - Candace stops by Access Live, so check your local listings.
  • Peyton Elizabeth Lee (Andi Mack) - Peyton is a guest on Access Live, so check your local listings.
  • Craig Robinson (Ghosted/Mr. Robinson/The Office) - Craig makes a divine dessert with Carla Hall on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.


New on DVD/Blu-ray (March/April/May)

Atlanta - The Complete First Season Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Ninth Season One Day at a Time - Season Two Perfect Strangers  - The Complete Third Season Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Final (Eighth) Season

03/06 - Atlanta - The Complete First Season
03/06 - Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Ninth Season
03/13 - The New Adventures of Old Christine - The Complete First Season
03/27 - One Day at a Time - Season Two
04/03 - Ballers - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
04/03 - 90's Sitcom (Just Shoot Me!/The Larry Sanders Show/Wings) Starter Set - Season 1 & 2 Bundle
04/10 - Vice Principals - The Compelte Series
04/17 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Third Season
05/08 - Dear White People - Season 1
05/08 - Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Final (Eighth) Season
05/29 - I'm Dying Up Here - Season 1
More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest