Saturday, July 23, 2011

This week in Netflix Instant Watching

I'll spare you an extended rant about the announced price increase Netflix is inflicting on us in September. The hike is galling considering the company raised prices at the end of last year, but what really irritates me is the elimination of my current membership option and, worse, the gradual phasing out of DVD and especially lack of new catalog releases. I'm watching as many discs as I can the rest of the summer, as come September, I'll likely be going to streaming only, just as Netflix wants me to, and hoping that the content on that side of it continues to expand.

I understand that Netflix is increasing rates at least partly due to rising costs of programming, both current and anticipated, but I don't like the feeling that I am subsidizing the price of a whole lot of programming I don't care about. You know what that reminds me of? Cable.

Anyway, there were a few notable additions to the Instant Watching selection this week, titles I want to highlight because of what larger things they may tell us.

A pair of interesting selections from Shout Factory arrived a few days ago. The great 1990s UPN (and later Adult Swim staple) cartoon series "Home Movies" is now available for streaming. I am not going to make a huge deal out of this now because I have a vague recollection of the show being available before, perhaps when I wasn't yet paying attention to streaming video. But it's a great show and a nice thing to have around as an option.

Far more interesting at this time is the addition of "Dennis the Menace" season 1, the DVD set of which also came out from Shout Factory, and not too long ago, I'll add. It's always nice to see classic TV on DVD product make its way to Netflix streaming, and the presence of this particular licensed property, assuming it's Shout responsible, may bode well.

We know from a recent news amount that Leave It to Beaver, another high-profile classic TV Shout DVD release, is on its way to Instant Watching, but that's from a deal with Universal. Does the presence of "Dennis the Menace," along with series like "Home Movies" and "Larry Sanders," prefigure more old TV shows?

I'd particularly like to see some of those series that Shout has booted to its direct (i.e. more expensive) Shout Select program. Could we see "Room 222" or "Paper Chase"? Does Shout even have the rights to license them to Netflix? Or how about the as-yet-unreleased seasons of those classic TV series? It's not like Fox is doing anything with them.

Come to think of it, Netflix also has some kind of library deal with Fox, but so far it's yielded mostly recent shows, with "X-Files" one that's on the way. When you really get into this stuff, it's hard to keep it all straight.

Another recent addition to Netflix streaming is a cut-down version of WWE's 3-disc "Best of Monday Nitro." It's a bummer the whole thing isn't up there, but WWE has been providing the documentary portions of its video releases, not the whole match content, so it's not surprising that the Netflix version is shorter. But I find this notable because the DVD just came out. It's cool that the WWE product is hitting Netflix fairly quickly...but of course, it's not so cool that it's abridged, and it's really not cool that Netflix is not bothering to stock the actual discs of these releases.

With the DVD acquisitions so far down, it's really important that Netflix put its money where its mouth is, or more accurately put its money where OUR money is, and continue to add exciting and useful new streaming content. I realize the WWE videos may appeal to a limited audience, but that's like icing on the cake to me. What I really want to see is the expansion of the classic TV selection, and hopefully the first season of "Dennis the Menace" is not an exception but an example of many more to come via Shout Factory or other outlets.

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