Netflux? The demise of VOD 1.0

Written by Jan Amtoft
2015-11-16 23:10
I was on the beach one early morning, watching a young girl jogging along the sand shore, with half-closed eyes, smiling, enjoying the warmth of the early sunrays. The jogging girl reminded me of Sense8, a recent show from Netflix, with an Islandic girl on some strange designer drug watching the sun rise over a London park. The jogger had the same blissful smile on her face and the same blond, half-long hair. But this time it’s not London, it’s Lanzarote.

Connected to Civilization

I’m on a holiday in the sun around 3000 miles from home, yet still connected to civilization with 4G/ WIFI and with all my regular gadgets. I somehow expected everything to work perfectly, but it doesn’t. Most of the time my smart phone is connecting through H+ or Edge, both technologies belonging to an ancient past with dead-slow mobile internet. The hotel WIFI has bandwidth which is miniscule or non-existent.

Having finally gotten through, I check my social media, news media and e-mail while my ultimate reward is getting visibly closer in the horizon; video on demand! I once read that the brain consumes fewer calories while watching TV shows than while sleeping, and intuitively I know why this is right: While sleeping, at least my brain is trying to sort out my life, organizing, removing and reinforcing knowledge. Some people call this dreaming, but recent neuro research suggests a more practical explanation closer to what AI researchers do to their neural network systems to keep them healthy. It’s mental sanitation work!

Stone-age video-on-demand

But to claim my reward, I log onto Netflix, and receive a severely reduced assortment of my favorite series and films: last season missing, my current series addiction not showing up at all, etc. I get a grip on myself – avoid the temptation of an immediate subscription cancel - and click on one of the surviving nails in my coffin, and get: Spanish voice over. Next one is English and offers Spanish subtitles. I get it, Netflix geo-blocks to keep business running well, and I can only view my regular version of Netflix when in my home country. I’m not Spanish speaking, so I moved on Viaplay which blocks access outside the northern region.

Then onto a Danish streaming station; as it has no Spanish version, it just blocks me out of most content. It gets better; even at home this Danish station blocks different shows on different devices. Another Danish station allows both tablets and PCs but no AirPlay broadcast, so using your TV together with this streaming service is not allowed. Using my Sony TV for native streaming of TV2Play was one of the sales arguments when I purchased it. Funnily enough, the Sony Corporation also is a wholesaler of media, but evidently prices are so high that geo-blocking and de-listing of device support is necessary to make ends meet for the streaming channels.
 
As we saw web 1.0 in the late 90’ties, we are now witnessing VOD 1.0 with global, regional and national streaming services. They still cling to old-fashioned DVD and VHS business styles, determined by the traditions and business practices of the content aggregators that run the media world today. This qualifies for a newly invented term, it’s the digital stone-age.

What lies ahead?

Netflix as well as all others are destined to offer a truly global service, allowing their subscribers to choose whatever content they want in whatever language from whatever place of consumption. If I want to watch shows in English despite my Danish ancestry, why not let me? Why not allow me to watch new shows when they are created, not wait for 8 months until they are subtitled in northern languages? Give us a truly global VOD service. It might even turn it into a competitive advantage at some point in time, as streaming herself did at the turn of the millennium.
 
I know there are many ways of circumventing geo-blocking, but don’t see any reason to cheat on the suppliers in this way. If they don’t want my business, it’s their business. I can always find another place to put my money.
 
This night I decided to go hunting for wisdom in a good book instead, it’ll burn many more calories than streaming would, but perhaps it’ll help me sort out my life or at least get some wisdom organized and reinforced. And then there is always the beach…