July 19, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Netflix had a roller-coaster of a day in the court of public opinion yesterday. Let's catch up.
Over at GigaOm Janko Roettgers did a piece on how Netflix is trying to ditch Silverlight and support HTML5. I think that's a great plan. You might think everyone would think it's a great plan, but nope.
In fact the Free Software Foundation is calling for a boycott on Netflix. Why? Because Netflix open sourced the code it uses to ensure its HTML5 streaming content is secure, and they're working with Microsoft and Google to get the tech turned into a standard with the World Wide Web Consortium. The FSF doesn't like this idea, saying that incorporating DRM into the HTML standard means more distributers will use it, leading to "an explosion of DRM on the Web".
This is why we can't have nice things, I guess. Netflix has to have some kind of security on its content if it's going to be able to license that content (providers are picky like that). You'd think that trying to be open and getting it made into a standard would be seen as the responsible thing to do, but I guess not.
The other big group-think outrage towards the company yesterday came from a Tumblr blog called What Netflix Does. This isn't a new blog but for whatever reason it was discovered yesterday. The author of that blog says that his biggest complaint with the service is that "Netflix does not always respect the original aspect ratio of films." As evidence he shows two similar screen captures of 11 films, showing how the film is supposed to look and how it looks on Netflix.
The sudden discovery of this Tumblr led to headlines like Why Is Netflix Secretly Cropping Movies (I picture this dark basemenet behind a foot-thick steel door where this secret cropping takes place) and Netflix Has Been Cropping The Hell Out Of Your Movies. Seriously, we need to get out the torches and pitchforks right away!
Of course if you take a closer look at What Netflix Does you'll note that the eleven examples were collected over a four month period, and the author had to log into Netflix in various regions to collect them. That doesn't seem like an epidemic of cropping. In fact only four of the examples are applicable to Netflix viewers in the US.
For its part, Netflix says it ain't so. They say they try to offer the original aspect ratio but sometimes get it wrong. VentureBeat ran this statement from Netflix's director of corporate communications:
"We do not crop. We want to offer the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title on Netflix. However, unfortunately our quality controls sometimes fail and we end up offering the wrong version of a title. When we discover this error, we replace that title as soon as possible."
I understand that in a perfect world this would never happen, but if you're really so serious about movies that you're going to get upset about these rare situations, shouldn't you be watching your films on Bluray rather than via a compressed stream? For $7 or $8/month I can live with the odd bit of wonkiness.
But let's end today's post on a high note for Netflix. Its original series are up for a bunch of Emmy awards! Specifically, House of Cards received nine nominations, including Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright being nominated for Best Lead Actor and Best Lead Actress, respectively, and the show being nominated for Best Drama. This is the first time an online-only show has been nominated in any of these categories, according to PaidContent.
It seems like Netflix's focus on original content is starting to pay off.
Hey, on a side note, when's the last time you really enjoyed a TV series that aired on one of the big networks (ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox)? It seems to me everything I watch these days is on AMC, TNT, BBCA, HBO or now, Netflix. Every time I turn on one of the big four some reality show is playing, and I have to wonder how much my cable company is paying (with the cost passed on to you and me) for these dinosaurs.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.