Monday, February 28, 2011

Free Amazon Instant Video, Netflix get Subtitles, Twin Peaks, Futurama 5.

Some of this is 10+ days old, but I have a solid pace. I won't disappear for 3 weeks straight then serve up a 4300-word review, but some news gets held back for a week or so. Seriously, which would you prefer?

Newest news first: Amazon's Instant Video selection is free to anyone who's a member of Amazon Prime. Damn, I canceled my subscription too soon! They have a massive selection which gets updated all the time. 5000 movies and TV shows, and they come with a shipping program that you might already be paying for. Lovely.

I think it's a very nice move, and could help position Amazon as a real competitor to the King of Streaming Video Rental. And I do mean "rental" since, unlike other Amazon Digital Video purchases, you won't own it if you don't renew the service. So let the Rental Wars begin!

If you haven't already tried it, there's a free 1 month Amazon Prime trial. I took advantage of a typical Amazon deal - buy an mp3 album and get $4 toward digital video purchases - to buy 2 episodes of a TV show; the picture and playback are fine, although there were no additional options, like subtitles. Well, worse case scenario, you'll get free 2-day shipping and videos for 1 month...

The funny thing here is that Amazon announced this, quietly for some reason, two days ago. That's when I got an email which was an announcement that I could stream the movie "Due Date." Oh, and also that service you used to pay $80/year for now includes a massive selection of videos. That little bit of info was also in the email. Look below!

Even "marketing for dummies" would've called that a mistake. I asked one of my Prime-subscribing siblings to confirm it, but parenthood means he never even checked the email until I spoke to him. No matter, because someone at Amazon realized that they needed to actually announce this; hence the topmost email was sent to me this morning.

It's just nice, for once, to actually be ahead of everyone else, and not simply provide links to The AV Club or AICN.

UPDATE - My brother did report in, with these comments:
The selection on Amazon isn't terribly impressive, yet. The movies are almost all on Netflix instant. They have an interesting assortment of BBC shows on Amazon, and they offer multiple versions of foreign films (dubbed vs subtitles) which I've never noticed on Netflix. I suspect this is just the beginning of the most serious challenge Netflix has ever faced.
As of last week, Netflix streams the new Comedy Central run of "Futurama" episodes. Amazon has always confused me by referring to cable tv's 2009-2010 stretch as "Season 7." It's because they consider the 4 Futurama movies as separate seasons; I understand that, but disagree. As it stands now, every single episode of this funny series is available for to watch online.

Also, Netflix has been adding subtitles to their videos, even if I didn't notice. They say 1/3rd of their streaming material has captions, and their goal is to hit 80% by the end of 2011. They even set up a "Subtitles" page so you can see which videos have them.

The oldest news is Netflix acquiring rights to "Twin Peaks," "The Twilight Zone," and the several "Star Trek" series as new additions to the Instant Streaming selection. This post isn't totally out-of-date, since they won't be available until this April, and it's a 2-year deal.

There's more, of course, as "The Andy Griffith Show," the old "Hawaii Five-0," and "Medium" are also among the new Streaming options.

It's a lot of genre fare, but these are good additions, too. "The Twilight Zone" is one of the most distinctive and well-known old tv series ever. It's full of letter-perfect performances, great stars, and nifty ideas that truly keep to the ideas of speculative science fiction. If you don't know what kind of science fiction that is, try it this way:

"Star Wars IV" was a story about characters who have futuristic technology beyond our real-life grasp. "TTZ" was, often, about what would happen if people got their hands on futuristic technology - the sort of effect it would have on society at large, or people in general. The first is just fun, the second is intellectual fun.

I enjoy them both, when they're good. It's just that I love reading speculative science-fiction, while pure-adventure sci-fi is nice to take in small, visual doses. Someday, I will start highlighting a few "TTZ" eps that I hold near and dear; the real gift of that kind of sci-fi is that it touches your heart and your mind. Luke and Leia and Han just appeal to me on an emotional level. Or did, anyway...

David Lynch's weird, surrealist "Twin Peaks" has a great rep, but I never watched it. Still, it has the awesome Ray Wise, and the lead is Kyle MacLachlan, post-"Dune." And it's supposed to have David Duchovny's first big performances - as a cross-dressing FBI agent, if I understand right. Also, a young Lara Flynn Boyle and the ever-gorgeous Sherilyn Fenn. Something for everyone, I guess.

"Star Trek" doesn't really need any introduction. Netflix will offer every series, from the original to um, whatever that last one was called ("ST: Enterprise"). The first and last series went for 3 and 4 seasons, respectively, while the other three (TNG, DS9, Voyager) each lasted 7 seasons.

This last is clearly the best part of the deal. That is a whole ton of episodes - something like 170-odd for 3 of the series, 70-odd for the other two. It's also a great deal, because "The Twilight Zone," "Twin Peaks," and the original "Star Trek" are already available for streaming off of CBS' website (and IMDb, I believe). So Netflix managed to score 570-odd episodes that aren't available for legal streaming anywhere.

Congrats, Netflix!


  1. It wasn't but a few weeks ago that I was thinking about what a shame it was that Netflix didn't have subtitles (closed captioning) for their streaming material. Shit, you just need it sometimes. Glad they're remedying that.

  2. Absolutely! I'm just surprised that I've never noticed it before. 30% means I've been (un)lucky to miss it...


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