Monday, February 21, 2011

Netflix/Hulu Updates, Redbox goes Streaming

What you probably haven't noticed: Netflix is changing the design of their multi-season streaming tv shows. It's starting with the show, "Psych," apparently... I remembered that they had a partly-Spanish-language ep, "Lights, Camera, Homidicio." I decided to watch it, then noticed that this tv series is now designed differently from anything else on Netflix.

Tho it's not a great (or especially good) show, "Psych" now occupies its own page on the Netflix site. One page for all 4 available seasons; when you click on the tabs to the left, you can see all the stream-able episodes for S1, S2, etc. & two tabs on the right allow you to alternate between seeing the offerings by disc or on-demand.

So far, it's only "Psych," mind you; I checked various shows - from DVD-only options like "House," to streaming-ready series like "Battlestar Galactica." No joy.

These are new, intuitive, and useful features. I skimmed through a bunch of eps, let 2 play out, and it all worked just fine. Hulu's flash-heavy page might be a nice set-up, but that requires scrolling down a lot. Surely the net-savvy crowd of 2011 is too lazy - and privileged - to have to work that hard. The screencap below demonstrates how many eps fit onto one page: roughly 13 shows x 4 Seasons, as you can see.

On a less snarky note, gone are all my earlier complaints about having to work (or think laterally) to see an entire show's run or availability. Good job, corporate entity! But that's not all...

Netflix now has HD options here, too. You'll see the button, an "HD" sign, between the video's total running time and the volume slider. Select this option to get an almost-disgusting view of people's follicles, sweat-beads, the whole she-bang.

And, since you're looking at the picture of the playing screen, you should know the "More Episodes" button is changed too. It actually lists every episode of every season in order. No going back to a series' page just to check out another season.

For some reason, "Psych" is unique, even among USA-fare like "White Collar." This one series seems to be a preview of Netflix' future layout, I'm sure of it. Even shows whose entire run is available to stream - short-run stuff like "Reaper." Nope, just Dule Hill and James Roday's amusing geek-fest.

These improvements haven't been announced, but I hope they'll be incorporated throughout the great video hub that is Netflix. Soon to come, episodes of a tv show will occupy a whole screen-wide bar. You'll quickly see how many seasons of each show are available, and clicking any spot on an episodes' bar will get it playing. No more reaching for that silly little blue button.

Or you could just get out more.

Of course, the big news from last week is that Redbox will launch a streaming service to go toe-to-toe with Netflix.  The announcement, off yahoo's movie blog, links to an LA Times' story, so this isn't a mere fantasy or go-nowhere announcement. While it's pretty hard to imagine anyone beating Blockbuster Video's killer at its own game - or even stealing a significant portion of its internet-consuming bandwidth usage - it's good to see that competition is still out there.

It's been like this for weeks, but they expire on 2/20.
Hulu doesn't have much new news, really. They've got The Daily Show again, thank heaven. They also have small flaws like the one you can see (at the time of this writing) on "The Good Guys" page. "5 trailing episodes?" Get Hulu+ to "watch the entire season?" They already offer eps 11-20.

It's a small gripe, and I'd rather complain about their inaccuracies than say anything else bad about them. Still, I find I spend less and less time on the site...

UPDATE: I thought I'd already mentioned this, but Hulu does have some big news: they made a recent deal to offer the fabled Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. The selection will extend beyond the more common CC discs (some can already be streamed), and Hulu has the equipment to offer the CC commentaries, et al. It's a very smart deal and can actually nudge Hulu Plus in the direction of "maybe" instead of "of course not."

And that's pretty much it for today.

See ya'll tomorrow!
Half a Film Student

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