Some Wishes for a Cord-Cutting New Year

The other day I demoted my Netflix account from the pricey 3 discs-at-a-time with Blu-Ray option to the lowly one DVD but unlimited streaming plan -- to beat the impending Netflix price bump.

I did this not so much because of the additional three bucks a month Netflix wants, but due to the realization that the Netflix product has a really bad flaw that makes it a poor value. Thinking about it some more I realize there are so many ways our video options could be better. If we are going to see that "cord cutting" future, where more people switch their video viewing to options such as online streaming, I think some of these issues need to be addressed.

1. Yay on Netflix for offering a streaming-only option. Boo on Netflix for failing to adjust their physical artifact media programs to work the way people want them to. How many of you have a Netflix disc at home that's over a week old? A month? Three months? Yeah, I thought so.

Here is my proposal: Netflix should offer a blocker entry, an entry you can put in your queue that will prevent items below it from shipping. If it's at the top of your queue you won't get any discs shipped, even if you don't have any at home. When you decide you want a specific movie you can drag it to the top of the queue, above the blocker, and if you do so early enough in the morning you may have it delivered to you next day. That would be cool for users, and may even allow Netflix to reduce their inventory costs.

2. Big media, stop being so freaking stupid about Hulu and Netflix streaming. Comedy Central, CBS, TNT -- your video players are all shit. Hulu and Netflix have good products. There are several serieses that have lost me because they pulled their content from these systems. Leverage and Daily Show, I'm looking at you

3. Big media, stop being so freaking stupid about Hulu Plus. I was excited to hear that full season content would be available for Hulu programs for a modest price. We missed some episodes of Burn Notice the first time they ran on Hulu, so I was totally stoked to see that for a small monthly fee I could go back and -- Oh! No I can't. It seems some shows are in, some are out, and it's all one confusing mess. Burn Notice is available on free Hulu, but not Hulu Plus. Which means I can take advantage of the new Hulu Plus channel on my Roku player, but now I have to switch back to the media computer to view the free content. It's a mess, and once you sort it out you realize that what Hulu Plus delivers right now is kind of lame -- which is probably why they keep cutting the price. I'm blaming media providers not Hulu for this, because I'm assuming this is due to licensing stupidity. Whoever is screwing this up, will you please FIX IT.

4. For years viewers have said they want a la carte options for video, but the cable providers have refused, so that consumers are forced into buying higher cost bundles with stuff they don't want. Streaming video, this is your opportunity. Let's start slicing and dicing that long tail, so that people can get what they want. Comedy Central, I'm pissed at you for pulling Daily Show from free Hulu, but I'd pay a couple bucks a month to get a narrowcast Daily Show channel. And CBS, if you were to offer a good Star Trek channel (with a good player, not that POS you currently use), me and most everybody with an IQ over 120 would suffer total nerdgasm (my wife excluded). I know you don't want to cannibalize your cable products, but at some point you have to wake up and stream the coffee.

5. Streaming providers, will you puhleeze make your audio/video quality better? Every time I go back to an optical disc it makes me feel like I've been watching streaming media with a cellophane bag over my head. I'm actually not too upset by the video quality when, for instance, Netflix does a good 720p to my Hulu player. What pisses me off is how poor the sound quality is. Most people don't realize how much more sensitive our ears are than our eyes. Dollar for dollar, I've put more effort into the A side of my A/V system. It irks me when I stream content that ends up sounding little better than a VHS rip. Let's get some good high quality multi-channel sound going. Bit for bit, it's an excellent investment of your bandwidth.

I hope some of these may come to pass in 2011.