Wednesday, August 16, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) Netflix: Why Disney Are No Real Threat To Netflix

With the news of Disney's plans to remove all their film content from Netflix and launch two streaming services in the next two years, there has been a lot of talk that this could be a major threat to Netflix dominance of the SVOD market but, in truth, Disney planned entrance into the marketplace should not keep Netflix executives awake at night. 

However, that's not to say that they shouldn't take notice. Disney has arguably the strongest and most prized content library ever and should it's planned ESPN or Disney movies streaming services take off, Netflix could have a real problem on its hands. The last thing Netflix needs is to find itself competing with a company that's nearly twice its size with a larger content library and deeper pockets as it already has Amazon, a company four times its size by market cap with even deep pockets than Disney, breathing down its neck forcing them to spend even more money on licensing and creating original content at increasingly unsustainable levels.   

With Amazon and now Disney nipping at its heels, Netflix are increasingly looking like a company that's skilfully punching above its weight against opponents who simply have to stay in the fight long enough to pick them off in the later rounds. Yet despite being smaller than both these great companies, Netflix will likely see off the threat posed by Disney. Netflix is an incredibly well-run operation with a large content library, a growing stable of popular and critically acclaimed shows it produces itself not to mention 104 million subscribers globally but the reason why Disney are going to have a hard time knocking Netflix off top spot or even making a dent in its dominance is Netflix have a considerable head start it simply isn't going to give up. 

The reason why Netflix are so far ahead of everybody else in the SVOD marketplace is because they're better at retaining subscribers thanks to the data they collect about customer viewing preferences which allows them to create shows that reach large demographics inside and outside their platform (thus attracting new subscribers) and suggest other content on their platform subscribers may enjoy based on past viewing which has the effect of keeping customers on the platform to the point that Netflix is starting to compete with something we all love, sleep. 

Because of this, Disney will have a hard time taking customers from Netflix which won't be much of a problem for its ESPN streaming service as it will serve a different audience entirely but for its movie based streaming service, it's crucial that it takes customers off the Los Gatos based company or at least force customers to cough up a little extra from their pocketbook for their service. 

If Disney's movie streaming service can't pull this off, it will die a slow and expensive death. In truth, the real story however is Disney finally entering the sports streaming marketplace which puts it in direct competition with Amazon who acquired rights to stream Thursday night NFL games for prime subscribers which should give everybody at Disney and ESPN sleepless nights. While Disney can use ESPN's declining but still large Pay TV subscriber base promote the service, it will be going up against a company that has rights to stream NFL content to an extremely loyal customer base that's growing a year ahead of its launch. 

By that time, Amazon will have established a head start it won't give up with by far the most popular and lucrative sports content on the market. To make things worse, Facebook is expanding its live sports offering which means Disney and ESPN's already large sports programming costs are going to shoot up at a time where ESPN's large content spend is getting harder to justify. 

What all this means is that Disney is the last of Netflix's problems as Disney's move into the SVOD space smells of desperation.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

(TV) Game of Thrones: Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 5 Review: ‘Eastwatch’ (HBO)

(Photo Credit: HBO)

Game of Thrones
Season 7, Episode 5
By Garrett Yoshitomi

After last Sunday's thrill-filled episode, Game of Thrones takes its foot off the gas pedal, downshifting into a slower, more expository episode, in this week's "Eastwatch." It's always hard for an episode to follow-up an all-timer like "The Spoils of War." "Spoils" gave us almost everything we've been waiting six years for, in terms of battle scenes, including a fully unleashed dragon, as well as Daenerys' Dothraki seeing their first major action on Westerosi soil. "Eastwatch" has none of this, and very little action at all outside of the first five minutes. Obviously, we need these kinds of episodes- the kind that set the stage narratively, so that the battles that do eventually occur have more importance, beyond just whose side beats whose. But, "Eastwatch" is especially slow, and feels scattered, with awkward pacing, and forced, tangential storylines that distract from the season’s main arc.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how Daenerys could be shaping up to be the next major antagonist for the final episodes of Game of Thrones. Admittedly, it seemed a bit far-fetched at the time, given that Daenerys has been one of the few characters worth rooting for, for much of the show. But, after Dany unapologetically burns Randyll and Dickon Tarly to a crisp, during the opening minutes of this week’s episode, it’s a bit easier to see this villainous transformation coming to fruition. And, it’s just not us, as viewers, who are catching on. Tyrion and Varys are both becoming more concerned with just how brutal Dany is proving to be in her thirst for conquest. Varys, in particular, can sense the similarities between Daenerys and her father, the Mad King Aerys. And while it’s not like Dany is committing any act of war that a Cersei or a Tywin wouldn’t, that’s more or less the problem. As Jon said last week, if Dany uses her dragons, not to inspire hope in others, but to “melt castles and burn cities.” Then she’s no different than every other previous ruler of Westeros; she’s just more of the same.

(Photo Credit: HBO)
And yet, despite her recent missteps, I actually think it’s less likely now that Dany will turn into the next villain. Because unlike the Mad King, Daenerys has followers and a council that ultimately believe in her goodness. Both Tyrion and Varys are willing to work with Dany, to help her become the fair and just ruler she has the potential to become- even if she’s currently walking the path of a tyrant. Above all else, I think Jon Snow will have the greatest impact on her. The show is obviously pushing these two characters together, and despite their, err, “relatedness,” it’s clear that Dany has taken a liking to Jon, and respects his opinion, not just as a fellow leader, but as a person.

Prior to the season, it sounded like the tension, between Jon and Sansa, would be the Stark family drama dominating headlines in season seven. But, with all the (living) Stark children finally reunited, it seems like the real sibling rivalry will be between the current Lady of Winterfell, Sansa, and her younger sister, Arya. Even dating back to the beginning of the series, Sansa and Arya have always mixed like oil and water. Back then, Sansa was more concerned with appearing lady-like, and attracting the attention of a noble prince, whereas Arya yearned for adventure, preferring archery practice with her brothers, over sewing lessons. But, even more than just a difference in hobbies, the rift between the Stark sisters runs deep. Sansa looked down on Arya for her tomboyish-ness, while Arya mistrusted Sansa’s obsession with marrying Joffrey. Their feud came to a head, when Sansa refused to side with Arya, in her testimony of Nymeria’s attack on Joffrey. The two were separated for good shortly after, at the end of season one, depriving both sisters of the chance to make amends.
(Photo Credit: HBO)
We’ve spent six years waiting for the Starks to be reunited, and when it finally happens, it’s pretty disappointing that Sansa and Arya almost immediately fall to in-fighting. Sure, Littlefinger’s involvement makes things a little more interesting, as it gives the long-time schemer something to do before, what many fans assume will be, his final act. But, even from Arya and Sansa’s first interaction this season, in the crypts of Winterfell, it’s clear that there’s still lingering tension between the two. There’s only eight episodes left in Game of Thrones, and from a story standpoint, character arcs need to start getting narrower and more focused, rather than becoming broader by reintroducing plot points that haven’t been relevant for multiple seasons. Nobody wants the Stark kids to get back together just so they can rehash their season one beef. Simply put, it’s too late in the game for this Arya and Sansa b.s. to take place.

We know that Arya and Sansa aren’t going to turn into mortal enemies, we know that they’ll eventually triumph over Littlefinger. There’s no suspense when we already know the outcome, and there’s no enjoyment when the outcome isn’t even that interesting to watch. Even though I already know that Game of Thrones will probably end with Drogon melting White Walkers in a shower of dragon fire, I’ll still enjoy watching it because dragons fighting White Walkers is literally what I live for. But, I know this whole Sansa-Arya-Littlefinger triangle of scheming will ultimately end with some variation of Arya stabbing Littlefinger with his own dagger. And it’s not like I wouldn’t be excited to watch this, I just think that there are a multitude of better ways to get there- ways that would have made much better use of what precious, precious Game of Thrones screen time we have left.


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