Tagged: Amazon Prime
Mike Gold: Time Is On Our Side?
I had an interesting conversation last Sunday night with Glenn Hauman, ComicMix’s Empirical Wizard. He was giving me a lift from Martha Thomases’ place to Grand Central Terminal following a remarkably productive yet still highly entertaining staff meeting – a rare gathering indeed, as this time it did not involve fried chicken. Hey, every business has its own work ethic.
We were debating the machinations of the then-threatened Writers’ Guild strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Fortunately, the strike became unnecessary yesterday when the Guild and the AMPTP agreed on a new contract.
Overall, the business changed radically between this current action and the last one in 2007, which screwed up things pretty nicely. The media ain’t what it used to be back then, or last year, or even last week. There is so much production going on that in some cities arranging the services of a qualified production crew, equipment and sound stage space has become extraordinarily difficult. Usually, when operations such as Netflix or Amazon Prime acquire a series they shoot the whole season all at once. There’s no cancellation and subsequent halt in production, or even (necessarily) downtime between episodes. That’s very, very different from the way television shows were manufactured before February 1, 2013, the debut of House of Cards, the first high-profile direct-to-streaming dramatic series.
Which, in my typically circuitous way, brings me to “the point.” Just before I got out of Glenn’s car I said television and movies, but particularly television, has changed more in the past four years than it has in the previous 65. Most certainly, it took a lot of advances to get to this point. HBO gave broadcast teevee its first major competition in 1972 and started offering original programs – concerts and movies – a few years later. In 1975 home video recording ended our reliance on having to be in front of the tube at the time of broadcast, lest we miss our show. Cable expanded upon all that, and within a decade our choices expanded from three networks and a couple of independent stations to over 100 simultaneous choices.
Growth and expansion increased exponentially. The Internet (which I continue to capitalize because I live in fear of it metastasizing), mobile computers, digital video recorders, streaming, live streaming… change keeps coming faster and faster, and whereas we are not certain what will be next we do know it’ll come to us within months.
What we have today is something I never dreamed of just a few decades ago: far more programs on television that I want to see than I’ll ever be able to get around to seeing. I’ll bet you feel the same way.
This has a significant change in the way we relate to each other. It used to be people would discuss the previous night’s programming “around the water cooler.” It became a ritual. Today, we have spoiler alerts. We can no longer share the moment, but we can turn each other on to even more shows that we don’t have time to watch.
When it comes to home entertainment in the broadest sense, time is more important than money. We have public libraries, discounted movie showings, radio and audio programming… but no time to enjoy it all.
As an industry, television was dependent on advertising. To make the most money, owners needed to arrest the attention of the biggest audience. But now, broadcasting has given way to narrowcasting, and people have the option of avoiding commercials altogether (except on PBS stations – there is some sort of irony in that). By and large, advertising is being replaced by user fees.
This, in turn, changes our marketing world. Commerce must rely upon other means to promote its wares, and it appears these methods will become more important with each passing day. That’s all well and good, but advertising is the means through which we used to discover new stuff. Our habits are evolving every hour, and commercial interests must change with them. I suspect some agencies will begin to hire soothsayers.
I am not saying this is good or this is bad. It is what it is, and just as we get the politicians we deserve, we get the programming and the products we deserve as well. As long as we can afford them.
As long as we have time for them.
Molly Jackson: Never Ending Cycle
The New York Comic Con is this week and the geek community is totally in a frenzy. It’s been crazy how much is happening. Every day for the past couple of weeks, my inbox has been billowing with email after email of press releases and announcements. One of the more interesting announcements is from yesterday.
Comixology announced that they are expanding their digital library once again. Now they will have original digital titles (starting in 2017) from some of their many publishers, including Boom! and Valiant. Ever since Comixology announced they were adding their Comixology Unlimited subscription service, I was expecting this. They are following the tried and true path set out by Amazon (the owner of Comixology), Netflix and Hulu. Subscription service turned media giant in one big swoop.
No matter what anyone says, digital is supplanting print. And as much as I hate to admit it, comics will go digital too. When I look around the subway car, a.k.a. a micro section of New York City, you don’t usually see paper in their hands. You see smartphones, tablets, and other various more modern technologies. As print becomes more and more pricey, digital will become more and more prominent.
Another expectation of the Netflix-style journey is the appearance of original comics. Yes, I know this is an article about original comics. The ones they announced are from existing publishers. I’m curious if Amazon will take the plunge into comics publishing. They’ve gone the route of book publishing with mixed results. Amazon Studios has been fairly successful on the TV front, with shows like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle. To have a comics arm that could potentially feed straight to your TV studios could be a media game changer.
Amazon has also made the efforts to diversify, especially through TV. With that in mind, this could be an excellent way to develop more minorities comic creators. This is a company that looks to fill voids and diversity in comics is definitely a hot topic to work on. They could buy up an indie publisher and put an advertising machine behind it to rival Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.
As always, there is a downside. Amazon is quickly becoming the go-to company for everything. I can buy groceries from Amazon. Beauty care, t-shirts, dishes, furniture, a giant bucket of lube, socks, a lawn mower – the list goes on and on. Now the same company that I can buy 99% of everything I need is also actively affecting media. That reminds me of the sinister WeSaySo Corporation from the 90s show Dinosaurs. Too much influence can be a bad thing.
Print comics won’t be gone anytime soon, no matter how fast things seem to be moving. No matter what happens with Comixology or any other digital comics provider, this is definitely a step towards digital, and that’s a step forward.
Mike Gold: Look! Up In The Sky!
Most of us are aware of the professional sod Jeremy Clarkson, who is now working for Amazon teevee (coming soon to an AppleTV near you). I haven’t been burdened with him as long as our British friends and therefore my opinion of the guy is somewhat more favorable than that found across the Great Pond.
Clarkson was co-host of the BBC teevee show Top Gear, which is to reality shows what, well, Jackass was to reality shows, although much more funny and somewhat less inspirational. He just did a 2 1/4 minute commercial for Amazon’s threatened drone delivery service. Perhaps you’ve seen it; if not, here’s the link.
This is a highly political move. Amazon isn’t selling a service it offers presently, and they can not and will not be able to in the near-future. Right now, the service Amazon is proposing is illegal, at least here in the States. The Senate is considering laws that would render such commercial use impractical – proposed by my very own Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal – by prohibiting such craft from flying above 400 feet. You will note Clarkson quite specifically states “400 feet” in the promotional video. If passed, this is bad news for Amazon.
The purpose of Amazon’s video production is to create a demand for their half-hour drone delivery service, a demand that they hope will be so strong the politicians will be swayed from their jobs of protecting the public. I know, it’s hard to imagine such people selling out the electorate to extend the interests of corporate America.
Of course, Blumenthal is a Democrat so it’s likely his bill will go nowhere, or, more likely, be eclipsed by a Republican bill making Amazon Prime Drone Delivery mandatory for the shipment of firearms and ammunition.
Personally, I think Amazon is barking up the wrong tree. The first time they drop a package through the wrong person’s roof, that great American is going to pick up one of his many high-powered weapons and shoot one of those delivery birds right out of the sky. As we know from our cultural history, this quickly would start a fad akin to shining laser pointers into the eyes of airplane pilots, which has been quite the rage for several years now.
If I’m going to lust for an airborne delivery service, I’m going to call Planet Express. I trust Hubert Farnsworth a lot more than I trust Jeremy Clarkson.
Anyway, here’s Mr. Clarkson shilling at his best.
Mindy Newell Goes On A Binge
Binge-watching is defined by the Urban Dictionary website as a “marathon viewing of a TV show from its DVD box set.” Wikipedia adds that binge-watching has become an “observed cultural phenomena with the rise of online media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.”
A lot of cable networks have gotten in on the act. Cloo includes on its schedule “marathon” showings of House, CSI, Monk, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent; yesterday (Sunday, July 27th) the channel brought on Burn Notice. The original Law & Order runs on TNT, Sundance, and WE, although I can’t figure out what it’s “thematically” doing on WE, unless it’s because Chris Noth is hot and Jerry Orbach is just so damn watchable. And Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is on USA right now.
Verne Gay of Newsday (yes, the paper at which Ray Barone of Everbody Loves Raymond toils as a sports writer is an actual real-life Long Island institution) recently listed 57 shows that are worthy of your couchpotatoing the weekend away. It’s all a matter of the viewer’s opinion and genre bias, of course, but here are Gay’s (paraphrased) qualifications for shows that are “binge-worthy,” with my examples.*
- A story arc, i.e., a storyline that continues throughout the season, notwithstanding one or two stand-alone episodes that nonetheless always contain either at least once scene related to the season’s overview or is in some way related to the overarching theme of the season. Examples: Breaking Bad, Angel, Orange Is The New Black, Scandal, Friends, Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (you didn’t think I wasn’t going to mention BTVS, did you?), Dallas (original and new), Game Of Thrones.
- Characters that the viewer is invested in, i.e., whether good or bad, hero or antihero, starring role or a member of the “Scooby Gang.” Examples: Don Draper, Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, Sookie Stackhouse, Willow Rosenberg, Olivia Carolyn Pope, Rachel Green and Ross Geller, Buffy Summers, Sarah Manning, Jesse Pinkman, Spike, Rose Tyler, Frank Underwood, Angel, Monica Geller and Chandler Bing, J.R. Ewing (Sr. and Jr.), Cordelia Chase, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce
- A definite ending; i.e., questions raised during the course of the show are answered, the hero/heroine completes his/her journey. This does not guarantee a “happy” ending. It also does not guarantee that the viewer will be satisfied. Examples: Breaking Bad, Friends, Dexter, Buffy The Vampire Slayer (which actually had two endings – Season 5, in which Buffy sacrifices herself to save her sister Dawn and the world, and Season 7, in which Buffy realizes that she can share her power. For the record, I prefer Season 5), Battlestar Galactica. Two shows that were suggested were Lost and Angel. However, I can’t recommend Lost, despite its many excellent moments, because too many questions were left unanswered, and although Angel rocked its five seasons, The WB’s (very stupid, im-no so-ho) decision to cancel the series rushed its ending so that it felt too ambiguous – except for Wesley’s death, which was the only part that felt real. And it remains to be seen how True Blood, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, and Game Of Thrones handle their endings.
- It’s entertaining. Or as Gay puts it, “fun.” I hope you don’t need an “i.e.,” but just in case you do – you’d better enjoy what you’re watching, or you’re just wasting time. Examples: Dallas (old and new), Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Scandal, House Of Cards, Dexter.
- Gaye calls this one “informative,” but I’ll put it more simply – you learn something. You get excited. Maybe about the universe, or maybe, vicariously, about yourself. You can learn to appreciate great writing, or great camera work, or great acting. You can learn that you don’t really want to get an MBA and work on Wall Street, even if it does mean you’ll be rolling in dough and driving a Porsche; you discover that you want to work in an industry that allows you to key into your inner child, whether it’s as an actor or a writer or a director, a special effects artist, or a stunt man/woman, even if it does mean that most of the time you’ll be earning money temping as a receptionist or slinging dishes in a restaurant and depending on tips to make the rent. Examples: Cosmos, Band Of Brothers, Firefly, War And Remembrance, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galatica, The World Wars.
- There ain’t no commercials. And you don’t want to hit the “pause” button. Meaning you hold it in for between discs or between episodes. Examples: Your DVD Boxed Set, Netflix Streaming, And Amazon Prime. As for Hulu/Hulu Plus – points off for the ads.
I’d love to know your binge-worthy shows.
* Some are shows I have binge-watched; others are recommendations by friends and family.
Mindy Newell: Feeling The Excitement
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” — Maya Angelou
Don’t you love getting excited and worked up about movies that you can’t wait to see or television shows that you can’t wait to watch or comics that you can’t wait to read?
You know what I mean. I remember reading everything I could get my hands on about Star Wars, especially in Starlog magazine – that’s for you, Bob Greenberger. (I also remember being incredibly pissed coming home from work that May 25, 1977 to find that my then-husband, Steven, had gone to see Star Wars with his friends while I was stuck at work, and then incredibly happy and excited because he said that he would go see it again. Immediately. And out we went.) I remember standing on what seemed an endless line three years later and worrying that we wouldn’t get in to see The Empire Strikes Back. And I remember the insanity that led me to taking 3 ½ year-old Alixandra to an 11 a.m. showing of Return Of The Jedi because I couldn’t wait to see it and I didn’t want to go to the movies alone. (She was remarkably good, too; didn’t have to bribe her with candy…much.)
I remember reserving a copy of Crisis On Infinite Earths #1 at my local comic book store (now unfortunately defunct) and still worrying that it wouldn’t be there when I got finally got there. Yes, I know that I was freelancing at DC at that time, but I didn’t want to wait for my freelancer’s pack, and, besides, I liked supporting the shop. I remember when Alan Moore took over Saga Of The Swamp Thing and I read his first issue (“The Anatomy Lesson,” Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, February 1984) not because I was into shambling muck monsters, but because Karen Berger was my editor at the time and she was raving over it. Then the time between issues seemed not a month of waiting, but years of impatience.
Do I still feel that excitement?
Sadly, these days…
Not so much.
It isn’t that there aren’t movies and TV shows that excite me; I think it’s a product of being older and being jaded and knowing that if I miss X-Men: Days Of Future Passed, for example, in the theater – and no, I haven’t yet seen it – I will be able to watch it in a few short months courtesy of Netflix or Amazon Prime or iTunes. And certainly the price of one movie ticket these days also holds me back. And I hate going to the movies alone; for me part of the joy of going to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture or any of the Star Wars movies – well, the first three, anyway – is the communal experience.
One of the best times I’ve ever had in a movie theatre was back in the 90s, when I was working at Marvel full-time. A whole bunch of us – Mark Gruenwald among them – went uptown to the Museum of Television and Radio on W.52nd St. to see a showing of two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation about time travel: Yesterday’s Enterprise and Cause And Effect. It was absolute heaven watching them in a roomful of ST geeks who were my friends, and it was absolutely joyful to talk about them afterwards.
But these days I’ve either lost touch with some fellow geeks, or they live too far away to just call up and say, “hey, let’s go to the movies tonight/today/this afternoon (that’s you, Mike and John), or as working adults everyone’s schedule is too crazed and too hard to synchronize. And when Alix, of whom I’ve proud to say may not be a total geek but absolutely gets her geek mom, and Jeff, her wonderful husband with whom I share some geek qualities, want to go out for the night, who gets called to babysit with little Meyer (which is how we distinguish him from my father and his great-grandfather)?
And of course I will gladly give up going to see The Hunger Games: Mockingbird to be with my grandchild, if called upon to do so.
The last movie I didn’t wait to see was Star Trek: Into Darkness. I went to see it by myself on a Sunday afternoon. And you know what? I didn’t enjoy it as much as I was expecting to – my biggest disappointment was the lack of imagination in that J. J. Abrams (and the studio?) decided to remake The Wrath Of Khan; I still think that retelling the Gary Mitchell story would be a home run for the rebooted series – because I was alone, and there wasn’t anybody that I could “ooh” and “aah” with during the viewing, or share the “tingles” with as Alexander Courage’s iconic theme came up, and afterwards go for a drink and dissect the film and bitch and moan about “why did they remake TWOK, the perfect ST story and film?”
There’s one movie that I’m already feeling the shivers and pricklings and quiverings of excitement for.
One movie about which I am already saying, “Fuck Netflix! Fuck Amazon Prime! Fuck iTunes! I’m going to see it now, with or without company!”
One movie that’s already got me searching the web for tidbits of information.
Mark Hamill. Carrie Fisher. And…
Oh, no! Harrison Ford broke his ankle while shooting on the set! Is he okay? Will he be able to continue? And it could screw up the schedule?