Streaming Bits: Netflix Says Theater Owners Might Kill Movies, Plus 'Dexter,' 'House Of Cards,' HBO For Cord-Cutters

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos raised some eyebrows this weekend when he claimed that movie theater owners are the ones threatening to kill the movie business. Their refusal to innovate with day and date releases for big movies in theaters and on digital is stifling the industry. But his company is totally helping, right? The DVD business, which has been a massive part of the movie business for the past ten-plus years, is super-healthy, thanks to Netflix, right? And streaming revenues have more than made up the difference, too! Oh, wait. The business isn't healthy and streaming hasn't filled the void.

Complete video of his talk is after the break. Also, we've got the following items:

  • A third season of House of Cards is on the way.
  • Netflix gets Dexter.
  • Comcast will offer HBO to non-cable subscribers.
  • Let's do the small stuff first. Item number one is that while House of Cards producer Rick Cleveland said earlier this fall that House of Cards wasn't likely to go past season two, it turns out he's not really in a position to make any calls. See, Cleveland is no longer a producer on the show. And in that n0w-infamous keynote at the 9th Annual Film Independent Forum, Ted Sarandos of Netflix said "Our intent is that the show keep going for sure. It was a 26-episode commitment. It was not our intent that it just run for two seasons."

    Then do Deadline, he said "Talks are in progress right now, so stay tuned."

    Netflix will also soon be offering the now-finished Showtime series Dexter. The first few seasons (the good ones, in other words) will be available this week, with the rest to follow soon. Seasons 1-4 will stream beginning on Halloween, and seasons 5 – 8 will be available starting on Jan. 1, 2014. That means you can quickly dial up that controversial series-ending episode and check it out, just for the hell of it. [Variety]

    Want HBO, but don't have a friend willing to share their HBO Go account info, and find cable prices higher than you're willing to pay? Comcast is going to be the first company to bow to the consumer demand for access to HBO unshackled from a cable subscription. It's the beginning of a cord-cutter's dream.

    Comcast is testing Internet Plus, which gives subscribers access to a few things:  broadcast TV, VOD, HBO, HBO Go, Comcast's own access to Streampix, and a (kinda slow at 25mbps) broadband connection. The cost? An introductory $40/$50 per month, depending on your zip code, for one year, after which the price goes up. (As cable "deals" often do). Still, that's cheaper than basic cable, and also cheaper than a lot of broadband internet offerings.

    Of course there'll be stuff in there that some customers want (other basic and pay cable services, for example) but as a basic package that first year price is pretty great. [Variety]

    OK, here's the video of Sarandos' talk. Listen in while you read on.

    There's a lot here, about how Netflix championed indie film when theaters wouldn't, and how the company is just giving the audience what it wants. Of course, Netflix championing indies looks like a real thing when seen through a very selective filter, but there are a lot of arguments that Netflix buries just as many indies as it champions.

    When talking about premium VOD and day and date theatrical/digital openings for big films Sarandos said,

    Theater owners stifle this kind of innovation at every turn. The reason why we may enter this space and try to release some big movies ourselves this way, is because I'm concerned that as theater owners try to strangle innovation and distribution, not only are they going to kill theaters–they might kill movies.

    Indie studios and small distributors are doing a lot of day and date digital/theatrical releases, or in many cases releasing to digital weeks before a theatrical opening. And it's true that theater chains squawk when studios announce plans to experiment with premium VOD, such as the plan to offer Tower Heist for $59.99 only three weeks after it hit theaters.

    Sure, some more aggressive VOD release models by big studios might shake things up. And going after theater owners for some policies, such as the notoriously lousy policing of audiences in theaters, is fine. But refusing to experiment with VOD is hardly killing movies. Netflix and companies like it would be the chief beneficiary of new release models, especially with the rather low license rates Netflix pays to some vendors.

    Meanwhile, by any metric, the simple truth is that as DVD fails, it is harder and harder to find niche films for anything other than purchase. The small rental stores that built up collections of less-than-mainstream stuff are gone, and streaming options exist for only a small percentage of all the films that could theoretically be "in print." Sure, the Netflix streaming library is good, but there's a lot of stuff just from the past decade that can't be streamed, to say nothing of all the films from years prior. Netflix won't even offer data about when any given streaming deal is expiring, meaning that there's no easy way for consumers to know when stuff is going to fall off the streaming service.

    But if you want to fall into a stupor while binge-watching My Cat From Hell? Netflix will always have that covered.

    The National Association of Theater Owners, meanwhile, issued a statement saying,

    Subscription movie services and cheap rentals killed the DVD business, and now Sarandos wants to kill the cinema as well. ... The only business that would be helped by day-and-day release to Netflix is Netflix. If Hollywood did what Sarandos suggests, there wouldn't be many movies left for Netflix's customers or for anyone else. It makes absolutely no business sense to accelerate the release of the lowest value in the chain.