Just Dance 4 Review

Although I have experimented with fitness video games such as Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution, it was not until recently this semester in college that I played Just Dance 4 on my friend’s Wii. Overall, my experience was enjoyable and I even started to sweat after dancing through a few songs. I tried to stick with the easier-rated songs since it was my first time playing the game but I found the more intermediate songs to be less challenging than I would have guessed them to be. At the end of my playing time, I walked away with a few laughs with my friends and some sweat on my forehead. All in all I really liked Just Dance 4 and would happily play it again.

In terms of what Bogost described in his writing, Just Dance 4 provides external benefits from playing the game. As a player I not only achieve points on the screen for accurate dance moves but I also achieve a higher heart rate. If I were to play Just Dance 4 long enough and in a consistent time span, I would be achieving ‘weight loss points’ on my body, outside of the screen. This separates Just Dance 4 into it’s own category of video games since not every game has a dual goal in two different realities.

As discussed in class, this type of media has evolved to become more interactive. Although Just Dance 4 is not the first video to require physical activity, it still resides within the same category of the first. Just Dance 4 gives you a hidden workout behind the catchy, recent jams and fun yet challenging dance moves. Also, the freedom of only holding a small Wii remote makes the game more universal.

-Jeslyn Trau

HBO starts to share

For those of you who enjoy HBO, but are just don’t want to dish out the dough for its subscription service, you’ll be happy to read this. HBO just struck a deal with Amazon to distribute their content on Amazon Prime. They will begin with making complete seasons of some shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” available to Amazon users. As they test the success of the platform, HBO will consider releasing more content to Amazon.

This could be a great move for HBO, especially for “cord-cutting” audiences that want to lump their entertainment bills together. As a college student who doesn’t like to dish out anymore money than I have to, this deal is good news to me, since my parents have Amazon Prime and can access it whenever I want.

HBO making this move could also be a signal to other television studios that they should start to get with the times, and realize that alternate distributing platforms are a good resource to utilize and could tap into the up and coming generation that are going to be the next wave of adults. Seeing this, I personally foresee other companies using platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to broadcast their content to audiences in my age group. I don’t see myself ever buying a cable service and these platforms would be the best way to access me and other people that have similar views.

Why Can’t We Be Friends???

Although my research dominantly revolves around the issue of cord-cutting and it’s effect on television series specifically, I have found that there may be a happy medium when discussing the war between streaming and live broadcast.

One article I found discussed the current actions of streaming companies like Apple TV pairing up with bigger broadcast companies like Comcast Inc. to stream live events. The example this particular article used was sports events; basically any event that is taped live would categorize for this same example. Sports games, award shows, grand ceremonies, all fit under the umbrella of ‘live recordings’, which stump viewers who ignore cable and only use Netflix or Apple TV.

Of course, these live recordings only happen annually, monthly, or sometimes weekly, so it’s difficult to agree to paying for cable when you’ll only use it for that basketball game or Thanksgiving parade. Therefore, combining with larger broadcast companies to keep viewers ‘in the loop’ would be beneficial for both companies.

Overall, what I took from this article was that live TV does not have to suffer from cord-cutting at all. In fact, with all the new forms of technology and smart phones, creating apps that would require a fee to download could help many viewers watch their live sports shows or news channels, while funding those larger companies. I do not believe live recordings such as I listed before are important enough to stop someone from using streaming sites over cable, but I do believe those choosing to cut the cord would compromise to pay a fee in order to watch certain channels and their live showings.

The Little Hulu that Could?


As we’ve discussed in class, Hulu has been trying so hard to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and other television distribution sites. In 2013, the website’s unfortunate lack of revenue and viewership almost brought its parent companies to auction off the distribution service. Owners Disney, Comcast, and 21st Century Fox discontinued the motions for auction when the site passed the 5 million mark in subscribers. Subscription revenues increased to come out over $1 billion for the year, satisfying the big guys upstairs. An article I read on the BusinessWeek website attributes much of Hulu’s success in the past few years to a deal made with The Criterion Collection, a distributor of aged and abstract films. The deal brought over 800 motion pictures to the website, those films boosting viewership among the cinematic community.

Criterion films vary in genre, language, and age, though their obscurity, I think, won’t do Hulu much good in the long run. While the article speaks positively about the Hulu-Criterion friendship, but the odds that old, unadvertised films will bring big numbers – in subscriptions and revenue – to the site are slim. While digital audiences like the freedom of online movie screening, the ability to watch films and television shows otherwise unavailable, Criterion films are low on the food chain when it comes to what viewers want to watch. According to a Nielsen year-end report for 2013 titled U.S. Home Entertainment Industry Year-End Review, the “Top 10″ movies purchased online as a digital download, four films fell under the “Action” category, three were family movies, and the rest were in comedy and drama genres. Criterion, and consequently Hulu, films don’t stand a chance against big ticket, box-office hits. In a time where the modern video viewer is able to watch brand new content at the drop of a hat, otherwise unheard-of films can’t compete.

If, as the pro-Criterion article suggests, Hulu’s partnership with Criterion is intended to be a push to improve traffic, subscriptions, and furthermore revenue, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the website gaining significant popularity any time soon.

Somewhat unrelated side note: The Nielsen review reports that the subscription streaming of video content in the United States increased by 10% between 2012 and 2013 and physical video rental decreased by 11%. Coincidence?

*You can read the entire Nielsen report by clicking this link and putting a bit of personal information into the download request on the right. You will then be able to download the review. Update: I Scooped a PDF of the review, if you want to check it out that way. 


Netflix on the move

With a big 2013, what is next for Netflix?

Netflix experienced a great 2013 with more than 40 million subscribers at the end of the year. If you are like me, it is easy to forget that Netflix is a worldwide company. It had 9.7 million international subscribers from over 40 different countries; compared to 4.3 million in 2012. Domestic subscriptions also jumped up to 31.7 million. The rise in subscribers made Netflix’s total revenue (not net) of over a billion. CEO Reed Hastings has more than hinted at plans to capitalize on this growth, but has remained quite on as to how or where. For more on this.

There is never just one explanation for growth of this magnitude. One of the simpler explanations is the amount of content Netflix offers.

“Netflix had a big 2013 regardless of the revenue gains and growing subscriber base. Not only did it release a ton of original content—its darling political thriller, House of Cards, was nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best TV Series, Drama, and Best Actor in a TV Series, Drama. Netflix recently announced it has plans to offer House of Cards in 4K at no additional cost to current subscribers.” – Brandon Russell

This article is an interesting look at the Netflix domestic content competitor HBO. It discusses the business benefits of producing ‘high-concept’ content, which has provided Netflix with a growing edge on HBO. It allows Netflix more flexibility to meet consumer demands in terms of the amount of content and speedy release time frames.

Speed also came into play in another way in 2013. There are few things that really irritate me, but waiting for something to stream is at the top of that list. While other might not share my exact feelings, it is an annoyance. In response to this issue, Netflix teamed up with Comcast to bring users faster streaming. Though it was a reluctant pairing for Netflix, being as they didn’t want the additional taxes due to Comcast, it has proved to be more than worth it. Faster streaming, equals happier subscribers; which should cheer Reed Hastings up about the tax.

This can all be topped off with the low rate Netflix can offer.

Netflix growth into an international streaming juggernaut has not gone unnoticed by competitors. Nevertheless, for better or worse Netflix sees a huge margin for growth internationally; here is an estimated graph for possible overseas growth from Netflix: see graph.
This all sounds very well and dandy with possible numbers through the roof, it is easy to get caught up. However, there is still the fact that Netflix is in uncharted water. There are still many obstacles ahead legally that must be dealt with before others can be set in motion. As we learned from our google chat guest Arthel McDaniel, international contract negotiations can be a task in themselves. Simply put, Netflix will have to learn on the fly with new aspects arising as they go; if Netflix decides to expand (which they most likely will). It will be a delicate balancing act between domestic and international subscribers to ensure such continued growth.

For those of you interested to know how all this is shaking down on wall street, here is a great article.

In a pretty unsurprising turn of events, after Netflix’s deal with Comcast, Netflix users streaming via Comcast experienced about a 65% increase in speed between the months of January and March.  Comcast has moved up six ranks on Netflix’s ISP speed index.

What is particularly fascinating about these events is that there are tons of articles discussing this news.  Publications like Time Magazine, Top Tech News, Slate, World TV PC, ABC News, etc.  The coverage is literally everywhere.  Perhaps for some reason it was unexpected that Comcast was holding out on Netflix to such a high degree.  While it’s obvious that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is exceedingly biased, he is not exactly phased or pleased with the recent development, referring to the Comcast deal as an “arbitrary tax.”  Hastings notes this article, written by Michael Mooney, which explains the absurdity of ISPs forcing content providers to pay a fee to be connected to each ISP’s individual network.

“To honor the promises they make consumers…ISPs must then connect their networks to the other networks that can supply any Internet content the ISPs cannot provide themselves (which is most of it).”

“Some ISPs, however, have refused to augment their networks UNLESS the content providers they connect to agree to pay them to do so.  Viewed in the light most favorable to these ISPs, they want content suppliers to pay not only for their own increased costs of supplying more robust Internet content, but also for any increased network costs of the ISPs too.”

As Mooney explains, ISPs likely intend to use this system not only as additional profit, but also for discrimination.  When these companies are given an edge like this, they’re able to hold content above not only consumers’ heads, but also service above content providers’.  Either way costs on both sides of the equation will be driven up.

The idea that the streaming speeds increased that dramatically when Netflix paid Comcast is a real bummer.  It’s definite proof of the power ISPs have over content providers when the net is not neutral.

Bad Business Move for Amazon Prime?


 As some of you may know Amazon Prime recently raised their yearly membership prices twenty dollars that now totals ninety-nine dollars a year (for more info). This might not seem like much (for those not in college), but as we have learned throughout the semester competitors are always looking to gain an edge. The price bump averages out to $8.25 a month; compared to Netflix and Hulu’s $7.99 a month. Having a mixed group of friends and family that are consumers of each these, I wanted to explore what kind of impact this has had.

I am sure most of you are aware of the different services offer by these outlets, but Jill Duffy offers a great overview that I think is worth a look. She compares Amazon Prime to Netflix, ultimately leaning towards Netflix. It is important to note that this was also written before the Amazon Prime price bump.

However, I quickly learned in my research that the price bump also negatively affected Hulu. This can be seen in a survey done by YouGov. To understand how survey is conducted and scored follow link.

Value: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, Netflix

Many of those within Amazon had predicted that the month advanced warning would protect from customer backlash. While it is still early with the bump taking place on March 3rd, it might appear Amazon might have dipped a little too deep into its consumer’s pockets.

I’m not completely sold that this will ended as badly for Amazon as some are predicting. Netflix users went through their own price bump and are still going strong. Nevertheless, this will be a new point of emphasizes in marketing strategies for Amazon Primes competitors. I believe this will lead to a lot stronger competition and the conglomeration of ‘super-powers’, which sadly could lead to a stronger crack down on free-streaming. This does not mean I agree with ripping off performers, but it greatly overshadows the extreme benefits that can come from a gift economy. I am a firm believer that if you are loyal to your consumers they will return the favor.

UltraViolet Veronica


Going into this blog post, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. As an active Veronica Mars fan, I wanted to explain the way the film’s release would open up new ways to release and distribute films, as well as weigh the pros and cons of such a decision. One Google search later, my blog post has taken a completely different turn. I’m going to find a compromise by following my original plan and adding an analysis of recent information.

I originally wanted to talk about the multi-media release of the Veronica Mars movie. Producers of the film promised Kickstarter backers a digital download release on the same day the film came out in theaters. In addition, new and old fans that had not helped the record-breaking campaign were able to buy and download the film on either Amazon or iTunes. This kind of multi-venue release is unheard of, with films debuting solely in theaters or going straight to DVD. Veronica Mars hit theaters at the same time it hit my laptop. I wonder what film normalcies would shift if all films began to debut this way. The movie theater would become a novelty item, like drive-ins, the Game Boy, and Sherriff Woody. All were put out of use by a new toy. Today, we can get huge 3D screens in the comfort of our own home. If films go straight to digital download upon release, the theaters that offer the same experience but don’t allow you to keep the movie become obsolete.

For consumers, straight-to-digital would be the greatest thing to happen in the film industry since Meryl Streep’s birth. Such a release could save over fifty dollars per average family of four on a movie night. Instead of buying four tickets, popcorn, and drinks, the family would buy one $20 film to enjoy together in the comfort of their own home with snacks “brought to you by” The Pantry.

As I went to find resources and additional information about the Veronica Mars digital release, I found dozens of news articles about the download’s issues. Users’ technical difficulties were so numerous that producers have begun offering refunds to fans that were promised the download in exchange for their financial support in making the film. This Veronica-induced digital disaster is due to UltraViolet, a video distribution format that encodes films to prevent copying and consequent pirating. Specifically, the encoding only allows films to be downloaded to approved devices.

While UltraViolet is appealing to film producers, the program’s “technical difficulties” have had a habit of turning fans away. The UltraViolet format requires viewers to make accounts with various distribution programs in order to download their content. Flixster and UltraViolet at just two of the services users must sign up for if they want to watch their free digital download. 

While the article I read in The Economist detailed an alternative distribution format the film producers could have used to make the experience easier, I think this distribution debacle is a great example of why movie theaters are important to both producers and consumers. Producers make more money and consumers are guaranteed a good experience. This situation also pertains to the question we are constantly asking in class: How do you charge people for something that was once free? Fans that got free downloads of the films had a lot of hassle getting to the actual content, while people that bought the film on iTunes or Amazon payed for an easier experience. Cost vs. quality. 


Apple TV: The New Netflix?

Forbes released an article concerning Netflix’s stock. However, Netflix’s shares do not interest me, it’s the reason they are taking a hit. Apple is teaming up with Comcast to create Apple TV to bring streaming to its customers. It would appear that competitors are entering the market of alternative distribution and streaming. I find it interesting that other companies are beginning to see opportunity in this market segment and that there are potential customers to reach with alternative distribution systems.

It makes me wonder if television creators will start to use streaming as a primary means of distribution. As attention and time of audiences shift from their television sets to their computers, this shift is possible. I’m curious to see where this Apple TV will go and how customers will react to it.

Netflix vs. Comcast (and apple)

An article posted earlier today on the Forbes website addresses not only the recent development where Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for higher streaming speeds that I had previously mentioned on this blog, but also a potential new streaming deal between Comcast and Apple.  

According to the article, following secret meetings between Apple and Comcast about the new streaming service Netflix shares dropped nearly 8%.  The author suggests that the sinking shares was a result of the aforementioned meeting.  I am not particularly knowledgable about stocks or anything related to them, but that seems like a pretty large drop in shares based off of something that is mostly conjecture.  I do not think, however, it is out of the question to assume that it may have partially had to with the recent net neutrality issue that Netflix has undergone with Comcast.  Although users are certainly going to benefit from the deal, perhaps some people were frustrated enough to pull their support from the company.  

This is also interesting because the Forbes article also points to a blog post from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings where he voices his complaints of dealing with ISPs.  Reed himself, unsurprisingly, is a strong proponent of net neutrality.  In the post he also explains how, in an intentionally general manner, the recent events between his company and Comcast could eventually lead to a poor consumer experience.  Not knowing the specifics, this information makes it all the more surprising that Netflix backed down so quickly.  Was the situation extremely one-sided? Did Netflix have no leeway? 

Regardless, the new information about a new streaming service from Comcast and Apple seems to mark new era in the alternative distribution market.  Depending on what the service is, this could be the first cable company to all the way into the digital domain.  Apple and Comcast are two very powerful companies who likely have what it takes to make a name for themselves in the streaming world.