Living in central New Hampshire means that access to independent cinema can be problematic. I’ve been a NetFlix subscriber for about 4 years–I’ve appreciated the range of their offerings and have seen some films that I probably wouldn’t have paid to see in a theater. Increasingly, however, I’ve been troubled by the quality of the DVDs that I receive from NetFlix. Often, they are badly scratched. Even when they aren’t BADLY scratched, they might have enough scratches on a section of the DVD that makes that part of the film difficult to view. Several times, I’ve sent a DVD back, asked for a replacement and received a second DVD that also has problems. In fact, that’s the reason that I still haven’t seen A Scanner Darkly–I tried three times before I finally gave up.
Then I discovered that I could watch some movies and TV shows at NetFlix online (free for subscribers). What a great idea! The downside of viewing on NetFlix, however, is that you have to download and install their viewer, which does not work with Firefox (which is my main web browser). But finally, the broadcast networks are discovering that they can extend their audience by offering content online. All four of the major networks have begun offering online content, including of their current shows. And the best thing is that these sites do not require a special viewer. I’ve enjoyed watching Lost at ABC’s site. About a year ago, NBC and Fox collaborated to open hulu.com. CBS’s content is hosted by joost.com. The two things that will make or break these sites are the quality of the content and ease of use. The quality of content is pretty good, I think. The ease of use is fine as long as you want to view the content on your computer. The next step in the ease of use battle is to make it easier to connect the TV itself to the Internet.