I am still catching up on notes I took almost two weeks ago, but there were some video related topics I wanted not note involving three different video services that have had something of an impact on me.
- Netflix ends DVD Service
I haven’t subscribed to the Netflix DVDs by mail service in a good six or seven years. I haven’t felt the need. But I was always happy it was there as a fall back because, while the Netflix vision was always to stream video, we have learned that streaming services are, at best, fickle stewards of our video culture. And then the announcement came that their DVD service was going to be shut down.
For openers, that is bad because if you REALLY wanted to watch something specific, some movie or TV series, the Netflix DVD service had you covered in a way that a dozen streaming service subscriptions will absolutely fail to do. You couldn’t do it that night, on demand, but with a little bit of planning that red envelope would show up in the mail and you would have the disk set to watch.
For years we got those red envelopes in the mail regularly… though it helped that we’re very close to their distribution hub. Netflix is still just up the road from us.
Moving away from DVDs to streaming only is a blow due to the attrition that always comes to pass when we change formats. There were a lot of titles on VHS that never made it to DVD. And from DVDs to BluRay more titles fell by the wayside… though at least players supported both formats. Likewise, there are a lot of titles on DVD or BluRay that nobody has bothered to factor for streaming.
DVDs aren’t going away. You can still find them and watch them if you have a player or an optical drive in your computer. (I do still!) But Netflix was by far the easiest way to access the vast library of titles on DVD and, come September, it will be no more.
- HBO becomes Max
For whatever reason HBOs owners, Warner Discovery, have decided to throw away a reputation 50 years in the making and rename HBO’s streaming service to Max.
I mean, it was already HBO Max… after having been HBO on Demand, HBO Go, and HBO Now… but to finally ditch the anchor name that has been around since late 1972 seems like a dumb marketing move.
Yes, the plan is to merge it with Discovery+ content, so maybe the two streaming services combined deserve a new name… but did nobody consider HBO Discovery? I mean, that maintains the continuity of the services in people’s heads because, because in the case of HBO people think of those three letters for shows like The Wire, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Westworld.
Okay, maybe not Westworld, which has been part of the original content purge at HBO so they don’t have to pay the talent in order to save money. This is another reason Netflix DVD services going away is bad, because you cannot stream some titles now.
But it feels to me like people who don’t pay close attention aren’t going to make the leap to Max.
Also, and this is what leaped into my brain first, HBO’s has a sister service on cable called Cinemax (or Skinemax, as we used to call it for its propensity to show soft core porn back in the day) that has been branded on and off again as just Max.
Is that the association they want? We’ll see this Tuesday, as May 23rd is the cut over.
Anyway, it seems dumb, but I guess they have already trashed the HBO brand by this point. I got a deal last year to subscribe to HBO Max for a year at a low price. I did that, then they started the purge and doing dumb things. I think we’ll be able to live without Max when that subscription lapses.
- I miss my MTV
Finally, there is the demise of MTV. It was announced that MTV News, the last bastion of the once influential network, would be integrated into Showtime as Paramount engaged in cost cutting measure that include slashing 25% of its overall staff.
The idea that MTV would be finally gone for good as something of an independent channel did stir something in me.
Yes, I know, it hasn’t been what I think of as MTV for a couple of decades at this point. But back in the day it was something.
MTV feels very much like a milestone for my generation. I first saw it when we were going to move back in May 1982. The people buying our house wanted cable, something we didn’t have, so it got wired up while we were still moving out. My sister and I found MTV on the channel options and wouldn’t turn it off. Our parents hated it… boomers… but we wouldn’t let it go.
It lost its edge a bit with time… there was a lot of Rod Stewart in the early rotation… but it remained a channel you would just throw on with people around, and we all knew the VJs… who didn’t have a crush on Martha Quinn or just want to hang out with her… and they did crazy things. They had a contest with Madonna that encouraged viewers to make a music video for her song True Blue in 1986.
And then they showed the entries, one after another, so that song was stuck in my head for years.
Eventually interest in just music videos waned and other content began pushing that off the schedule. Then there was MTV2, the joke being that they need some place for the music videos to go. Then VH1. My wife and I would turn on the VH1 video count down on Saturday mornings in the late 90s and early 2000s to watch music videos.
MTV broke gound with shows as well, with Liquid Television, which saw things like Æon Flux emerge, as well as Beavis and Butt-head. (Beavis and Butt-head also sat around watching music videos and commenting on them. This is the clip that always comes to mind for them.) Then there was MTV’s Real World, the start of reality television, which I won’t thank them for, but which was certainly influential.
The final bits of MTV being subsumed into Showtime has very little meaning to me and my actual viewing habits today. I haven’t watch the channel in over a decade and if I want music videos, then there is always YouTube. I have no idea what directions it has gone in since the days when I used to watch it. But the mention of its name will always bring up the moon landing channel ID clip they used to play back in the day.
That is my MTV, part of the bygone era that was my late adolescence and early adulthood.