My name is Jack Moffett
. I am an Interaction Designer with over ten years of experience. According to Herb Simon
, that makes me an expert, so I must have something worth sharing. I have started this venture as an exercise to spur critical thinking about my chosen profession. I hope that others may find it thought provoking as well.
DesignAday will present a brief thought about Design every weekday.
Overall, my family and I have been quite happy with our Netflix subscription. We’re enjoying it more, and watching it more, than we ever did cable. However, I just had a poor experience that I’m hoping is atypical.
I understand that there are content licensing deals that determine what is available on Netflix streaming, and I understand that those deals have a finite duration. I also understand that it is in Netflix’s interests to actively track the popularity of their content and only spend money for that which is being consumed. That all makes perfect business sense. But there is a problem—a user experience problem—that they need to address.
I started our subscription in December, so we’ve only had it a little over a month. I started watching Farscape, a science fiction television show produced by the Jim Henson Company from 1998 to 2002. I had just graduated with my masters degree and started my first full-time job when this show started, and I missed it. I’m a big fan of the creative work of the Jim Henson Company, and I’m a huge fan of science fiction, so I’ve been wanting to see the show for a long time. I’m about half way through the first season now, so I’m invested in the characters and the overarching plot. I got back from last week’s business trip and decided to watch an episode while cleaning up the kitchen. I turned on the AppleTV, navigated to my Netflix instant que, and… hello! Where did Farscape go? It wasn’t there. I searched for it. It wasn’t listed. I got on my computer and searched for it. It showed up, but was labeled as not available for streaming.
I was pretty sure of what had happened, but I was mad, so I called their customer support and played dumb. Their very pleasant support rep explained that its license had probably expired. He told me that he would record my request to have it relicensed. I’ll be surprised if that does any good, but I felt better having voiced my frustration.
Like I said, I understand the business decisions behind this, but it makes for a pretty crummy experience on my end. It’s one thing for a movie to be removed, but television series take time to watch, and it is really annoying to become invested in something and then have it taken away without any kind of warning. How much trust do I have in Netflix for any of the other shows we have started watching? Netflix knows how long content is licensed for and when those licenses expire. They should provide that information to their customers so that we can make informed decisions about what to watch. If I had known in December that the license on Farscape was going to be up at the end of the month, I would have invested my time in a different series.
Saturday afternoon, my wife made the call to Verizon. Our cable has been turned off. Our landline phone service is disconnected. I have been paying about $150 per month for their Triple Play bundle, which included rental of one high definition DVR and one standard definition cable box. Instead, we increased our internet speed to 75/35 Mbps for $95 per month and subscribed to Netflix streaming for $10 per month. The way I figure it, I’ll be saving $45 a month. That will quickly pay off the second Apple TV I purchased for our bedroom and the Airport Express I’ve ordered to beef up the WiFi network on the second floor of the house.
The monetary savings are all well and good, but how are we doing entertainment-wise? Well, my daughters have discovered Sean the Sheep, which they’ve been watching every morning before school, and they’re devouring all of the Bones episodes, a show they had started DVRing sometime in the past six months. They seem to be happy. My wife and I have started watching Merlin, and we have several other shows in our queue that we want to try. I’ll likely purchase The Clone Wars and Glee from iTunes so we can finish watching the current season. Everything streams beautifully. I have a cheap, wire antenna connected to one of the TVs, and it picks up several local channels, so we still get the news.
So, I would say everything is going swimmingly. It was really quite easy once we decided to take the plunge. My only regret is that I couldn’t drop the landline phone before the election.
My Verizon Triple Play 2-year contract has expired, and I’m cutting the cord. My plan is to retain a subscription to their Fios internet service with as high a bit rate as I’m willing to pay for while dropping the television and landline phone services. Instead, I’ll be hooking up antennas to pick up local HD channels and subscribing to Netflix, which I’ll play through my Apple TV. I’ll also consider Hulu Plus, but that won’t likely be necessary. Between Netflix and iTunes, I expect to have everything covered.
As part of this move, I’ll be replacing the old CRT in my bedroom with an HD LCD that I’ll get a good deal on this Friday. I’ll likely also purchase a second AppleTV to attach to it.
The biggest question is what hoops Verizon will make me jump through. I know they’ll charge more for the internet service without it being bundled, but it surely can’t be an outrageous increase. Of course, while their website provides many ways to renew or upgrade my service, it doesn’t provide any information on downgrading. And since I already have service, I can’t get pricing on internet service alone.
We’ve already explained what we’re planning to the girls, and they seem to be on board. As soon as we’re back from our holiday visits, we’re diving in.
I’ve fallen in love with Will Wheaton’s new show, TableTop, on Geek & Sundry. It’s the kind of thing that a television network would never fund. “Who would want to watch a bunch of geeks sitting around a table playing board games?” This is the kind of thing that’s going to eventually allow me to drop cable. Will and his guests are entertaining, and the show has high production values (cheap, reusable trophy aside). With my interest in game design, I’ve very much enjoyed learning about a number of games I’ve not played before. In fact, I’ve turned my whole family onto the show, and they just gave me Munchkin and Small World for Father’s Day. I’d love to know if there has been a noticeable bump in sales of the games they have featured. After all, to the game publishers, it’s basically a 30-minute commercial. I assume Geek & Sundry is trying to capitalize on this—they do provide purchase links to the games on Amazon, so are likely collecting their Amazon Associates kickback, but I know that’s not the mechanism by which my wife ordered the games.