Tobold's Blog
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Your loss, Amazon!

I don't watch live TV. Having to be there at a specific time, and then sitting through the ads, not my cup of tea. But I do watch a lot of TV shows, either recorded with a hard drive recorder, or bought as a full season of one TV show on DVD. Usually from Amazon UK, because I prefer English with English sub-titles, that being the neutral ground between me and my wife. Obviously I would be interested in TV on demand, but here in Belgium that used to be extremely difficult: For example Amazon Instant Video is offered in three neighboring countries that have their own Amazon website, but you can't access any of them from Belgium due to rights issues. There are a few Belgian companies with streaming services, but they only have movies, and no TV shows. Not even Apple iTunes is selling TV shows in Belgium.

Yesterday that changed and the 21st century of TV finally arrived in Belgium: opened their doors. As you probably live in a civilized country that had Netflix for years, I don't need to tell you how great that is. Lots of TV shows and movies on offer. And a monthly flatrate that is less than half of what a single season of a single TV show costs on DVD. Which is great, because now I can try out TV shows I wasn't sure about without paying for a full season in advance.

I was especially impressed that Netflix works on so many devices. I can watch it on my TV screen either via the Apple TV box I have connected to it, or directly via the Smart TV application. My second TV is connected to a Playstation 3, and it works on that too. I could watch on my PC screen. Or I could go mobile and watch on my iPad. And in spite this being Belgium, I can get movies and TV shows in English, some even with English subtitles.

That means that an TV show I am interested in I will first check availability on Netflix. Only if Netflix doesn't have it would I consider buying the DVD from Amazon any more. Your loss, Amazon! You could have made Amazon Instant Video available here. If Netflix can do it, it obviously wasn't impossible.

Obligatory warning about the Netflix disease which affects many new Netflix users: Try to be strong willed and resist the impulse to watch the entire series of Breaking Bad or Lost or Battlestar Glactica in a single weekend. You need to take breaks for eating and sleeping.

A couple of other Random observations from a long time Netflixer:

Netflix selection facility sucks. It is determined to only display the shows it thinks you want to see. If like most grown ups you have wide and varied tastes then you will soon get frustrated when after watching a few Sci Fi movies it decides that the only movies you are interested in are Sci fi movies. I have all but given up on searching Netflix directly because of this.

Sadly Netflix is subject to the same stupid licensing restrictions as everyone else and the selection on offer depends on the country you watch from. If you want to watch a BBC series you may be out of luck if you don't live in the UK and so on. Happily Netflix is amazingly tolerant of VPN type arrangements and allows you to log in using your local account to any Netflix anywhere in the world. Even the Free Hola extension for Chrome works. You may or may not be comfortable doing this but it does work.

If you don't have a smart TV then the cheap chromecast device is a great companion to Netflix because it allows you to use your mobile phone as a remote control. Easier than fiddling with a gamepad.
Everquest cured me of the television disease way back in 1999. Very occasional exposure to limited doses via DVD or download in controlled circumstances is occasionally necessary to ensure continued immunity but I don't intend to risk re-infection or relapse by exposing myself to virulent new strains such as NetFlix.

On your particular circumstances, if " Amazon Instant Video is offered in three neighboring countries" and "Not even Apple iTunes is selling TV shows in Belgium" doesn't that suggest the problem lies with the Belgian authorities rather than Amazon, Apple or any other commercial entity? Or are you suggesting big, global media companies are willfully shunning Belgium for some sinister reason?
Or are you suggesting big, global media companies are willfully shunning Belgium for some sinister reason?

No, the only "sinister reason" here is that they do license agreements country by country. And obviously they start with the big countries and forget about the small ones. Nothing to do with Belgian authorities, it is simply a matter of license agreements between the people who make the TV shows and the people who stream them to you.
they start with the big countries and forget about the small ones

We Irish are very familiar with this situation. If we are lucky a company will lump us in with the UK market(we do speak the same language) but often companies don't bother with he small Irish market and we must look on in envy at what is on offer to bigger countries.

For physical goods that are will not ship to Ireland there are enterprising shippers who will forward on products from a UK PO box for a small fee. This is entirely legal within the EU. Sadly the EU rules about free trade across borders do not seem to apply to digital goods.

Sometimes though we benefit from unusual arrangements. When Amazon launched their Kindle service in Ireland they attached Irish Customers to the US Kindle store rather than the more logical UK Kindle Store. At the time the US Kindle store had a better selection and better pricing so this was a bonus as long as we weren't looking for local authors. They have since moved us back to the UK but the UK selection has improved substantially in the meantime.
I would strongly suspect government regulations - partly due to governments wanting bureaucracy and partly due to how much more political influence/$ old media has versus new. I hope and feel that Apple, Amazon and Netflix would be everywhere if it were easier.

The latest is Netfix vs Canada:
Netflix is definatly going into the right direction.

You can also pay for multiple devices and they are cool with one of them being the TV at another house.

I really hope they work on the next step: getting rid of regional restrictions.
Amazon have only got round to releasing an Android comparable instant app last week and that only works on mobiles. Oddly enough they have yet to release a a tablet version.
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