Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Solitudes: Scripted video (TV) producers, BDU/Telecom, and fans. #DigiCanCon

Reading The Netflix Backlash: Why Hollywood Fears a Content Monopoly feels so disconnected from my experience as a fan of the works of scripted video (television) productions.  There are things I agree with, but the solutions being proposed are disconnected and in my mind counterproductive.

I too fear a distribution monopoly, and I think it is a problem that Netflix is largely alone in their market.  As much as the legacy BDU and telecom industry can claim that CraveTV or Shomi are "Canadian" competitors,  they are not in the same market.

Netflix originals offers me programming that is available to me at the time of public release, is made available in all markets (doesn't block Canada for Netflix originals), and is available on all the devices I own that I'd ever want to watch television on.  It even passes the "wife test", meaning it is a technology which someone who doesn't love to spend time playing with technology all the time would be willing to use.  My wife uses Netflix quite often.

CraveTV offers programming greatly delayed from public release (months or years later, after plots have been spoiled by other fans -- often around or even later than DVD releases), is often the reason content is blocked or removed from Netflix, and CraveTV barely works on a tiny subset of the devices I own.  It isn't a technology my wife would ever use, even if I could explain the contortions you have to go through to get video up on our television using CraveTV.

At one time I thought that HBO would be offering competition, but that never happened.  While a streaming service exists in the USA, it doesn't in Canada -- and this isn't surprising given HBO Canada is owned by Bell which has demonstrated it isn't interested in offering a Netflix competitor.

I would love if there were competition for Netflix, but it is highly improbable that this can be offered by companies which are part of the BDU (Cable/Satellite) or telecommunications sectors.  There are extremists representing those sectors who think of the creative works we are fans of as no different than "Happy Meal Toys", and have no concept of the impact on the personal identity of fans that some of this programming has.

I don't want Netflix to open up an exclusive window for exhibitors, whether for theatrical releases for movies or exclusivity for legacy broadcasting.  I am tired of being treated as a second class citizen by the broadcast industry which thinks that this exclusivity somehow benefits them financially, and then whines when people go to unauthorized alternatives when the content isn't available to them (infringing or out of geographic region sources).  Fans are willing to pay (badly want to support future creation in many cases), if only the intermediaries weren't treating them hostile and making us feel violated like we are paying kidnappers whenever money goes to these intermediaries.

We are at a time when the government is asking our opinion on things such as Digital CanCon, but those discussions also seem divorced from my experience.  An article in the Globe and Mail suggested that, "Canadian content is losing ground as services such as Netflix and Apple Music are expanding".   If that is true, then we need to recognize that so-called "Canadian" intermediaries such as Bell and Rogers are the problem.

There are Canadian produced shows I have been recommended that I have not watched.  An example is Orphan Black.  It is available on Netflix in other countries, but not in Canada.  In the USA it is available on Amazon Prime's streaming service, but in Canada Amazon Prime is only only the expedited two-day delivery service for physical products.  I could get all 4 seasons on DVD, but given all the other great programming I'm already paying for why would I?

Oh, and only the first 3 seasons are available on CraveTV, but I'm not interested -- it is a horrible streaming service technologically that I'm only willing to put up with for content I'm already a fan of. This is a series produced in association with Bell Media, which further amplifies the paying-kidnappers type violation feelings as Bell is the reason the content is so hard to access.

Making content easier to access should be a top priority for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly and the Department of Canadian Heritage. It isn't only about selling Canadian content to an international stage, but actually selling it to Canadians as well. This doesn't mean forcing Canadians into an outdated delivery mechanism (broadcast television) and its delivery time frames (IE: broadcaster tied streaming services where episodes disappear days later).  This is content available to all Canadians starting from the time of public release to be viewed at a time of their choosing and on the devices of their choosing.

This means offering Canadian content on Netflix-style services -- and until there is actual competition, that should include ensuring that Canadian content is available on Netflix Canada.   It should go without saying that the government should be legally protecting the use of VPNs to bypass inappropriate region restrictions, not legally prohibiting them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

PR doesn't necessarily "make every vote count"

Fair Vote Canada (FVC) has a slogan that it wants to "Make Every Vote Count".  It has a list of voting systems it approves of, and a list it disapproves of.  The problem is that their list is composed based on whether the system is proportional, not whether it "makes every vote count".

A more honest name and slogan would be: "Canadians for Proportional Representation : Make every vote count for voters who vote like us".   While it may not roll off the tongue, it would be more accurate.

In other articles on electoral modernization I've discussed how there are two different criteria people currently use for voting in  Canada:

  • Party representative: Those who are voting for parties, and can be oblivious to or vote despite the local candidate whose name is on the ballet.
  • Local representative: Those who are voting for individuals, and can be oblivious to or vote despite the party affiliation of that local candidate.
While there are modern voting systems that take both groups into account, this is not the criteria that FVC is using. Their educational (marketing?) text is focused on the first group, those who vote for parties, and they discount those of us who are focused on individual representatives and believe that the individual person matters more than their (potentially temporary) party affiliation.

The problem with FVC's campaign is that rather than unifying Canadians towards what could be a common goal, their campaign only infuriates those of us who are in the second group.  Instead of allies, they end up with opponents.  Instead of unity, we end up with confusion as those for and against FVC's campaign only create confusion for that majority of Canadians who haven't yet given voting systems much thought.

While the marketing material from FVC is focused on party representation, Proportional Representation (PR) doesn't need to be focused on parties.  All PR is suggesting is that criteria beyond a single person from each geographic region are considered in the resulting makeup of parliament.  Some systems involve having multiple members elected from larger districts, and some systems involve a ballot question that allows that ballot to influence the makeup of parliament beyond an electoral district.   


I'll list some voting systems to illustrate:

  • First Past the Post (FPTP):  Two thumbs down, as neither group can be happy.  About the only people who have given it some thought who still like FPTP are party hacks who like the fact that their party can form government -- even a majority government -- with a minority voter support.   This is the "unfair" system everyone is talking about.
  • Instant Runoff Voting (AKA: Alternate Vote, or AV):  One thumb up from the local representative supporters, and one thumb down from the party representative supporters.  This system is the simplest upgrade from our current system, and solves the vote splitting (and thus party merging) problem.  It doesn't satisfy the criteria for the PR supporters, and thus most party representative supporters oppose it as they have been convinced that PR and party representation are the same.  Some PR supporters claim (without much support) that this system is worse than FPTP.
  • Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP):  One thumb up from the party representative (and PR) supporters, one thumb down for the local representative supporters.  While this system adds a second question for the party, it leaves the flawed FPTP in place for the local riding.  For some local representative supporters it is seen a lesser system than FPTP as you have the same system for the local representative, plus additional influence for political parties which some see as negative.
  • MMP+AV:  Combining the last two systems is discussed, and it often gets one thumb up and one unconvinced thumb.  It makes the PR folks happy, and the party ballot question makes the party representation supporters happy, but the local representation folks are left with mixed feelings.  They have the AV but in larger ridings, and they have that additional influence of political parties.
  • Single transferable vote (STV): Two thumbs up, except there are problems in less densely populated areas.  This system involves electing multiple members from larger districts than would happen in single member district voting systems.   While this is great for urban ridings for both local and party supporters, it works poor in less populated areas where the people in what would become massive geographic districts would have nothing in common.  While this system doesn't have a party question on the ballet, parties are supported though parties publishing their slate of candidates: a person can just vote for all the candidates in their district that are running under their party banner.  Those who are uncomfortable with the influence of parties prefer this system to any system that asks party as a ballot question, and it allows groups other than parties (Environmentalists, supporters of better representation from women, etc) to create their own slates of candidates for supporters to use.
  • STV+AV (AKA: BC-STV):  Two thumbs up, except some PR supporters strongly oppose any use of AV. The Citizens Assembly for Electoral Reform in British Columbia proposed a system which tried to solve the problem with STV in low density areas, but in doing so they raised the ire of the people from the PR camp who believe any use of single member ("Majoritarian") districts is wrong.  While I believe that BC-STV is the best choice for Canada, I can at least acknowledge the perspective of the PR camp.

I hope this illustrates the problem.

While STV and BC-STV are the systems that best match the diversity of voters, neither is without their problems and controversies.

The PR supporters, largely represented by FVC, believe they have the will of Canadians behind them for any type of PR.  If they only care about what they perceive as a "majority" of voters, can they really claim to be for "fair voting" or wanting to "make every vote count"?

In order to make voting fair and allow each of our ballets to have the most influence it can (for more to "count", and fewer to be "wasted" or "split"), there needs to be a recognition that there is no perfect system and we all need to compromise between the diversity of interests of Canadians.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Access Copyright activism disconnected from realities in educational publishing.

Dr Danny Kingsley recently concluded a series of articles titled The case for Open Research:  the mis-measurement problem (part 1), the authorship problem (part 2), reproducibility, retractions & retrospective hypotheses (part 3), does peer review work? (part 4), and solutions? (part 5).

Anyone wanting to understand some of the complex issues that are top of mind in academic and scientific publishing should read this series.  I found it extremely valuable.

The series discusses issues quite different than what some Canadians have been claiming are issues in academic publishing, namely the Access Copyright activism.  Their nonsense claim is that the primary problem is educational institutions using "foreign" free texts and this is pushing out Canadian non-free texts. (See: "Copyright-free" material is not edging out Canadian educational texts)  This misinformation campaign has even tried to waive the "Digital Canadian Content" flag even though modern business models allow for better localisation (making texts more Canadian) than the largely foreign educational publishers can.

Having given this a lot of thought over the years I have come to an obvious conclusion about why it seems like the educational sector and Access Copyright activists are talking about different things: they are talking about different things.

With educational and scientific publishing we are talking about largely non-fiction works created by and for the educational and scientific communities.  The authors are educators and/or scientists, and the (primary, but not exclusive) audience is educators, students and/or scientists.

What Access Copyright activists are talking about are largely fiction works created outside of the educational sector which just happen to be used in classrooms.  Think of that copy of The Handmaid's Tale used in English class, but not the physics textbook.

When it comes to budgets within the educational community the bulk of the costs are with the educational and scientific publications (journals and textbooks).  Given these sectors are predominantly publicly funded, it is unconscionable to be wasting taxpayer money by not adopting the most modern methods of production such as peer production and distribution such as peer distribution.  Fortunately these models are ideal for the bulk of this non-fiction body of works, and it is the various issues discussed in Dr Kingsley's series that have delayed this inevitable transition.

The fiction works which Access Copyright activists are talking about are at the level of being a rounding error in the budgets spent on copyrighted works by the educational sector.  These are works authored outside of the educational sector, and as more artistic works from the minds of individuals or small groups of collaborators do not lend themselves to peer production techniques.  These are works that could very easily be fully funded using a variety of techniques (I have previously suggested a transparent and accountable model based on the public lending right).

The political problem we are observing is a failure within Access Copyright itself.  The bulk of the royalties flowing through Access Copyright are destined to the very foreign educational publishers that modern business methods must replace if taxpayer are allowed any type of fairness.  Their days are and must be numbered, and we as Canadians (whether authors or not) should be cheering and encouraging this transition.

The authors of those largely fiction works created outside the educational sector may represent a minority of the royalties flowing through Access Copyright, but it is their stories that are used (abused) by the educational publishers to try to extract more taxpayer money by delaying the inevitable transition.  What these educational publishers are doing is throwing these authors under the bus, and creating a hostile environment where rather than authors getting paid well deserved royalties for the use of their works in the classroom they are being lumped together in the battle to save public education from the antiquated business models of older educational publishers.

The solution has always been obvious: the creators of these fiction works need to create separate bodies for advocacy and royalty collecting from the educational and scientific publishers. The interests of these two groups are not only dissimilar, but opposing.  What is good for the educational and scientific publishers has been very bad for the literary authors.  Too many of the existing groups have "leadership" that promotes the fiction that what is good for Access Copyright is good for writers, and this leadership must be changed if authors want to reduce their decline in income.

It is critical for the educational community to recognize this as well.  They can't be fooled by the misinformation campaigns suggesting that educators using royalty-free resources (online or otherwise) is somehow hurting Canadian authors, students, or anyone else.  Please pay attention to the lobbyists behind the curtains. We all need to recognize that it is in aid of Canadian authors, students, educators and taxpayers that the outdated business models and foreign publishers represented by that campaign be allowed (or actively encouraged) to fade away.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cultural protectionism doesn't protect Canadian culture #DigiCanCon #BecauseIts2016

Since the 1950's there have been some Canadians who believe that in order to protect the culture of Canada we need to restrict Canadian's access to culture from outside of Canada.  Concepts such as CanCon has existed in positive forms such as government funding for Canadian creators, but has also existed in negative form such as restrictions on what Canadians can access of non-Canadian creativity.

While the restrictions may have made sense in the 1950's in a pre-Internet era, the restrictions simply don't make sense any more.  Like a number of other modernizations we have seen recently, the reasons why we should eradicate these restrictions comes down to that simple slogan: because it's 2016.

CanCon


We need to modernize how we think about CanCon, and who the target of regulations should be.

In a broadcast era we had the problem that there were intermediaries that programmed what people could see and when.  As it was not Canadians themselves that are making these choices, requiring that broadcasters not only offer Canadian creativity to Canadians as well as helping to fund it was and remains appropriate.  As broadcasting was limited in spectrum we were talking about substituting one thing for another, and the promotion of Canadian content required the demotion of non-Canadian content.  I continue to support a CanCon quota system for broadcasting, which like broadcasting itself is a legacy policy for a legacy content delivery platform.

With modern streaming services that limited bandwidth restriction doesn't exist.  A full catalogue of content can exist, domestic and foreign for every market, and it would then be citizens choosing to watch what they want.  In this scenario a quota system would be counter-productive, unless the distributor themselves became a barrier to access by not being willing to license and offer Canadian content to Canadian clients.

That does not suggest a free-for-all, just an appropriate directing of the regulation at the correct entity.  If a streaming service available to Canadians wishes to offer a full catalogue of Canadian content, but some third party is blocking licensing, then that third party should be the target of regulation.   If that means intervening in exclusive licenses in order to ensure that Canadian content is available to Canadians on the platforms and devices of their choosing, and at the same as other Canadians, then that is an appropriate modernization of CanCon rules.

While the quota system of CanCon regulations was perceived of as a broadcast issue, broadcasting is increasingly a technology of the past.  We need to look towards other gatekeepers who restrict Canadian's access to Canadian creativity.   We need to recognize this applies far more to the limited shelves of companies like Walmart than it does Netflix.

Regional restrictions

For better or for worse, Canada is a free trade country.  That is, except when there is an often arbitrary and inconsistent exception. Access to creativity is one of those odd areas where there are inconsistencies as we are in a period of transition.

Region encoding is an example.

DVD's have a region code encoded in them, the theory being that a DVD released in one region of the world can only be played in that same region of the world.   Due to free trade rules this never worked, as it was always legal for Canadians to import both a DVD player from another region and DVDs released in that other region.  In fact, I have a DVD ROM drive set to region code 2 to allow me to access any European disks I have been interested in.

In 2001 I filed a complaint with the competition bureau about DVD CSS which was a system which allowed what I continue to believe is a cartel known as the DVD CCA which exists to tie the selling of DVD encoded content with "authorized" devices where that cartel can impose what features can exist on those devices.   In a phone call from the bureau I was told that did a "relevant market" analysis and found that there was no price issues with DVD players. He suggested that licensed DVD players would need to be expensive for there to be a competition issue. He also suggested that since most movies are released in DVD Region 1 (North America), that there was also no barrier to trade.

I continue to disagree with the department's evaluation and believe that region encoding and the tied selling between DVD players and DVD disks should be disallowed under competition law.  This encoding can't be used in countries like India where DVD players are purchased (often by relatives) from all over the world, and thus a DVD with any region restriction is likely to not work for a good percentage of the country.


Moving forward to 2015 and while the content delivery platforms have modernized, the government policies have not.  I say 2015 as that was when I heard that Department of Canadian Heritage officials wanted to target the use of virtual private networks (VPN) to bypass regional restrictions.

The delivery technology isn't DVDs, but streaming services like Netflix.  And unlike with DVDs we aren't in the same region as the United States, and a large percentage of Canadians are using technology to "cross boarder shop" to access content that is legally available in the United States but has some (many believe illegitimate) contractual restriction against accessing from Canada.

This is not copyright infringement any more than buying a DVD from a US rather than Canadian retailer isn't copyright infringement.  This is something I do every so often, buying DVD's from Amazon.com rather than Amazon.ca as the "Canadianized" versions of some titles have French content rather than specific DVD extras I'm interested in.   Since cross-boarder shopping is the norm with DVDs, there isn't content which is available in the USA where the rights-holder and/or distributor haven't bothered to also make available to Canadians.


If we are to take what the Competition Bureau said at face value, they would be appropriately regulating against these restrictions in streaming services.  Thus far have remained silent.  The department of Canadian Heritage is pointing the opposite way, which is that rather than going after those who are denying Canadians access to culture they are contemplating legal protections for the perpetrators.

The federal government must reverse course on this.  They need to not only clarify that it is legally protected to use VPNs to bypass invalid region restrictions, but regulators must appropriately go after those attempting to restrict Canadians access to culture in the first place.  Because it's 2016, not 1956!

What is Canadian Culture, and who gets to decide?

While this might bother some people, Doctor Who (BBC, UK) and Star Trek (Paramount/CBS, USA) had (and continue to have) a much greater influence on who I am as a Canadian than Hockey Night in Canada.

There was also Star Lost (CTV, Canada) as a child, and more recently the Star Gate multi-series franchise (which I hope we haven't seen the last of) and the 2000's  Battlestar Galactica out of Vancouver Film Studios.  The 1996 Doctor Who: The movie was also filmed in Vancouver.

Even when Canadians are interacting with creativity from outside of Canada, or creativity that was created in Canada but given foreign branding, they are still Canadians.  Why do some people believe it is their right to choose what Canadians consider to be their culture?

With a small percentage of indigenous peoples as an exception, we are a nation made up of immigrants and their descendants. The influence of other countries on what it is to be Canadian doesn't stop when people set foot on Canadian soil.  This influence will be ongoing, and we will adopt parts into ourselves and then project that outward as our own culture.

Trying to apply a quota system beyond the narrow situations where it is not individual Canadians citizens that are deciding what they are accessing is in my mind a denial of who we are as a country, and how our culture is formed and continues to grow.

An earlier discussion paper from the Department of Heritage indicated that, "The way forward is not attempting to regulate content on the Internet, but focusing on how to best support Canada's creators and cultural entrepreneurs in creating great content and in competing globally for both Canadian and international audiences. "

A recent Globe and Mail article goes further to suggest that we will be going a different direction than restricting Canadians access to content.  If she follows through we will be subsidizing and promoting Canadian content, and taking the first step in trying to be "platform agnostic".  Hopefully that will include recognizing that Cable (BDUs) and modern streaming services aren't in the same market, and can't be seen as substitutions.

Will we finally let some of the outdated polices be a part of our heritage, rather than ongoing restrictions on our culture?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CraveTV: Your devices are not supported. CanCon unavailable to Canadians

After the cast functionality stopped working with CraveTV after a browser upgrade, I tried contacting CraveTV for support.  As I wanted to send detailed browser version information I sent is an an email, and they ignored the email and asked me to phone support.  After spending a considerable amount of time on the phone they created a support ticket.

A week goes by and all I got back was: "We've received an update from our technical support team that CraveTV is not supported on Chromebooks or any device that is running Chrome OS."

After looking at it again the CraveTV FAQ does only list specific version of Windows XP and MacOS to access CraveTV from a computer.  This is consistent with my previous (and confrimed today) experiments where CraveTV didn't work on either Firefox or Chrome on my Ubuntu desktop.  In the case of Firefox it would always say "To watch video, you need an Adobe Flash
Player Update.Please click to download." even if the Flash Player was installed.  With Flash you need to keep it very up-to-date given it is extremely buggy and has many security flaws.  As discussed in my first review of CraveTV, Chrome on the desktop would never display video, but unlike back in April it will now also not Cast.

I don't have any Windows or MacOS computers to verify, but I would be extremely surprised if Cast was working on those platforms.  The bug that I discovered is browser version dependent, not operating system dependent, and the answer from technical support was a cop-out.

At the moment the only way I can get CraveTV to work is on an Android phone casting to a ChromeCast device.  Watching television on the phone would be unusable, so if they break ChromeCast on Android as well then I will need to unsubscribe and "seek alternatives" to access the content that exclusive regional licensing has largely blocked from "lawful" streaming access in Canada.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Alter Ego: Comics and Anti-Canadian Values ...err.. Canadian Identity

Today is the last day for LAC's Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity exhibit  (See more on LAC's blog via their 'comics' tag), so yesterday I wandered through again (during lunch break as I work in the building).   When I first looked it was right after Ottawa Comiccon and I was thinking in that context.  This time I couldn't help but think about Kellie Leitch's 'anti-Canadian values' survey questions.

As much as some (lower-case c) conservative Canadians like to believe there is one unified set of Canadian values, this has never been the case.  Sure, we may apologize more than our neighbors to the south but what each of us apologize for differs greatly.

The exhibit at LAC touched on this, and suggested we ask if there is a "Canadianness" that enters into the stories when they are drawn or written by Canadians, even when it is a hero like Superman that often waives the US flag.  And what is this Canadianess?  What is our identity as citizens and as a country?

These are all presented as open questions, as they should be.  One thing we Canadians tend to do is be more reflective, and are more willing to look at ourselves and our fellow Canadians. We retry to recognize our similarities and differences, as well as separating reality from wishful thinking.

We don't normally demand of each other conformity to one set of values.  This is why I agree with many others that the suggestion we should filter immigrants for "anti-Canadian values" is itself an anti-Canadian value.


This does not suggest there be a free-for-all in Canada.  What we already have is Canadian law which lists those things which we (or rather our democratic process, as flawed as it is at times) have decided cross the boundary into being criminal.

Every example I've seen someone try to come up with of an "anti-Canadian value" worthy of being part of a screening process is either not a value shared by Canadians (and thus must not be part of screening) or is already criminal in Canada.   What appears to be being suggested is that there be a separate non-democratic (and likely non-transparent) body set up to filter immigrants for beliefs that are shared by existing Canadians, but that aren't shared by specific special interest groups.


The primary thing I believe we need to do is ensure that there isn't a double standard:  either filtering immigrants for having beliefs that are shared by existing Canadians (majority or minority), or making allowances for immigrants to carry out actions based on their beliefs (religious or otherwise) that are contrary to Canadian law.

Anything that would be criminal for a Canadian to leave Canada, do in another country, and then return to Canada should be illegal for an immigrant.  An applicant for immigration that would with high probability be sent directly to prison after a trial should simply be barred from entry in the first place.


Example:  In Canada child spouses and polygamy are illegal.  If an immigrant has a child or multiple spouses they should be denied immigration until they clearly divorced.  If the laws were changed in Canada such that even a historical child spouse or polygamy were criminal for a Canadian citizen, then this would mean a permanent ban of an equivalent immigrant.

Even with the example of polygamy there is a lack of clarity in caselaw which puts questions around enforceability of the law against Canadians.  Given this, is even this a good example of something that would warrant denying immigration?  It is an open question, and I believe the correct response would be to provide clarity within Canadian law and not to create a separate body to create criteria to filter immigrants.


I also draw a distinction between something being criminal and something being illegal.   Jaywalking is illegal in parts of Canada, but should not be an excuse to filter an immigrant.  We can argue about the severity of offenses such as copyright infringement until our ears bleed, but given we aren't kicking Canadians out of the country or locking them up in prisons for it we shouldn't be filtering immigrants because of it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

CraveTV not competitive with Netflix, or even DVD's

In early April I subscribed to CraveTV to evaluate it, and 6 months later I'm less happy with it.

Technical

I wrote in the earlier article how CraveTV worked on few of the devices that I owned, but that at least it would work with my regular Chromebook and the Chromecast.   This didn't last long, as an upgrade of Chrome OS which made cast functionality native to the browser later in June was incompatible with CraveTV.  I would have thought CraveTV would fix their site relatively quickly, but the problem persists.

The next most convenient way to watch CraveTV was to run an HDMI cable across the living room floor to connect the Chromebook with the TV.  I say next most convenient as CraveTV is not at all convenient.  The web interface hasn't improved since my last posting. I still find myself having to do a search for things which are already in my "cravings" in order to choose the right episode to show next, as the interface often doesn't accurately select the next unwatched episode.

This is in obvious contrast with Netflix and Youtube.  Both are from modern Internet-era companies that work hard to ensure their services work on as many devices as possible.  While I like to cast from my Chromebooks, there are apps built into our Samsung Smart-TV which are convenient enough to use for my wife who doesn't like to fiddle around with tech like I do.

The Netflix interface has improved in the last 6 months, with the remote control for the casting feature now a bar on the bottom which allows you to continue to browse the site for other content in that same tab while still able to control the episode currently being viewed on the Chromecast device.  Both Netflix and Youtube have enabled the CEC features of the Chromecast so my Samsung TV's remote control pause button works, meaning I don't even have to touch my Chromebook (and get it out of sleep mode) to control it once I have started an episode.

Netflix's recommendation engine is continuously improving, and I find I'm always being suggested to watch shows I would actually want to watch.  Not surprisingly, it properly sends me to the next unwatched episode and keeps accurate records of my viewing which the site allows me to look through later (and even edit to remove content I don't want to influence the recommendation engine).

Netflix and CraveTV can't really be directly compared as they aren't in the same league.  Netflix is an industry leader, and is used as examples in technical talks all the time.  As a part of the industry working on (much smaller) sites I view presentations such as The Seven (More) Deadly Sins of Microservices which mention the advanced work that companies like Netflix are doing.   I don't think anyone ever expects to be watching a new media technology presentation and hear Bell or one of the companies it owns mentioned.  Bell will always be the smaller company in the smaller market offering less to its clients than larger competitors in larger markets can.

Content

Netflix content is offered as soon as the copyright holders allow it to.  In the case of Netflix original content that is immediate in all markets which is why many of us prefer Netflix original content to third party content.  With third party content you often have region restrictions where content is available in one region but not another.  Canada is often excluded, sometimes by copyright holder who don't see the market as big enough to bother with, and sometimes by one of the "Canadian" BDUs getting exclusive licensing which block Canadian access. These restrictions are something which the CRTC and Competition Bureau should be looking into, but that is a conversation for a different time (IE:  VPNs are a solution, not a problem -- Canadian legislation and regulators should be helping, not hindering).

Because the service is inconvenient I tent to watch a minimum of shows on CraveTV.  One set of TV series not legally available elsewhere in Canada is series based on DC comics such as Arrow, Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.   While these are broadcast in Canada around the same time as they are in the US, streaming is delayed.  US Netflix recently made a deal where these CW shows will be arriving on Netflix eight days after the season finale airs.

In Canada there is an exclusive license with Bell, so the shows are broadcast on Bell's CTV and blocked from Canadian Netflix.  If you wanted to use CraveTV as an alternative to Netflix you are out of luck as the content isn't made available near broadcast time.

CraveTV subscribers were recently sent an email announcing that the previous seasons of Arrow, Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow would finally be released on September 9.  This is not surprisingly after the DVD releases:

  • DC's Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1 DVD Release Date August 23, 2016
  • The Arrow Season 4 DVD release August 30, 2016
  • The Flash: Season 2 DVD Release Date September 6, 2016
Not only is it not appropriate to consider CraveTV a competitor to Netflix, the only way it is favorable to DVDs is on price if you watch enough shows.  If all I wanted to watch each year that was blocked from Netflix was these 3 shows then DVDs would be cheaper and far more convenient (works on more devices, etc).  It is only if I watch more shows that the price of CraveTV goes below DVD, but it is still less convenient.

Can CraveTV compete with other Bell provided services?

I am a modern content viewer, and don't enjoy programming delivered to me one episode per week.  I prefer to watch shows a season at a time, and then move to the next show.  I have been watching the DC universe series differently as there are some crossover episodes and I have wanted to watch episodes in an order that makes the crossovers make sense.

These 3 DC universe shows start the next seasons soon, and I will see if I can stomach watching via the broadcaster site given how long it will be before it is available for proper streaming in Canada.  It will require that I binge-watch the previous season that is only being released this month.
  • Flash: Season Premiere: Tuesday, October 4 at 8E on CTV
  • Arrow Season Premiere: Wednesday, October 5 at 8ET/PT on CTV Two
  • Legends of Tomorrow Season Premiere: Thursday, October 13 at 8E on CTV Two

My experience with the interfaces on broadcaster websites has been poor, and I'm lucky if I can get them to work on any of the devices I own.

Normally the only show I care enough about to stomach the outdated broadcaster experience is Doctor Who which I both watch on Space.ca and then watch on DVD (which are made available in parts weeks after they air on TV).  Doctor Who is a show that is available on CraveTV, but given how inconvenient it is I am unlikely to ever watch that way: I buy the DVDs.  I did watch episodes via Netflix, but it seems Bell got another exclusive streaming license and Doctor Who will be unavailable via Canadian Netflix on September 15.




I'm not willing to even consider watching on Cable, Satellite or that oddball IPTV service that Bell offers (that is somehow regulated by the CRTC as a BDU rather than a streaming service).  Asking a modern Internet-era viewer to use a BDU is like forcing someone who is used to indoor plumbing to use an outhouse.  In this case it is a service that costs considerably more and still stinks.