I finally subscribed to Netflix last week, after having resisted the urge for so long. Mainly because I am a traditional, old-school viewer who prefers to purchase physical releases of his favourite movies and TV series. I want to own a physical collection, display them on my shelves, and then maybe pass them down and lend them to my children and future generations one day.
The idea of paying an online subscription in order to watch shows turns me off slightly: This means that each month, you need to watch enough hours in order to make your subscription worthwhile. Also, you need a good Internet connection to view Netflix on your devices. Not a problem here in urban Singapore where we have a strong, high-speed Internet infrastructure. But what if you live in an area without access to a reliable Internet connection? What if you’re traveling and on the move? Netflix does not allow you to download a digital, VOD copy to your device due to DRM and security reasons.
I still subscribed anyway for my first free month, purely because I wanted to listen to the English dub of Violet Evergarden, one of the best anime titles released so far this year. I subscribed for an English anime dub, and I’m staying for the rest of Netflix’s catalogue.
One of the problems that so many online app stores or services face is discoverability. Apple has been struggling with this issue for their App Store for years, and a few years ago Microsoft was facing the same dilemma for their Xbox online store. How do you curate, organise, and customise your catalogue so that the user is able to discover new and interesting titles? Within my first few minutes of using Netflix, there were already many other titles that caught my eye for the Singapore catalogue of shows available: Gunslinger Girl, Rurouni Kenshin, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and The Flash to name a few.
My excitement at seeing Gunslinger Girl turned to immediate horror when I clicked “play” for Episode 1. The opening theme song for the series is missing. I’m assuming that Netflix were unable to acquire the song licence for this territory (Singapore) from the original artiste. This was unacceptable to me. The opening theme for Gunslinger Girl is an absolutely vital component of the show, it was what gave the series its unique flavour and spirit. I can’t imagine other viewers discovering Gunslinger Girl for the first time on Netflix Singapore, unable to experience the stirring and memorable opening theme.
And there lies Netflix’s biggest weakness as an online entertainment hub. All because of the way online DRM, territorial restrictions, and digital licences work. Some shows and movies are going to be removed from the catalogue once their licences expire. Some shows have to be presented in an altered form like Gunslinger Girl.
I’m grateful to finally be able to experience the convenience, navigability, and discoverability of Netflix. But at the end of the day, I will still purchase the physical releases of shows that I really enjoyed.
Because Gunslinger Girl’s opening theme is very important.