How should Netflix work

21 Jan 2022

[ drm  ]

Recently I started looking at movies on Netflix that belongs to a friend. Personally I don’t like streaming services, but it seems that this is the future of how the media will be consumed. In this blog post I want to look at what could be done to make Netflix consumer friendly. But first I want to talk about DRM.

What is DRM?

So what is DRM? Let’s imagine you bought something simple, like milk. But this milk has DRM, so you are not allowed to drink it anywhere other than the shop you bought it in. You are not even allowed to take it outside. Sounds stupid to you? Welcome to the world of DRM. DRM stands for Digital Rights Management and it basically just restricts how you can consume media or software you bought.

So what benefits DRM brings? Why it is so widely used? To consumer there are no benefits at all. The opposite is true. In case of service like Netflix you are restricted to stream the movies only on their app or web page. And as a bonus you are paying for research and development of the DRM for the content, which reflects in the price.

But the authors of the movie must benefit from DRM? No, they don’t. You could argue here about fight with piracy, but the DRM doesn’t actually help with that. And what is even more funny, the pirated version of the movie is free to play wherever you want. So you usually have better comfort with pirated version than using streaming service. But the authors aren’t the ones, who decides to add DRM to their movie. They don’t have the reason to do that.

So who is responsible for this? In most cases the publisher is the one who wants to add DRM to their content. Why? Because they can better control how the content is consumed. In case of Netflix you don’t actually have any option to buy anything and they choose what you can watch. In this case it’s just plain old TV with various choices. But even on the old TV you could record your favorite movie (with ads) and watch it whenever you want on any other device that could play it.

If you want to know more about DRM I can point you to, which has a lot more information about DRM.

What could make Netflix better?

After the rant about DRM, you probably wondering what could be done to make Netflix better? Firstly, remove the DRM for streaming. This could be done by generating a link to each movie that can be copied to any media player that has support for streaming from URL. The option to stream directly from Netflix should still be in place, the URL will just be usable for streaming outside of Netflix.

Secondly, convert the streaming service to shop and allow people to buy movies on the Netflix store (sounds good, right?). This could be done similar to GOG store. You will have your library with the option to download any movie in it in some open format. If you like to just watch the movie, it will work the same way as the streaming above. This library will be permanent, so even if the movie is removed from streaming service, you will still have it in your library.

And for the third time, make subscription optional. It’s a good option to have some catalog of movies you can simply watch for monthly fee, but this shouldn’t be the mandatory part of Netflix. This should be just an optional part of Netflix.

So what do you think about those changes? It looks neat, but definitely something Netflix never do.

What can I do about DRM?

As a consumer you can’t do much. The best option is to not buy DRM content and support stores that are selling DRM free content. See for more info. But this option will really limit your choices and if you are not anti-DRM fanatic you will not be satisfied with the choices. I must remind you that we are talking about movie industry, where the situation about DRM is the worst from all the digital content industries. So if you are not into indie (independent) movie scene you will have a hard time here.

The second option you have here is piracy. But this option has multiple caveats. Firstly it’s illegal in most countries and secondly you don’t support the authors. For me the second reason is more important, because I want to support authors without supporting the DRM.

I’m still waiting for GOG store equivalent in movie industry. Let’s hope.

Written on January 21, 2022