What to Expect From the “Dynasty” Reboot

The new “Dynasty” reboot, scheduled to premiere on October 11, has some pretty big shoes to fill. The original “Dynasty,” which aired on ABC from 1981-1989, was one of the most iconic soap operas ever on primetime TV. So, nearly 30 years later, fans are waiting with incredible anticipation about the new-look “Dynasty,” which will air on The CW on Wednesday nights at 9/8c.

Thus far, fans only have a teaser trailer that was released in mid-May. But, oh boy, does this series look like it’ll satisfy both the long-time “Dynasty” fans who grew up with John Forsythe, Joan Collins and Linda Evans. First of all, the original series creators – Esther and Richard Shapiro – are collaborating on this new series, so there’s going to be continuity in terms of style and approach.

And The CW has also brought in two of the brightest minds in the world of primetime melodrama TV, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (creators of “Gossip Girl”), to make sure the series appeals to young millennials.

For The CW, this show could become a defining event in how people perceive the network. In recent years, The CW has become known for its male-focused superhero shows and now it appears to be fully dedicating itself to “female soaps” filled with women in amazing designer outfits and plenty of beautiful people with lots of money doing terrible things to other beautiful people with lots of money. Can you wait? Here’s what to expect from the “Dynasty” reboot:

#1: The same Carrington and Colby families from “Dynasty,” but with a few twists

The new-look “Dynasty” is not meant to be a continuation of the old series, in which new characters take over as some part of family dynasty succession. Instead, it’s the same basic storyline, with the same two families – the billionaire Carrington family and the billionaire Colby family – but some of the key details have been switched.

For example, the action has been switched from Denver to Atlanta, and the focus will be on over-the-top Southern family money. And the character of Krystle Jennings (played by Linda Evans) has been changed as well. The new Krystle will be “Cristal,” a scheming Latina (played by Nathalie Kelley) who is set to marry the billionaire Blake Carrington (played by Grant Show). And the Colby family will now be African-American.

But much of the action and narrative will remain similar – even down to the fact of Fallon Carrington (played by the very lovely Elizabeth Gillies) fooling around with her chauffeur. And the character of Steven Carrington (played by James Mackay) is still gay, but this time, the bedroom scenes look like they’ll push the boundary of what can be shown on TV.

#2: There will be no Alexis on the “Dynasty” reboot… or will there?

If you think back to the original “Dynasty,” the one character that people still remember 30 years later is the scheming Alexis, played by Joan Collins. For many people, the big hair and the big shoulder pad dresses were iconic for the 1980s. Her role was so deliciously over the top that it seems hard to believe that, as of now, there will be no Alexis in the series premiere. And there was no sign of Alexis in the May teaser-trailer, either.

However… that doesn’t mean that the character of Alexis won’t be written into the script. Remember – in the original “Dynasty,” the character of the scheming Alexis didn’t appear until Season 2. So that raises an interesting question: Is the CW just playing with us by not showing us Alexis… or are they waiting for Season 2 for her to debut?


#3: The new “Dynasty” will feature plenty of scheming, cat fights, sex and murder

Primetime soap fans, you can relax now. Based on what we’ve seen in the teaser-trailer for the new “Dynasty,” there will be all the plot features that made us love the original “Dynasty” – scheming, cat fights, sex and murder.

In the trailer, for example, Fallon’s chauffeur Michael (played by Robert Christopher Riley) shows up at Fallon’s private jet to whisk her back to the family estate. But he flirts with her, and Fallon says to him, “I’m open to a detour.” Cut to a scene of the two groping each other in the back seat of a limo for an afternoon quickie.

And if it’s cat fights you want, well, you’re going to get them. Most of the action seems to center on Fallon and Cristal, and how much they hate each other. Fallon thinks that Cristal is a shameless gold digger, while Cristal thinks Fallon is a spoiled rich kid. Things get complicated when Fallon has to call Cristal both “mom” and “boss.”

There’s one scene from the trailer that should really get fans excited – and that’s where Fallon and Cristal appear to get into a major fight on the wedding day of Cristal and Blake. There’s even the tearing of a very expensive wedding dress!

#4: The new “Dynasty” will be updated for today’s socio-economic reality

Moving the scene of the action from Denver to Atlanta was just the beginning of how the show is trying to stay relevant for today’s audiences. There’s also the matter of bringing more diversity into the show. There’s the Colby family, which will be African-American, and then there’s Cristal, who comes from a Hispanic-American family.

And, judging from the trailer, there will be a lot more of an emphasis on LGBT lifestyles, especially in a plotline involving Steven Carrington. Back in the 1980s, the AIDS crisis made talking about gay sex difficult, but it looks like this modern reboot is going to have absolutely no problem tackling what was once a very taboo topic.

And the entire premise of the show is based on “the 1% of the 1%” – this is a clear reference to the growing socio-economic divide in America, in which the top 1% of the upper class controls much of the nation’s wealth and financial resources. (The show is really going to have to glitz it up, though, to keep up with the likes of what we’ve seen at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago!)


This new “Dynasty” reboot is one of the most hotly anticipated series of the fall, not just for The CW, but also for all of primetime TV. The show’s creators have said that they’ll give a nod to the original series by using some of the old theme music and other touches. It will be interesting to see if this new “Dynasty” can pull in the young millennial crowd and others who are eager to see how the wealthiest of the wealthy do battle with each other on a weekly basis.


Why “The Emoji Movie” is Unnecessary

Before “The Emoji Movie” actually hit cinemas at the end of July, there was actual hope that the film could become an animated hit along the lines of “The Lego Movie” or “Inside Out.” But you can forget about that very quickly. Just to give you an idea of just how bad this movie is – the highlight of this animated flick is Sir Patrick Stewart voicing the role of an animated poop emoji. For so many reasons, then, “The Emoji Movie” is simply unnecessary.

Is this a movie or a massive product placement video?

Let’s start with the fact that this movie quickly abandons any plot narrative in favor of just being a giant product placement for apps you may or may not already have on your smartphone. You see, the fundamental premise of “The Emoji Movie” is that a group of emojis must travel from app to app within your smartphone. And so it feels like you’re watching product placement after product placement. At one point, what might have been a neat animation feat turns out to be some kind of product placement for yet another app.

And in this alternative smartphone-app universe, an app like Dropbox is a form of emoji heaven. (And, just to underscore this point, the movie reminds us that Dropbox is completely safe from malware. Groan.) Along the way, we’re reminded of apps from Crackle (owned by Sony, which produced this film via Sony Pictures Animation), WeChat, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Dropbox. Oh, and Candy Crush makes an appearance in this film, too. This constant product placement mentality is why Vox called this film “less of a movie and more of an insult.” We’re paying money to see a 90-minute product placement video!

“The Emoji Movie” abandons any attempt to make a meaningful social critique

While many people were probably squirming in their seats as soon as they heard Hollywood was making a movie about emojis, there was still a chance at the outset that the film could make a real social commentary on communication in the modern era, or on how technology is changing the way we view the world around us, or on the dangers of social conformity (in the film, each emoji can only express a single emotion). While nobody was really expecting a Pixar-level animated classic, there’s no reason why this movie had to be any worse than “The Lego Movie.” (Or, at least, any worse than the surprise movie hit “Sausage Party.”)

The problem, quite simply, is that the makers of this movie decided that it would be far better to make this film something young teens and tweens would want to see. So they completely bungled what might have been smart, clever dialogue in favor of lines like, “Throw some sauce on that dance burrito.” The main protagonist of the animated film, Alex (voiced by Jake T. Austin), has lines of dialogue that just sounds so hamfisted and wrong: it’s what graying Hollywood execs think kids are saying these days, and not how they are actually communicating and talking. Memo to Hollywood: no – we don’t want to do the “Emoji Bop.” And we won’t make it viral for you.

“The Emoji Movie” completely squanders its A-list comedic talent

You would think that an animated film featuring the voice of comedians like James Corden (who voices the role of the emoji Hi-5), Maya Rudolph (who voices the role of Smiler) and Anna Faris (who voices the role of Jailbreak) would be so much funnier. But again, the problem is that this is essentially a giant corporate infomercial, and the focus is more on finding potential product placement opportunities (Just Dance Now, anyone?) than on actually creating a meaningful film with any substantive dialogue.

It’s for this reason The Guardian referred to this film as a “corporate clickbait exercise.” Just as clickbait articles on the Internet lead you down a rabbit-hole of websites that never deliver what they promise, this film leads you down an empty path that never delivers anything of value. It’s not just that you’ll be disappointed in this film and how you just threw away $20 to see it — it’s that you’ll actually be angry that a bunch of corporate suits actually created this to make you part with your hard-earned cash.

“The Emoji Movie” is completely derivative and unoriginal

When director Tony Leondis originally discussed plans for the movie, it sounded like he had in “Toy Story” in mind. As Leondis has pointed out, “Emojis are the new toy of the 21st century.” And so it probably dawned on him that he’d create a new type of “Toy Story” for teens and tweens, and that toy story would involve emojis.

But, along the way, Leondis also probably saw “Inside Out,” because that’s exactly what much of this film tries to capture. “Inside Out” gives a fictionalized account of what’s happening inside someone’s brain, and “The Emoji Movie” gives a fictionalized account of what’s happening inside your smartphone. Leondis probably thought he had a slam dunk winner.

But the problem is that Leondis didn’t stop there, simply by trying to copy the success of “Toy Story” and “Inside Out” – he also threw in elements from “The Lego Movie,” “Sausage Party” and just about every other animated film of the past 24 months. At some point, you might even start to confuse those silly yellow emojis (like Gene, the “meh emoji”) for those silly yellow minions.

“The Emoji Movie” tries too hard to be something that it’s not

At one point of the movie, we’re told that emojis are “the most important invention in the history of communication.” That gives you a sense of how seriously the film wants you, the viewer, to take it. We’re supposed to believe that emojis are far superior to the first hieroglyphics created by the Egyptians (which also appear in this movie, if only briefly). But, c’mon. This is a movie where a pile of animated poop has a much-anticipated role!


The final result is that we get a movie that’s more cynical and manipulative than funny and sweet. It’s a film that you might be tempted to see, especially if you have young ones home for the summer holidays. But don’t do it. Don’t waste your money. “The Emoji Movie” is completely unnecessary. If you don’t know what to do with two hours of your summer, stream “Toy Story” on Netflix instead.


Why Judd Apatow’s “The Big Sick” is Phenomenal

With his latest movie, “The Big Sick,” Judd Apatow has absolutely nailed it. This film is the romantic comedy that we’ve been waiting for – it’s cute and charming, and also remarkably warm-hearted. Whether you are in a relationship already – or are yearning to find your soul mate – this movie is for you. The “Big Sick” is just phenomenal for so many reasons.

#1: There is an authentic, endearing relationship at the heart of “The Big Sick”

The first thing that you need to know about “The Big Sick” is that the screenplay is from the husband-wife team of Kumail Nanjani (who also stars in the movie as himself) and Emily V. Gordon. They use their personal history as the basis for this romantic comedy. It’s lighthearted at first, even hilarious at times, and then becomes much more serious and smart once the character playing Emily (Zoe Kazan) is placed into a medically-induced coma.

Without a doubt, this is the best romantic comedy in years. We’re shown the most original “meet-cute” in years (a young woman heckling a Muslim-American comic on stage), and then see all the hilarious ups and downs of their relationships. In many ways, theirs is a forbidden love – but it’s handled in such a charming and big-hearted way that we’re drawn deeper and deeper into their romantic world.

#2: “The Big Sick” is a culture-clash comedy as much as a romantic comedy

As you might expect from the outset, the tale of a young Pakistani comic trying to have a relationship with a young American girl is going to have some complications. In this case, the complications come from the very strict Muslim family of Kumail. They expect him to marry a nice Pakistani girl, and they relentlessly look for ways to set him up with such a girl.

Along the way, Kumail’s struggling comic career is mined for laughs. There’s even a joke in there about ISIS. But this is not a movie that plays the Muslim-American community solely for laughs. There is a remarkable texture and nuance here that’s hard to find in most romantic comedies. A decade ago, this might have been a movie about an Italian-American kid trying to marry a girl outside of his Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn or the Bronx.

#3: “The Big Sick” is also a generation gap movie

There are two sets of parents, of course, and it turns out that there’s a separate problem coming from the parents of Emily, played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. If Kumail’s parents don’t know much (or anything at all) about Emily, the parents of Emily may know too much. And, from the outset, they aren’t exactly happy with the idea of him marrying their daughter.

But Kumail is able to win them over with his earnestness, care and love. And for that reason, the movie is so authentic and endearing. It is true love, even if the two generations at first have a hard time finding some kind of common ground. They are struggling for a common language, and realize that what keep them together is what, at first, seems to hold them apart.

#4: “The Big Sick” does a remarkable job reinventing the romantic comedy

At least part of the praise needs to go to director Michael Showalter (best known for “Hello, My Name is Doris”), who executes Judd Apatow’s vision perfectly. Unlike most romantic comedies, which usually come in at under 1 hour 30 minutes, “The Big Sick” stretches for a full 2 hours. Such is the level of narrative and explication, but it doesn’t seem like 2 hours. This is the way romantic comedies should be. There should be plenty to talk about after watching the film, and certainly more than just, “The boy got the girl in the end.”

Other films would try to use Kumail Nanjani’s comic career as the main narrative (and laugh track) for the movie; here, it just provides helpful context. This is not your typical “struggling comic” film. In other films, the Muslim-American character would only be a 2D-cutuout; here, it’s a fully three-dimensional character. This is one of the rare films that presents Muslim-Americans as real people, and not just someone out of central casting.

By the end of the film, you will be fully invested in Kumail and his relationship, especially since all of his run-ins with his Muslim family end up becoming so humorous. There is something that cuts across culture and race here – it is timeless and universal.

Those are just some of the ways that “The Big Sick” challenges and reinvents the classic romantic comedy. Some critics have called the viewing experience similar to “reconnecting with an old friend,” and that sentiment exactly hits the feeling square on the head.

It almost seems as if we really know the characters of Kumail and Emily. All the real-life details that went into the screenplay turn this into such a funny romantic comedy. This is easily Showalter’s best work yet, and the acting by both Kumail (best known for his work in “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan is really remarkable.

#5: “The Big Sick” feels modern and relevant

In many ways, the plotline for “The Big Sick” could only happen in the modern America of the first Trump generation. The story of the Muslim-American trying to make it in the country takes on new resonance amongst the “Muslim ban.” And the comic himself is also a part-time Uber driver – perhaps the classic job that an under-employed person could have during this current zeitgeist. It all just feels so remarkable real and “now.”

And, it should be added, the film’s arrival on June 23 made it the perfect counter-programming for this summer. While everyone else was watching the big Hollywood blockbusters at the multiplex, fans of romantic comedies were checking out this tiny art house gem.

It’s no wonder, then, that “The Big Sick” has absolutely been winning over audiences ever since it first premiered at this year’s Sundance film festival. The film now has an 8.1/10.0 rating on IMDB, and a nearly perfect 97% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s just the final proof to show that Judd Apatow’s “The Big Sick” is phenomenal.


Here’s What You Need To Know About Amazon Channels

If you’re looking for a new way to cut the cord with the big cable companies but still get access to the very best in TV entertainment, one relatively new option is Amazon Channels. Officially, it’s part of Amazon Prime Video, so you might not have heard of it if you’re not already an Amazon Prime member.

How Amazon Channels works

At its core, Amazon Channels is a way for Amazon Prime members to get a la carte access to premium TV channels like HBO, Showtime or Cinemax without having to sign up for any streaming services like Hulu or Sling TV. And you don’t even have to sign up for a bundle, like you would with most streaming TV services. In fact, one of the slogans for Amazon Channels is “No bundle, no contract.” How cool is that?

So here’s how you might use Amazon Channels: Say that you’re a big HBO fan, and an even bigger fan of “Game Of Thrones.” Unfortunately, if you’ve cut the cord to cable, you’ve lost access to HBO. You’d either have to sign up for a streaming service that offers HBO as part of a bundle, or you’d have to look for ways to get HBO directly without any intermediaries.

With Amazon Channels, you’d be able to sign up for HBO even if you didn’t have a cable subscription or any streaming bundle. And, in fact, the home page for Amazon Channels is currently highlighting the chance to get caught up on “Game of Thrones” before Season 7 starts.

As a result, Amazon Channels is a great alternative for TV fans. Better yet, you can handle all of your payments and subscriptions via Amazon. There are no contracts, and all you have to worry about are the monthly payments. Oh, and you can decide to cancel at any time, so it’s basically worry-free.

What content is available on Amazon Channels?

Here’s just a brief rundown of the very best Amazon Channels:

  • HBO
  • Showtime
  • Cinemax
  • Starz
  • Comic Con HQ
  • History Vault
  • Comedy Central Stand-Up
  • PBS Kids
  • PBS Masterpiece Theater

You can see that there’s a good mix in there, with an emphasis primarily on the premium movie channels. The list of content providers for Amazon Channels can change, and there are plenty of niche channels available:

  • Lifetime Movie Club
  • Curiosity Stream
  • Gaia
  • Acorn TV
  • Tribeca Shortlist
  • Anime Strike

And it’s all very affordable. The content providers can vary their costs, but in early 2017, the cost of HBO was $14.99 per month and the cost of PBS Kids was $4.99 per month. So there can be a big price gap. Generally speaking, the most expensive channels are going to be the premium movie channels.

Amazon Channels vs. Netflix

At this point, you’re probably asking yourself: OK, so how is Amazon Channels different from Netflix or Hulu? The biggest difference is that you have to be an Amazon Prime member to get access to Amazon Channels, and that’s going to cost $99 per year.

But if you compare the cheapest Netflix plan – $9.99/month – with the cost of Amazon Prime on an annual basis, you can see that it’s actually cheaper to sign up for Amazon Prime and get access to Amazon Channels. As a Prime member, you would also get all the on-demand titles available via Amazon Prime Video.

You can think of Amazon Channels as being a gateway to premium TV channels. You’re ordering off an a la carte menu, able to get the exact TV channels that you want. When you go to the Amazon Channel page, you’ll see what this means in practical terms: it almost feels like you are ordering specific movies and shows rather than specific channels.


How Amazon Channels changes the streaming playing field

Obviously, all the big streaming video players are looking for ways to slice and dice streaming video content. The giant pie of streaming video content consists of the following three core options:

  • Live TV (including news and sports)
  • TV shows
  • Movies

Thus, you can see that Netflix gives you access to TV shows and movies, while Hulu gives you access to TV shows and live TV (if you get the new Hulu Live service). However, Netflix doesn’t give you live TV, and Hulu doesn’t have a great catalog of movie titles. And even if you get Hulu Live, you’re not getting HBO, which would be a premium add-on.

So Amazon lets you get exactly what you want. You get all the movies and shows via Amazon Prime Now and you get access to live premium TV with Amazon Channels. You can think of this as being a true “skinny bundle” – if you want, you only have to sign up for a single TV channel.

How to use Amazon Channels

So how do you access all this content? Amazon makes it very easy to consume this content anywhere, at any time, on any device. Amazon Channels has been optimized for web browser (using Amazon’s own proprietary video player), as well as for both Android and iPhone, for tablets, and for some smart TVs (including TVs from LG, Samsung and Panasonic).


Amazon Channels could change the way we think about TV

It’s clear that the value proposition for Amazon Prime Video is growing, especially as Amazon continues to come up with new innovations like Amazon Channels. Slowly but surely, Amazon is developing its Netflix alternative.

At one time, Netflix was the clear streaming leader. Then came Hulu, and the choice wasn’t so clear, especially if you love prime time TV shows. Then came Sling TV, which enabled live streaming TV and convenient “skinny bundles.” All of these services are tailor-made for the digital era. They are easy to sign up for online, and they are month-to-month, without those outrageous annual contracts.

So, in many ways, Amazon Channels is the next logical iteration, since it breaks apart the “skinny bundle.” You’re literally just ordering one TV channel at a time, if that’s what you like.

Is there an e-commerce angle to Amazon Channels?

What will be interesting to see is how Amazon integrates e-commerce capabilities into this new offering. As mentioned already, Amazon Channels is part of Amazon Prime Video, which is part of Amazon Prime. So you can see the business dynamic at work here – Amazon is using all these new video services to win over new e-commerce users. Sign up for HBO or Showtime on the Amazon website, and then order a movie or show while you’re at it!

For their part, the major TV channels must be wondering what’s next for them. A few of the biggest TV channels – like HBO, Showtime and Cinemax – have figured out how to win over viewers without the need for the big cable companies. Right now, you can sign up for HBO directly, without even the need for Amazon Channels. So, for HBO, this Amazon alliance is just icing on the cake, one more way to develop loyal viewers.

But that’s not necessarily the case for the smallest TV channels. For example, one of the early partners for Amazon Channels is Heera – if you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of this channel. It’s a TV channel that Amazon created for fans of Indian movies and Bollywood shows. Suddenly, a niche network like Heera is relevant. So that might be the future of Amazon Channels – the arrival of a lot of very small niche players dependent on Amazon for their future survival.

One thing is clear – Amazon has emerged as one of the smartest, strongest and most capable players in streaming video. They’ve been steadily building their credibility as a powerhouse for original content, and now they have become a real rival to all the streaming video players that emerged as part of the whole cord-cutting phenomenon. Amazon Channels is one to keep an eye on.


What New Features Can We Expect From Streaming Services in 2017?

It’s safe to say that the video streaming industry has turned into a hotbed of innovation. With so many new entrants getting into the market – including, most recently, Hulu Live, DirecTV NOW and YouTube TV – it’s clear that all of this increased competition is going to be good for innovation. Here are just a few of the developments we’re keeping an eye on in 2017…

#1: Hulu and new live TV experiences

In May, Hulu finally launched its new Live TV offering. Granted, the service is still in “beta” (which means it might be a bit wonky to use), but it’s great news for fans of live streaming video. Now that Hulu has entered the live streaming market, it looks like this could be one of the most interesting areas to watch for new innovations. Hulu has already committed to multiple, simultaneous streams for an entire family.

And that’s just the beginning. In what amounts to a blurring of the line between live TV and on-demand TV, Hulu is offering real-time alerts for events and TV programs you want to watch. Say, for example, you’ve told Hulu that you want to watch live sports programming, and that you’re a fan of baseball. When you’re out and about, you might get a real-time alert on your mobile device, telling you that your favorite baseball team is about to appear on live TV. If you can’t watch the game right then, you can simply hit a “Watch Later” button, and Hulu will record the show for you, so that you can watch later at your own convenience.

#2: Netflix and new interactive shows

Hulu isn’t the only live streaming player coming up with a few surprises for users. On June 20, Netflix announced two new interactive shows for kids, in which kids would have a chance to change what happens net in the show simply by hitting a button. This is just like the “choose your own adventure” books that used to be popular. The first interactive show will be “Puss in Book: Trapped In an Epic Tale.” Kids will have 13 different “decision points,” where they can choose what happens next to Puss. And the second interactive show will be “Buddy Thunderstruck,” which will feature 8 different decision points.

Netflix calls this a potentially new form of narrative storytelling, and you can immediately see why it’s so innovative – each person viewing the show will have a different experience. According to Netflix, the shortest path through the narrative can be wrapped up in 18 minutes. But if you prefer a very complex, twisting story, the show can last up to 39 minutes!

And Netflix says that kids are the perfect test market for this feature. Kids grew up with tablets and mobile phones, and assume that everything is interactive. They think of TV the same way they do video games, and that means future streaming content might also start to take on the look and feel of video games. This is definitely a new development to keep an eye on.


#3: The arrival of the big social media players

For the past 18 months, the biggest social media players – mostly Twitter and Facebook – have been looking for ways to crack into the streaming video market. Twitter, for example, recently unveiled a new lineup of shows for sports, news and entertainment that will stream entirely within Twitter. And both Facebook and Twitter have been looking for ways to partner with major sports leagues to bring live streaming sports content directly into their social networks. In 2016, Twitter live-streamed Thursday Night Football games and now Facebook is live-streaming Major League Baseball games on Friday nights.

But the big splash could come at the end of summer 2017. That’s when Facebook is set to officially announce its new plans for made-for-Facebook original video shows. These 30-minute shows will likely stream within the “video” tab of Facebook, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg has indicated that he’s looking for a way to bring these videos to over-the-top boxes as well. In short, Facebook could be trying to become the next Netflix! (Or, at least, the next YouTube).

Think about that for a moment – just as you might use your Apple TV to watch Netflix or Hulu, you could soon be able to watch Facebook TV. Of course, Facebook has to develop enough original content that people will actually want to watch, but it’s still fascinating to see how major streaming players like Netflix continue to be targets for a vast range of new entrants.


#4: New e-commerce features for streaming services

Speaking of new entrants, what about Amazon? Netflix has called this company “scary,” and for good reason. Everything Amazon does seems to turn to gold, and video streaming might be no different. Amazon has been ratcheting up its original content programming – in some cases, getting into bidding wars with Netflix for hot new movies at film festivals. And now Amazon is getting into live sports streaming. Get ready for the 2017 NFL season – Amazon is going to take over from Twitter in live-streaming games. Could Amazon be getting ready to unveil new e-commerce functionality tied to its core Amazon Prime service?

That could really tilt the playing field in a radically new way for streaming players. We’ve already seen a preview of what Amazon might have in mind, with its early 2016 debut of a live streaming video show based around e-commerce. The 30-minute show “Style Code Live,” which streamed “live” on weekday nights and was dedicated to fashion and beauty products, was Amazon’s attempt to take on the likes of HSN and QVC. You watch the show and then buy up all the stuff on Amazon.com. Brilliant, eh?


And, of course, there are the crazy, out-of-the-box ideas for changing the way we will consume streaming services in the future. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, for example, speculated in late 2016 about a Netflix pill that you could take before launching a hybrid pharmacological/entertainment experience. That type of futuristic science-fiction experience might sound out of the box today, but in a few years from now, it might just be par for the course.


How the Removal of Net Neutrality Will Impact Streaming Services

In 2017, the momentum to overturn net neutrality continues to build. New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has made no secret of his desire to get rid of the Obama-era rules governing net neutrality. From his perspective, trying to regulate the big broadband players the same way you would a utility just makes no business sense.

Instead of ironclad rules forcing big broadband players to adhere to net neutrality, the FCC appears to favor some kind of voluntary system, wherein companies like Comcast, Charter and AT&T promise to keep the Internet free and open. However, is a simple “gentleman’s agreement” between the biggest players in the industry enough to preserve net neutrality?

#1: The end of net neutrality could lead to fast and slow lanes for content

One way that the removal of net neutrality might impact streaming services is by creating a fast lane and a slow for streaming content. As the system currently works now, a big Internet Service Provider (ISP) can’t “choke” or “throttle” the content from any content provider. Thus, in practical terms, a company like AT&T currently can’t make video content from Netflix slower than video from other providers.

But what if it did? Once net neutrality disappears, a big broadband provider might reach out to Netflix and basically tell CEO Reed Hastings, “Hey, we’d love to keep your video content on our networks, but it would be really helpful if you pay a little extra to keep the same speed.” In short, the big broadband providers could play hardball. They know that Netflix can only deliver its content to consumers if it has free, unfettered use of the Internet. So, the more that the big broadband providers slow down the content from Netflix, the more it places a real squeeze on Netflix.

In a worst-case scenario, you could view this as a very artful mafia-style shakedown of the big streaming players. You can almost imagine a Robert De Niro character saying something like, “You don’t have to pay protection money, of course. But don’t blame me if your business burns down in the middle of the night.” In short, what’s going to happen to Netflix if all of its video streams become so painfully slow to watch that consumers just give up?

#2: The end of net neutrality could lead to higher costs for consumers

If Netflix video content is not treated the same as other content, there’s the very real possibility that Netflix could be forced to pass on any extra costs to consumers. For example, say that Netflix works out a deal with all the big broadband players, in which it agrees to pay $100 million a year in order to keep its traffic flowing free and fast. Well, someone’s going to have to absorb that $100 million hit, right? Netflix is a business, not a charity.

So far, Netflix has said that any extra fees for fast access wouldn’t affect its business model. The company has tried to put a brave face on things, saying that the service is simply “too popular.” That’s the equivalent of telling the big broadband players, “You want to charge us a fee? OK, we’re going to rat you to our consumers, and they’ll cause a huge problem for you, so watch out…” Right now, Netflix has 50 million U.S. customers, so that’s actually a pretty convincing argument. You don’t want to anger one-sixth of the total population in the U.S., do you?

That being said, there’s already a template for how things might shake out in the future. Think of the difference between SD and HD video content. If you stream a movie from Google Play, for example, you almost always have a choice between SD and HD content. The SD content is cheaper, but doesn’t take up as much bandwidth. The HD content is more expensive, but is higher quality.

That pricing dichotomy seems like something that might happen if we remove net neutrality. You’d pay one price for a streaming movie that’s slow and clunky, and another price for a streaming movie that’s running in the fast lane of Internet content.


#3: The end of net neutrality will lead to consolidation of streaming players

One amazing feature of the current streaming market has been all the competition. Every month, it seems, a new company begins to offer a new type of streaming service. There are streaming services that are on-demand, and there are streaming services that are “live.” There are streaming services that come into your household via over-the-top boxes, and others that come into your household via videogame consoles. There are services for your TV, and others designed for tablets and phones. The list goes on and on.

With the end of net neutrality, it’s likely that we’ll see some kind of shakeout. The only way to survive will be to become as big as possible. And not just big – but a real behemoth. Take AT&T, for example. That company gobbled up DIRECTV, and then it gobbled up Time Warner.

One company that seems to be ripe for consolidation is T-Mobile. In just about any Wall Street analyst report on the industry, T-Mobile is mentioned as a potential merger and acquisition (M&A) candidate. In one scenario, T-Mobile would merge with Sprint. In another scenario, it would get acquired by a big cable company. And, in yet another, it would acquire Dish Network in order to “bulk up” and ward off potential buyers.

#4: The end of net neutrality might usher in a new golden age of innovation

Of course, the first three scenarios outlined above assume that the end of net neutrality would be bad for the streaming services. Is there any scenario in which it might be good? If you believe in the power of capitalism and the ability for innovation to thrive in a completely deregulated market, then taking the shackles off the big broadband players might usher in a new golden age for consumers.

With the extra “toll money” that they are collecting from the likes of Netflix, the big cable companies would theoretically be able to build a vast new 5G superhighway of streaming goodness. Services not possible today due to network constraints might be possible with 5G. And, of course, the likes of Comcast, Charter and AT&T would roll out new features far superior to any yet proposed by Netflix (or Sling TV or Hulu or Amazon Prime Now).

That’s the hope, at least.