Netflix junkie has reason to cheer

Netflix users can get streaming content on laptops, tablets and smartphones. All they need is a Wi-Fi or data connection. But Chinese-speaking viewers will be disappointed because Netflix's offerings are English-centric.
Netflix users can get streaming content on laptops, tablets and smartphones. All they need is a Wi-Fi or data connection. But Chinese-speaking viewers will be disappointed because Netflix's offerings are English-centric.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

It will offer thousands of shows on demand when it arrives next year

If you do not mind planning your TV viewing times or gatherings based on the day and time that a match or show is being played, the recent Netflix announcement may not mean that much to you.

But if you are tired of rigid TV programming schedules, or having to watch advertisement-filled TV shows, there is much to be excited about.

US content streaming service Netflix announced last week that a version of its popular service will be coming here by early next year.

Unlike traditional television, Netflix's offerings of more than 7,000 movies and TV shows are provided on demand. Subscribers can choose to watch any of the shows at any time and anywhere - on their bus ride to the office, during lunch break and dinner, or in the taxi on their way home.

That's right. A TV, while preferable, is not necessary for Netflix users, as the streaming content is available on laptops, tablets and smartphones. All you need is a Wi-Fi or data connection.

Now try doing so with your entire selection of local free-to-air, cable or Internet TV offerings.

Even if you could view shows online with some of the local online offerings, Netflix's subscriptions start from just US$7.99 ($11.30).

This is a fraction of what cable channel subscribers pay, on top of the rental of their set-top box.

Aside from the lack of live sports programmes, the only other drawback of Netflix is its English-centric content.

Some would call it a boon, since you can catch all 236 episodes of the 10-season run of the comedy sitcom Friends, or every episode of long-running drama NCIS. You can also lap up the Netflix-only hit series House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black.

But if you prefer the occasional Hong Kong TVB drama, such as Ghost Of Relativity or The Empress Of China, which are staple viewings for some Chinese-speaking viewers, Netflix will likely not have such shows.

That is not to say that local broadcasters will offer these shows either, but Netflix is not the one-stop shop for all your entertainment needs.

I would know because I have been a Netflix subscriber for the last 12 months. I am also a subscriber of Amazon's Instant Video service.

Both services cost less than US$20 a month and my favourite TV shows are available whenever I want to watch them, and wherever I am. Sure, these are not the latest TV shows that are airing in the US right now, but no content provider here offers that.

The new season of popular shows such as The Blacklist and Marvel's Agents Of Shield will premiere in a few weeks, and last season's episodes are already available to stream on both services.

Fans of 4K content should find plenty to like about Netflix. I am currently reviewing several 2015 models of 4K TVs. Instead of trying to obtain hard-to-find 4K movies, I simply use the app for Netflix to stream its 4K content directly onto the TVs. I am doing the same with Amazon's Instant Video.

My experience with Netflix will differ from yours. As the service is not officially available in Singapore now, I have had to jump through several hoops to download and install the Netflix app on all my Android devices.

I am also paying for a VPN (Virtual Private Network ) that allows me access to Netflix, since it has not been launched here yet.

But by early next year, with the official roll-out of Netflix, these issues will no longer be a problem.

My only concern would be how Netflix will be classifying its content to fit the stringent guidelines of the local Board of Film Censors.

Even then, the change in TV viewing habits would have taken place, and couch potatoes can celebrate the new viewing options that were previously unavailable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Netflix junkie has reason to cheer Commentary'. Print Edition | Subscribe