Time to cancel Netflix?

Compound these pratfalls and shortcomings with another poorly timed price hike — it’s now over fifteen quid for the top tier membership — instated just as we’re starting to feel the fiscal bite of the cost of living crisis, and suddenly, murmurs of Netflix cancellation are getting louder. What doesn’t help the ‘flix argument is the sudden groundswell of quality content coming by way of its increasingly emboldened competitors: Apple TV+ has boasted a conveyor belt of strong series’ and films (including, to Netflix’s great dismay, their first Best Picture winner in CODA). Critics are increasingly arguing that Apple’s offer is now, in fact, the preeminent choice… More here.

Is it coincidence that I have been considering dropping Netflix? With Amazon Prime (postage as well etc), Disney+ and Apple TV+, Netflix is starting to look a bit dated and it is expensive by comparison.

Do you use Apple TV+?

Tom Hanks’ “Greyhound” and Billie Eilish’s documentary were well received, and when Apple debuted the first season of “Ted Lasso,” things started changing for the service. Even though the company still doesn’t share how many subscribers it has – rather, it only gives an idea of its best TV shows.

To The Information, a “person with known of the numbers” said that Apple TV+ had around 40 million subscribers in the summer of 2021. Approximately half of those subscribers are paying for the service, while the other half are on free trials of some sort… More here.

Apple TV+ remains a curiosity to me. Ted Lasso is excellent, Swan Song was a great film and the Billie Eilish documentary was revealing, but for whatever reason I have not watched much else.

I only use TV+ on a Fire TV Stick and would likely not pay for it were it not part of Apple One, but it does seem to be improving… slowly.

Tobias Zachary Ziegler

Sometimes it is hard to boil down the essence of what makes a character indelible. At other times though the depth of a character is clear. From his very first scene in the pilot all the way through to his last scene in the penultimate episode (“Institutional Memory”), Tobias Zachary Ziegler is irascible, uncompromising, and constantly on the edge of being overwhelmed. He is also funny, lovable, and self-effacing. There is something about the essence of Toby Ziegler, and of Richard Schiff’s performance, that is deeply affecting and speaks deeply to the viewer, and this makes the character one of the most compelling on The West Wing, and in the history of television… More here.

My favourite character from any TV series or film ever. Brilliantly complex, hilarious and so sullen it hurts. The human equivalent of Eeyore.

The Objet TV

What makes Objet different is the fact that it is covered with fabric. So, when you’re not using it, the TV can completely blend into the background, which is ideal if you or your guests really dislike TVs but need to have one anyways. The cover is remote controlled and can be raised to different levels — for example, the TV can be partially covered to only display “a curated selection of lifestyle functions.” More here.

If you are going to hide a big piece of tech when not in use, this is the way to do it. Well done LG.

Young viewers prefer TV subtitles

Young people are almost four times more likely than older viewers to watch TV shows with subtitles, despite having fewer hearing problems, according to research by a captioning charity.

Four out of five viewers aged 18-25 said they use subtitles all or part of the time, Stagetext’s figures said.

Less than a quarter of those aged between 56 and 75 said they do so… More here.

My daughter does this and she does not know why. She has watched everything with subtitles for years and prefers it for some unknown reason. Strange…

Revealing the truth about Jimmy Savile

Meanwhile, George Entwistle, the BBC’s head of television, was trying to work out how BBC light entertainment would mark the death of one of its biggest stars. Entwistle was informed that there was no obituary ready to run on Savile – unusual for someone who had made such a contribution to British public life. The decision had been made by successive controllers, a colleague told him by email. Savile had a “dark side”, which meant it was “impossible to make an honest film to be shown so close to death”, his colleague said… More here.

A fascinating article and one which highlights just how much you could get away with in the bad old days. It is also highlighted by the fact that almost all of the UK population are happy for one of the country’s best loved TV personalities to rot in hell.

Schmigadoon!

A parody of iconic musicals, Schmigadoon! is a new musical comedy series executive produced by Lorne Michaels and starring Emmy Award nominee Cecily Strong and Emmy Award winner Keegan-Michael Key as a couple on a backpacking trip designed to reinvigorate their relationship when they discover a magical town in which everyone is living in a studio musical from the 1940s. They then discover that they can’t leave until they find “true love.” The cast also includes Broadway and TV veterans including Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose, Fred Armisen, Jaime Camil, Jane Krakowski, and Ann Harada.

I have to say this looks fantastic.

Apple TV 4K vs Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD

My Apple TV is old and a pain to use these days; the software is noticeably slow compared to any other device I use, starting a streaming seems to take forever and the remote is completely unintuitive (and gets lost far too easily).

I cannot blame the product itself due to the age, but when considering what to replace it with the options are stark. Do I buy an Apple TV 4K for £169 or an Amazon Fire Tv Stick 4K for £49.99? That is quite a gap, but when Prime Day appeared and the Fire Stick dropped down to £26.99 I decided to try the latter option because Apple TV+ is now supported.

A few days later and the Fire TV Stick interface is used 95% of the time on my TV. It has taken over the Samsung smart TV interface which has always felt ‘not quite good enough’ and it plays all of my Apple TV content and streams perfectly every single time.

With support for YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, Apple Music, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer, a big selection of apps and games, gaming controller support and so much more it is hard to fault for the price. Throw in the Alexa remote control feature, which for example lets you just say a film name and it will find the best platform it is available on, and you have a winner which covers every single base.

Then consider Dolby Atmos Audio support, Up to 4K Ultra HD with support for HDR, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision and a remote control that is completely intuitive and I feel like my £26.99 was a very small price to pay for what I got.

And then I look at the Apple TV 4K for 6 times the Prime Day price and I scratch my head at the pricing, and I start to believe that this is an example where when Apple opens up it loses.

I would get some features not available elsewhere such as High Frame Rate HDR, colour calibration and Fitness+ support, but to be honest the first two would barely be noticeable in the real world and the third can be used on other devices anyway (and also mirrored from an iPhone using the Replica app).

The remote control is touted by Apple as running circles around other remotes, but with Siri inside it immediately falls behind because Alexa is better. It simply is better.

It is not often that Apple makes a product that is so completely out of line in terms of pricing against the competition, but the current Apple TV is surely the perfect example. It literally offers nothing tangible compared to other, much cheaper, products and it is an outlier in the Apple product range.

I often tout the value in the iPhone, the Apple Watch and the Macs, and even in an Apple One subscription, but I cannot get close to recommending a new Apple TV.

And if I forget that the hugely expensive Apple TV exists, I have to give credit to Amazon because the Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD is just superb. It makes me think about other hardware options if Apple was to open up iMessage and the Apple Watch to other products and it makes me think twice about the hold the company has on me.

Samsung — The Frame: it’s in the detail

Because it looks like a real frame, The Frame enhances its surroundings, wherever it is. Its big screen offers a grand display for art, making it a striking sight—on or off.

The Frame has always intrigued me, but it wasn’t until I saw the video above that I realise just how much thought had gone into it. From the no gap bracket to the customisable surrounds this is a brilliant piece of tech.