Archive | February 2013

House of Cards–Netflix’s ticket to profit

Recently, DVD and streaming on demand site, Netflix, released their first full production show, the House of Cards. Featuring Kevin Spacey and a couple other prominent actors, the show is an over dramatized sexy West Wing, featuring all the back room deals and scandals we imagine happening in Washington D.C.

But, the content of the show itself is not the big topic for House of Cards. In actuality, the first season on Netflix isn’t very captivating. Spacey plays the majority WHIP in the fantasy Congress and gives the impression that he actually runs the country, not the faux-president. What makes the show so interesting is the fact that Netflix funded and produced the entire thing itself.

Netflix opened the door to a whole new world of content viewing. House of Cards isn’t going to be their pot of gold, but the ideas behind it are. By creating their own shows, they no longer have to wait for the big hands of corporate television to feed them, and by skipping the middle man they are giving their subscribers exactly what they want; pure untampered content available whenever they want it.

The only topic for discussion on this side of content is whether or not a provider like Netflix should release all the episodes at once, allowing a viewer to “binge-view” the entire show. While some might see this as stupid, I disagree. Look, Netflix already has your money, and while that sounds blunt, it’s true. The only reason the cable providers put shows out on a weekly basis was to have a steady way to entice companies to buy their advertising spots, and produce weekly ratings to fulfill them. There is no point in Netflix letting shows go week by week, if a consumer wants to watch 20 episodes, let them, they’ll still have to wait several months for the next season.

What does this mean for old-school TV?

It means that for the first time in media history, a show is produced without a network legal or marketing team philandering with the content of the shows I’m trying to watch. For the first time, the creators of the show are able to produce a show in its original state, without any cuts and rewrites to water down the substance so it can be fit for all audiences. Netflix is making it clear: We will produce the content our viewers want to see.

Networks like CBS, TNT and FOX should be shaking in their over-polished shoes. If something like this continues, which it will, their ratings are going to plummet to the basement. HBO is looking at ways to deliver content without a cable subscription, and Netflix is exploring the possibility of taking on more in-house content productions. Why pay upwards of 50-100 dollars a month for the 6 channels you watch and the 120 that you don’t on TV, when you can pay for an Apple TV or an XBOX 360 and then subscribe to individual providers.

Where is media programming going?

Without opening a whole can of worms about media in general, TV (and I use this phrase lightly) programming is quickly moving towards an on-demand style of viewing. What this means for us, the consumers, is that by paying monthly charges of 10-20 dollars towards a Netflix, ESPN (yes they’ll be there too) or HBO, you’ll be able to stream the content you want on a laptop, tablet or your TV. We’re moving away from the era of having to record programming because we weren’t able to sit at the tube at exactly the right time, and moving towards an era of being able to view something when and where we want it. Writers and producers would be stupid not to start looking at the possibilities of working with the production teams at these new media producers.


Why Obama Should (and will) significantly reduce the embargo against Cuba

On February 7, 1962, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the United States signed the Cuban Democracy Act into law, effectively isolating Cuba from any connection with the growing United States Economy. U.S. businesses were no longer allowed any association with the communist regime of Fidel Castro, eliminating trade and travel to the small Caribbean country 90 miles to the south.

Fifty-one years and nine presidents later, the embargo still exists, with relaxed travel revisions occurring in the past couple of years. It was originally put into place with the hopes of crippling Communist Cuba, and has continued to be in effect since Fidel Castro has been in power. The short response to a complicated idea: it hasn’t. At all.

There are two major reasons why the United States hasn’t lifted the embargo. The first one is social, and in my opinion the larger of the two, deals with our ideals as a country. The United States traditionally has had trouble admitting fault for their international and domestic mishaps. As a proud nation, entering an international conversation that our embargo on Cuba was a mistake would be incredibly embarrassing for our country. It would either require an apology or a picture of Fidel Castro sitting next to our president shaking hands, which would be one of the more powerful political images of that particular president’s tenure.

A president is typically remembered for one or two major events. Their legacy can be defined by a few minute moments that are inked into American history books forever. For Lincoln, it was the Emancipation Proclamation and his leadership during the Civil War. For Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was seven small words; “a date which will live in infamy” and his unprecedented actions to move us away from the Great Depression.

For the president who lets Cuba out of the doghouse, their name will be remembered next to Castro’s. That being said, President Obama would be one of the best candidates in the past 20 years to lift the embargo. His entire presidency has been defined by his relatively untouched political policies. His stances on health care, gay rights and illegal immigration are some of the most controversial and talked about legislation in recent memory. His predecessor, George Bush, was a far too conservative president to pass a piece of legislation as monumental as freeing Cuba from the shackles of economic restraint. Barack Obama would be remembered forever as the president who righted a 51-year-old wrong and helped developed a growing relationship with a lucrative location in the Caribbean.

The fact of the matter is when talking about the embargo, is that it was relatively ineffective by nature. The Cuban economy actually showed steady growth across their GDP after the embargo was set into place. The only major exception was in the late 80s and early 90s, when the communist Soviet Union, and Cuba’s biggest ally, fell. The Cuban economy cut a major loss in that time period, but since then has showed a relatively sharp recovery.

Now, before everyone reading this goes Joseph McCarthy on me and accuses me of being a communist supporter, I’ll say this. In 1962, the United States was spot on in placing an embargo against a dictator who threatened to end the free world, but, that being said, there is absolutely no reason why the embargo should still be in place today.

More To Explore–ASU’s Biggest Recruiting Event

Arizona State University is on a mission. The university devised a plan to grow and develop its four campuses throughout the Phoenix-area into flourishing campuses with unique atmospheres. The master plan for one of the largest public universities in the country involves increased research and more faculty, as we saw last week with President Michael Crow’s conversation with Senior Reporter Angela Gonzales,  but what about the student population? How will all these new additions to the university affect those who will be attending it? The answer is growth.

Last Monday, February 18, Arizona State put on the largest on-campus recruiting event ever held by the university, called More To Explore. More than 800 perspective students toured dining halls and dorm rooms at the Polytechnic, Downtown, West and Tempe Campuses. They brought guests, bringing the total number of visitors at ASU to roughly 1,600. It was a massive event, and I was there.

One of the first things I did when I started at Arizona State in 2010 was to look for an organization to join. The total enrollment alone was nearly four times the size of the town I grew up in, so needless to say I was a little overwhelmed. I was looking for an organization that was integrated in the university and would help me get to know ASU and my peers better. So, I joined the Devil’s Advocates.

The Devil’s Advocates — for those of you who don’t know — are the “backwards walkers” on campus, the tour guides. The over-caffeinated, out-going undergrads who show high school students and their parents around the campus. Across all four campuses the Devil’s Advocates, with the help of ASU staff, were pointing out buildings and answering questions about parking passes.

The More to Explore event consisted of everything from pictures with Sparky to informational sessions with staff from financial aid and undergraduate admissions. It gave high school students the ability to see the campus, meet other students interested in the university and help their parents see where the tuition money would be going. Perspective students could even stay in the dorm rooms with current students the night before the event.

This is Arizona State’s first More to Explore event, but I would be very surprised if it were its last. ASU is growing, no question about that, but it isn’t simply Operation Manifest Destiny on the Valley, but rather an enrichment of the projects it already has running. Buildings are seeing long overdue renovations and additions, new space is being provided for a number of different projects and the infrastructure is being remolded to provide for a more populated university. By 2020, the Tempe campus could be the collegiate metropolis of the future.

Rejuvenating Arizona State seems like a daunting task, but it appears to be working. The entire university appears to be coming together under a new facade, with Crow leading the charge. By looking at ways to increase university revenue, athletics and tuition being two top earners, Crow is able to then allocate that revenue into research or campus development. Those two big moneymakers are both seeing positive growth. New designs and logos coupled with new top management is giving the athletic department a much needed facelift. Undergraduate Admissions is doing its part as well, by hosting these largely successful recruiting events to continue bringing in new students.

Crow’s idea for ASU appears to be taking shape. He is developing projects around each campus that tailor to the area it surrounds. Crow expects to see $700 million in research by 2020 and adding 10,000 in new jobs. Tempe Campus is expected to grow as well, to around 60,000 students on campus over the next seven years. The downtown Phoenix Campus is busting at the seams, hitting nearly 13,000 in student population after being open just seven years. The West and Polytechnic campuses have seen steady growth since their beginning, with new construction projects becoming a regular sight across all of the university’s campuses.

For Sparky and the university as a whole, this is all positive. The university’s reputation as a degree-mill socialite school seems to be changing into something with more substance and meaning. The partnerships with different industries around the Valley have proven to be working, or else I wouldn’t be sitting in this chair writing this piece. From a first hand perspective, ASU gives me the opportunity to meet and work with professionals in my field and I know it’s had that same impact on an overwhelming majority of my peers. The big picture for Arizona State and the state of Arizona lies within those individual interactions. What can ASU and its growing student population do with these partnerships and internships? Can the state of Arizona one of its biggest businesses to develop itself into a economic destination for businesses around the world? The university seems to be headed in the right direction, and if it continues to do so, the impact Arizona State University could have on Phoenix and the state could be enormous.