Pick Three: Today's Media Stories Worth Reading - 08/01/2016


Every day, we pick three media-related stories we think you should read. These are generally not "hot takes", but instead lesser-covered topics that deserve some extra love.

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1) Netflix Doesn't Have All The Answers, Especially In Asia
While Netflix might have worked out the big kinks in places like the United States and the U.K., it is facing a myriad of challenges in Asia and India. TechCrunch's Harris Siddiqui runs through just a few of the economic and cultural difficulties facing the streaming giant in some of its newest markets:

When Netflix set foot in developing and emerging markets such as India, it was greeted by stiff competition, long-established and deeply rooted among local audiences from the get-go. Players such as HotStar, a streaming service run by STAR India, and Eros, a company that both produces and distributes a large selection of Bollywood movies and Indian TV shows online, had seized the opportune power vacuum early while Netflix had been fixated on U.S. and European markets.

These upstart players found success by catering to local tastes while keeping the price-of-entry in line with the region’s socioeconomic expectations. HotStar understood the mania that drew a large viewership for live cricket in India, while Eros Entertainment brought its offerings to the masses with free basic plans.

Netflix, meanwhile, currently offers its most basic subscription for 500 INR (or around US$7), more than twice the cost for a monthly subscription to HotStar. Considering the fact that Netflix is still severely lacking when it comes to licensed local content available for streaming, the asking price falls somewhere between luxury and redundancy. Given the massive amounts of popularized content being churned out by Bollywood and Indian television every year, the Netflix library immediately loses its premium label and luster for the average user in India.

2) The Dream Of A Shutdown-Free Pirate Scene Is Still Just A Dream
Every time that a major pirate torrent web site is shut down, there is talk of establishing some sort of unbreakable peer-to-peer torrent system. In theory, this type of setup would be much tougher for Hollywood to shut down and the possibility that it could be launched should be keeping entertainment folks up late at night. But as this piece in Torrent Freak notes, there is a reason why these illegal web sites are referred to as "pirates." Each web site prefers to battle on its own:

“You have to understand that torrents are no longer the answer to these type of threats. Sure you can upgrade everything related to torrents to a more secure and better way of usage by promoting to users how they should use you through your new type of network etc, but at some point the protocol should upgrade,” he says.

“However, unless there is an agreement from at least three major sites, none of the requirements to push this new system to enough users will be done. There is currently no agreement to do anything between any torrent site.”

And it appears that even in the wake of KAT’s demise, there is still no momentum to innovate.

“[The major sites] are not interested in building a non-raidable, permanent domain system for users. They are not interested in a new protocol. No one works with anyone. They simply don’t care,” he says.

3) The Republican Milgram Experiment
While I don't usually point to political pieces, this New Republic from Brian Beutler offers up an intriguing explanation for the Republican Party's continued support of Donald Trump in the face of his continuing escalation of dumb and offensive statements. It all goes back to a famous 1960s social-science psychological experiment:

In the early 1960s, the American social psychologist Stanley Milgram set about to understand why German enablers of Adolf Hitler were so bendable to orders from figures of authority. Each run of Milgram’s famous experiment involved three participants: an administrator, a subject, and an actor portraying another subject. The real subjects were intentionally misled into believing they weren’t subjects at all, but mere functionaries, testing the actors’ capacity to learn and whether the penalty of painful electric shocks would help jog memories. In reality, the point was to determine if people who believe themselves to be functionaries will participate in acts of evil, and how willingly.

The Milgram experiment may be the most famous social-science experiment ever conducted. But despite its pervasiveness, its findings remain startling. When an actor’s memory “failed,” the subject was instructed to administer a shock; each successive shock was 15 volts stronger than the previous one, topping out at 450 volts. Along the way, the subject would hear the actors wailing in agony from an adjacent room. Eventually the screaming would stop, as if the person on the receiving end of the shock had lost consciousness or died.

Beutler argues that the leadership of the Republican Party is participating in a similar experiment which will test the limits of what they are willing to support in the name of party unity:

“If I lead a schism in our party, then I am guaranteeing that a liberal progressive becomes president, and continues these policies, which I think are extremely detrimental to the country. I think losing the Supreme Court for a generation is detrimental. And I’ve said all along, we want to see the campaign improve; we want to see the campaign improve in tone, in approach, in every respect. … When I see and hear things that I don’t agree with, that I think are contrary to our principles as conservatives, as Americans, I’m going to speak out on those things—I’m going to be really clear. You know that. But at the same time, the last thing I want to do is help Hillary Clinton become president of the United States.”

He’ll admit to being worried about the stranger begging for his life in the next room, in other words, but he won’t do anything to stop the current from flowing.