Tag Archive | Netflix

Not Thinking About Money Has a Value All its Own

Contra Squarely Rooted, people absolutely want to be bonds.  He notes that most of the hot new businesses these days work on a subscription pricing model, where customers pay a flat fee rather than a la carte.  Often the a la carte option would be less expensive, but people are willing to pay a premium for not having to think about transactions.  One way to interpret this is that companies are exploiting consumers’ cognitive biases and that consumers are fools for paying more than they need to.  I don’t think this is a helpful way to look at it.

Choice fatigue isn’t some illusion that goes away once you know about it, choice fatigue is real because we feel it.  Personally, I hate having to think about microtransactions and paying for metered services.  It’s irritating and the irritation of constantly knowing I’m losing sums of money (albeit small sums!) far outweighs the comfort of knowing I’m saving small amounts.  And I’m obviously not the only person who feels that way, because consumers are voting with their feet.*  I think that the general dislike of a la carte pricing comes from natural loss aversion – which is to say people assign more emotional weight to losing a given sum (e.g., a microtransaction) than they get from gaining a given sum (the savings earned vs. fixed-fee pricing).  I’m frankly willing to pay a little bit more for a given fixed-fee service to not have to worry about what I’m actually spending.

I wish I wasn’t that way, but I don’t get to shape my own preferences and cognitive biases.  I think the trend towards fixed-fee services is best viewed as substantially enhancing overall welfare.  Consumers get greater surplus, providers get greater surplus (profits) – what’s not to love?

*: Or whatever the digital equivalent is.

The New Arrested Development Is Awesome

There are many problems with the new, Netflix-exclusive run of Arrested Development.  It can be heavy on the exposition.  The ensemble comedy that drove the earlier seasons is absent in favor of character sketches.  It’s less funny and can sometimes be painfully awkward.  The episodes are often too long.  There are many problems of a pretty mundane level.  But still…

The narrative complexity is something that’s never really been done on a TV show.  Every episode builds towards a single conclusion, the Newport Beach celebration of “Cinqo de Quatro” and is successively seen from different perspectives that reveal more and more of the actual events.  Not only has there never been anything like it, I’m not sure that there could be anything like it on TV.  Certainly it could never span multiple seasons, because the producers would (reasonably) be too worried about the show being canceled.  Even within a single season, this sort of complexity would be too complicated for viewers to try to follow if they weren’t watching every single episode.  In other words, it’s only suitable for time-shifted viewing.

The postmodern narrative revolution of the mid-to-late 20th Century has finally come to television!