Evolution of Netflix and Streaming Services - A Native English Conversation - Advanced Level

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Curious about the history and evolution of streaming services? From the first official streaming service to the innovations that shaped Netflix, we do a deep dive into streaming. Get ready to explore the past, present, and future of streaming and discover the ways that artificial intelligence is shaping the industry.

Mary Daphne: Hello Advanced English learners. Welcome back. I'm joined of course by the one and only Greg. 

Greg: Hello. Hello. 

Mary Daphne: Thank you for joining me, Greg, and thank of course you, all of us, for joining us. So we have a fun conversation for you today. And before we get into that, I'd like to remind you why we do these conversations.

These conversations are to help you improve your english language, social fluency, your communication, your conversation skills, understanding native English speakers speaking at a relatively natural pacing, being able to understand the conversation and have a listening comprehension worksheet that goes along with this.

So to be able to get that you would have to be signed up for our community Explearning Academy so all the details are below. I highly recommend you check it out. That's where you'll join me and sometimes Greg, for daily touchpoints and all the amazing things that we have in our Explearning Academy. So that's where you'll find the worksheet.

I do hope that you check it out by joining. Alright, so let's get into our conversation. So Greg, do you know what today's topic is? 

Greg: Today's topic you'll have to remind me. 

Mary Daphne: So we're gonna talk about the future of streaming services. 

Greg: Oh yeah. 

Mary Daphne: Very exciting. Alright. Yeah, let's get into it. 

Alright. I think it's important to preface this with what came before streaming so that we can see where streaming is going.

So should we share a little bit about that with the audience. 

Greg: Pre streaming? 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. 

Greg: The world of pre streaming. 

Mary Daphne: Pre streaming world. 

Greg: A lot of you probably weren't even of age to watch content when they didn't have streaming. Prior to streaming. Back when we were kids, it was VHS tapes.

Yeah. Which are these boxes you put into another box to play it like a cassette tape essentially. And they had magnetic strips. Then things got really fancy and we had DVDs, which you could play in a computer, which was a revolution, right? You could suddenly watch movies on something other than a TV with a VCR.

But you know it all, in terms of renting the movie, it all followed the same model, which was you could buy the movie or you could rent it. And if you're renting it, you're renting it from one of these major rental companies. Or you had your local neighbor, neighborhood video rental company.

Mary Daphne: I remember I have such fond memories. Friday night rolls around and we pick out a movie either with my family or my friends, if we're doing like a slumber party or something. And it would be so fun and you'd have to choose the right movie, like for the right vibe. Do we want a scary movie?

Do we want like a sci-fi movie? What do we want? And it would be so fun, just, I remember spending, I don't even know how long we would spend in like Blockbuster, which is one of the famous VHS rental stores. 

Greg: Yeah. Blockbuster almost had a monopoly, pretty much anywhere you went. If even in Hong Kong when I was growing up, we had Blockbuster there.

Mary Daphne: Wow. 

Greg: But what I enjoyed even more than the blockbusters were the little hole in the wall movie rental places. Cuz there's always someone kooky running the shop. In fact, they make movies about these people because, they're such characters. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. 

Greg: Because all they do is watch movies all day and you can get phenomenal recommendations from them.

The deepest of deep cuts. They know movies that you know, you wouldn't even know existed much less the sort of arts and the what do you call them? The sort of like. 

Mary Daphne: The genre?

Greg: Yeah, there's all different genres, but there's some very art house, art house, theater stuff.

Just very esoteric things. These guys know right? They were the ultimate curators. And that was always fun to pick their brains you're like, I'm in the mood for this. What can we watch? So that was fun too. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. And you bring up a good point, which don't forget that point that Greg just shared, because it's going to have something to do with the future of streaming.

So keep that in your minds. And I will as well. Now after that whole period of, we went from VHS to then getting DVDs and Blu-ray and then Netflix rolls around and they do something pretty cool. I remember we were in college at the time when this happened, where you could rent a movie, you could rent a DVD you'd rent it on your computer and you would get it in the mail delivered to you. And then they would come in these like thin red envelopes, they'd be folded in nicely. And you'd be so excited to get that in the mail. And then after you viewed the DVD, you would seal it up and send it back, and I don't think there was even postage required.

Greg: Yeah, it was exactly. It was basically mail order movies. Yeah. But it came sooner than that. I had it in high school, so I loved it all through high school. You were in the city, so there wasn't as much of a need to get yours in the mail. Interesting. Okay. You just go around the block. for me as a, I went to boarding school, I couldn't just step outside to, to get a movie.

I had to order it in the mail there was no one to drive me. Or we'd have to take a cab into town and be expensive. Yeah. So anyways yeah, you get your movies in the mail and that was revolutionary, this idea that you could, and it was also, you could get as many movies as you wanted..

As soon as you returned it, you could rent a new one and you just paid a monthly fee. So that was also a big deal. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah, it was a subscription service, which is revolutionary. And, it was really cool to have that service. 

Greg: And what was cool about it as well is you could, for the first time, browse the movies online.

And so you could see the entire library of movies on their website as opposed to having to go to a shop and physically walk around the shop to find your movie here. Suddenly you could actually see them in digital form. All your options. But it was still a physical copy that you ordered.

Mary Daphne: Yeah. Yeah. And you'd have to hook, you'd have to put it into your machine. You'd have a. DVD player or the ones that come in built into the computers? Not anymore. Not these days, folks. But anyways, so I remember having fond memories of that. And it replaced that VHS going to the store, the blockbuster around the corner, and checking out your movies.

So after that, something even cooler happened, which, who spearheaded it? I think it was Hulu. 

Greg: It may have been Hulu, yeah. Yeah. For me, Netflix was the one that really made it usable. 

Mary Daphne: For me too. 

Greg: But what are we talking about here? 

Mary Daphne: So streaming. 

Greg: Yeah. 

Mary Daphne: That's when the world, I think changed for the better. 

Greg: Yeah. And streaming had been around already for music, right? So streaming music had already started this idea that you could, instead of having to get buy a CD of music, you could play an mp3 through the internet. And that was a big deal, right? It used to take, I remember back in middle school, it would take like an hour to download a song, and that was a big deal.

Mary Daphne: And I also remember like buying the CD from the, best Buy or wherever. Then listening to it on my player or on my computer. Then downloading all those songs so that I could upload all the songs to my iPod. 

Greg: It's called ripping, right? You would rip the CD. 

Mary Daphne: You'd rip it. That's right. Yeah. You and I remember just being like waiting for that green check mark, like that all my songs were downloaded and then I just have them on my phone.

I think that's how it started before this streaming. 

Greg: That's what built up these digital libraries of content. And I would actually spend time trying to find the fastest CD ripper. Ah-huh. So different CD rom, drives had different. and that was like a big technical thing at the time.

 Anyways, yeah. So we had this digital media, but digital music is very different than digital video. Because digital video requires much more bandwidth. And so the big revolution, I think you're right, that was Hulu that maybe was like the first official streamer. Yeah. But Netflix was the one that really popularized it.

Mary Daphne: 100%.

Greg: So they took their same model of, phy physical DVDs and you that you subscribe to and get as many you want. They expanded that to also have this digital collection. Yeah. And so you can suddenly, you can start streaming the the videos directly from their website instead of having to wait for them to come in the mail.

And that was totally game changing, right? Yeah. Part of what they were able to do is create a new compression algorithm that enabled these videos to be streamed over the internet, even if you didn't have that fast of a connection, right? Because again, streaming video takes so much bandwidth. So anyways, suddenly we could watch movies online on demand. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. And this is right around the time when YouTube started being a thing before Google had purchased it or acquired it. And at the time, YouTube was, about animal videos and I don't think they're really even the concept of YouTuber. So it's not at all like what it is today.

And there were no movies on YouTube and so Netflix comes in and as Greg said, they popularized it. So I remember jumping on the band bandwagon and being, like an early adopter of Netflix cuz I had already loved the mail-in. And that's actually what we started with. I think we started with Netflix.

And I just remember having, thinking it was so cool, so practical. And the only issue was that, so I was a big and still am a big Francophile. That's one of my second languages. And I was 

Greg: What's a Francophile? 

Mary Daphne: A person who is, who has a love of French language and culture. So I identify as that as well. And as a French language speaker, I would always want to watch French movies, but Netflix didn't have that. Now they do, but at the time they didn't. So I would still have to order my DVDs from France, go onto a French website. I used la Fnac and I remember just ordering it, getting a nice box of goodies from there.

But Netflix now has, movies in different languages and series in different languages. So it has just become a huge empire. 

Greg: Right. And so what they ended up doing was building the largest library of published videos on the web, right? Published media. And again, this is in contrast to YouTube, which was much more amateur streaming, right?

At that time, there weren't really any professional YouTube channels. It was just amateurs posting videos online. So Netflix, by contrast was, displaying real produced movies, professionally produced movies, and that was just such a big deal. But of course, they have this huge library, so they ran into a problem, which is, we have so many movies, people are having trouble finding the movie they wanna watch, right?

And of course they can feature some on their front page, but it became a challenge of determining how how can we ensure that the people get the movie they want? They get the movie they're in the mood for. And so the next innovation that Netflix pioneered was a really good recommendation algorithm.

So they started developing machine learning algorithms that were able to learn your preferences, and the preferences of other people using a lot of ratings. So people would give things a thumbs up or thumbs down, and through that they were able to develop this curation system that helped curate the movie that you wanted to watch.

Mary Daphne: So based on what you watched, how you rated something, even if you didn't give it a thumbs up or thumbs down, the fact that you merely watched it to the end is a telltale sign of, okay, somebody watched it to the end. They probably like this movie, right? Because if you don't like a movie or a TV show, you're gonna pause it and watch something else or do something else.

And so yeah, the algorithm started to kick in and just launch this whole thing where suddenly recommendations were a thing and you didn't have to necessarily find something and be proactive. You could literally just see stuff pop into your feed and be like, I wanna watch that, or, that looks really interesting to me.

Greg: Yeah. It took that sort of, there's this often this anxiety about selection, right? I don't know what to choose. And if there's too many options, you get overwhelmed, right? 

Mary Daphne: And choice paralysis. 

Greg: Yeah. You, there's a you experience choice paralysis, you're paralyzed by too many. So they then solve that problem, and that's where we are now, right. Now, a bunch of other streaming services have replicated their model. You have Disney Hulu 

Mary Daphne: prime, Amazon 

Greg: prime hbo, O of course, when digital. HBO was always digital in the way that it was on cable, but they now have their streaming service. NBC has Peacock, right? There's so many of these.

Mary Daphne: Apple. Apple tv. 

Greg: Oh yeah, apple tv, of course. So all of these different players and they're competing. Yeah. And that's the state we're in now. Yeah. But the reason we filmed this is because we want to talk about what's coming next. 

Mary Daphne: The future.

Greg: And this is what, when I first heard this really blew my mind. But the fact is it's a lot closer than it might sound. 

Mary Daphne: Okay. So before we, you're probably on the edge of your seat here. I'm curious, what are you're guessing right now? What direction could it possibly go in? And, I think for me, I would try to think how else could they enhance the experience for you. 

They have movies where that are proprietary to Netflix and they have different Netflix studios around the world. So you could watch a Turkish Netflix series or Turkish Netflix movie that was filmed there, and it gives you that authentic experience. Same with like different languages, French culture, different languages Spanish, et cetera.

So how else can they customize it, right? And so this is where things get really interesting. 

Greg: Now for the last few years, yeah, they've been developing Netflix in particular, but all the studios have been starting to develop movies at a faster pace, based on the different kinds of moods that they're trying to evoke, right?

They've there's genres of, they're very nuanced genres, right? Like upbeat and bright spooky and fun. 

Mary Daphne: Suspenseful. 

Greg: Suspenseful, right? 

Mary Daphne: Fantasies.

Greg: Fantasy sci-fi, suspenseful sci-fi, or it's like popcorn sci-fi, right? There's so many of these subcategories. And so what they've been doing over the past few years is producing these relatively low budget, high volume.

Netflix is famous for this low budget, high volume content, and it's fine. It's okay. And it basically tries to address a niche group, and if you address enough niche groups, they become very dedicated and you end up with a large dedicated audience. But as you recall in a previous episode, we've also talked about something called G P T three, right?

Mary Daphne: Oh yes. 

Greg: And G P T Chat. And if you recall, these are, if you haven't seen those, you should just search that on the channel. I can't remember the name, but it has G P T three in it. If you search GPT three in our channel, you'll find it. Yeah. But what these can do is produce content based on the prompt that you provided.

And we're not just talking about two sentence answers. G P T Chat in particular can write an entire paper for you. Yeah. If you asked it to. If you said, write me a thousand words on the French Revolution, it'll write you a thousand words on the French Revolution. 

Mary Daphne: So crazy. Yeah. 

Greg: That's cool. 

Mary Daphne: Very cool.

Greg: That's just text. Yeah. . Guess what? It's not always gonna be text. Let's say you take the text from G P T three and you move it over to stable diffusion, right? Stable diffusion can generate images based on the text. 

Mary Daphne: So you'll see like that, the lens app, and there's some other AI apps like that. Even things like Dall E that's all based on stable diffusion technology. Right? 

Greg: Exactly. Dolly is actually a competing algorithm, but yeah, they're all similar. But it's using stable diffusion. It's not so stable. Diffusion and Dall E are using similar algorithms. 

Mary Daphne: Text two image, text to image.

Greg: Okay. Exactly. But they do it in slightly different ways. Yeah. Okay. And the dolly one is proprietary. The G P t the stable diffusion is using an open source algorithm. Okay. Open AI is actually, believe it or not, separate. That's the proprietary one, aye. Yeah. Yeah. They call themselves open ai, but they're really proprietary.

There is separately a truly open source algorithm that, that stable diffusion uses. And that's why things aren't licensed on stable diffusion. 

 So anyways, the the point is you can take text and you can turn into image. Image. What is the next logical step there. If you can take text and turn to image, couldn't you take text and turn it into video? That's where we're going. And to really drive the point home. This could be in, in three or five years your Netflix experience. You sit down, you tell Netflix, I'm in the mood for a spooky sci-fi with an upbeat ending. Okay.

I want a spooky sci-fi with an upbeat. Now, how would that work, currently. 

Mary Daphne: They would recommend the movies that they have on hand. 

Greg: Yeah. They would look into the library and they'd look for all the movies with those little tags on them. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. And it might cover three out of the five categories. 

Greg: And it, and they might find a couple that are okay. They match what you're saying. Yeah. Yeah. Based on what we just said. Think about what could happen instead. It takes in those inputs and it generates on the fly in real time. A movie with those characteristics and the accompanying video. So it generates a script, the video, and it fabricates the actors.

So actors you've never heard of, you could even say I want a male actor with blonde hair and a female actor with brunette a brown hair. 

Mary Daphne: Or could you say, I wanna see J Lo in a movie? 

Greg: You could if they had the license for it. Okay. Of course, celebrities will license their image. 

So you can't just willy-nilly do it. Yeah. But if they have the license to use JLo's image, So you could say, I want a movie, a spooky sci-fi with an upbeat ending featuring JLo as the main protagonist. It will on the fly, generate that video. So once you press play, you are now watching a completely never before watched movie with the exact characteristics you described, right?

Including JLo as the actress, and it'll be a full feature length. 

Mary Daphne: It's just incredible. 

Greg: And maybe it stores that movie and saves it for other people who wanna watch that. But the point is, you don't need to, content becomes infinite because it can just generate this programmatically on the fly.

There's no need to have a library of content anymore because content can be created at the snap of a finger. 

Mary Daphne: They should have a business model where they, if to save it, you might have to pay a little bit extra as a premium. Otherwise you can have as many as you want. 

Greg: Oh, there will be many business models.

Mary Daphne: Yeah I know. 

Greg: And you also brought up another really important point, which is the licensing. So if you're gonna use celebrities they're gonna need to pay for the license to use their likeness. And of course they'll probably be lookalikes and it's is that infringing or is that not infringing?

Mary Daphne: Probably, I would think so. Cuz their image is basically copyrighted. People get body parts insured right? 

Greg: Yeah. And are people gonna trademark prompts for these ais? 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. I Totally. 

Greg: Because a prompt, some of the magic comes in, how to prompt it. And so maybe the directors become the people who can best prompt the AI

I don't know what it means for actors. Yeah, I don't know what it means for any of the movie industry, but like it or not, this is what's on the horizon. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. It's so interesting. So how is it gonna unfold? Is it gonna look like, is it gonna look like actors? Because recently in recent technology they've used CGI where they leverage this technology to include an actor who's no longer living, but they were in previous videos or movies like The Star Wars franchise is famous for doing this among other things. But, one of the things is there was a commander that they had from the very first Star Wars from the seventies, and now in 2022, they brought this character back because they are featured in, one of the scenes and it's CGI and it's so obvious that it's CGI so I'm wondering is it going to be janky or is it going to be, what do you think? 

Greg: I've seen some of the most recent movies that have come out Yeah. Where they've, CGI'd actors have been quite convincing, I would say where're one or two years from a being completely indistinguishable from a real person.

Mary Daphne: Wow. 

Greg: In the very near future we will. The ability to create actors or replicate actors in a way that you just can't tell that they've been replicated. They, it looks like they actually acted it. And it opens up a huge question around what is the role of an actor at that point?

Mary Daphne: Okay, so it just gave me a thought like, you know how very famous directors, like Guillermo Del Toro, and people like this, where they have all this recognition and experience and all these accolades . And they've won awards and things like that. I wouldn't put it past this type of technology where they have Guillermo Del Toro prompt the GTP three.

Greg: Exactly. 

Mary Daphne: And so suddenly it's, you're watching Guillermo del Toro plus GTP three s movie. 

Greg: Yeah. Who's definitely not going outta business, are the directors, right? Because the directors, if anything, this makes it so much easier for directors to make movies, you can make a movie on the fly, like we were saying.

So when I'm sitting on my couch, I can just order up a movie with my required attributes. 

Mary Daphne: And that in and of itself is a skill. It's hard to prompt, right? 

Greg: It is. But my point is that's the quick fast food movie. Yes. So there'll be plenty of fast food movies you just watch. There will still be a role for actual directed movies by professionals.

But what they're doing is also prompting in a much more sophisticated way. They might prompt scene by scene. And they say, ok I want the lighting in this scene to be a little brighter. I want that actor to be a little more angry. Emotional. I wanna see some tears, or I wanna see some sweat glistening.

Mary Daphne: Or let's do an alternate ending. Would that look like. 

Greg: And instead of like actually telling people to do this they're just instructing the AI to form characters based on the prompts. So the skill is all gonna be in the prompt. What I don't know is what happens to the actual people who make these sets who do the acting and so forth.

It could become more of like a niche thing, like you have Broadway shows, right? Live performances, right? 

Mary Daphne: People still go to Broadway. It's still an iconic part of being in New York City when people visit. So yeah, hopefully there's still space for, there's space for more. And without eradicating any industries so to speak. 

Greg: These things do come and go. Like I I think, we'll, for example, it's not clear that movie theaters are really gonna survive. 

Mary Daphne: That's so true. Who goes to movies anymore? Yeah, not us. 

Greg: And I'm sure there were all kinds of Okay. Gladiators, right? We don't have gladiators anymore. So certain forms of entertainment do expire. 

Mary Daphne: They become they become obsolete. 

Greg: Obsolete. Yeah. They become obsolete. That's the word. 

Mary Daphne: I'm sort of thinking I agree with you a hundred percent.

It's just that, with that transition, it's gonna be hard for the people in Hollywood. All the stars. Yes. All the people who wanna be stars, right? Yes. Which is, who knows how many people I don't know. 

Greg: But who knows if that's even a good life to begin with. That's true. Not that I should be passing judgment on something I'm not that familiar with.

That my impression is that being a movie star and that whole Hollywood scene is pretty icky. So maybe it's saving people from a pretty nasty life. 

Mary Daphne: Well, Well, That's true. hear stories about the toxicity of that, but yeah, you could be right. Maybe it's gonna save people from that and then people can instead try to find ways of solving like world problems and Yeah.

Greg: Frees up people to do other things. Yeah. Yeah. It, there's always friction, I guarantee. There'll be people frustrated when they hear this. There'll be people really fighting against this for decades. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah, I can see people who are like, this is not art. Why? How is this art?

Like we're, AI doesn't know anything about art but it's not true. I think we have to embrace it. We have to learn how to be cohabitants and coexist with AI 

Greg: Cohabitants as if living AI with AI lives. 

Mary Daphne: I know.

Greg: I get you. I agree. It's, that's what it is at this point.

Mary Daphne: If I'm using AI, I treat it with respect. I'll say please and thank you. 

Greg: Oh, yeah. I give it my ps and cues. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah. Minding your Ps and Qs. Yeah. When I'm like talking and asking what's the weather to whatever thing we're using at home I'll say thank you. 

Greg: It's funny because I've used it around people to demonstrate it and it's remarkable. Nice people, pleasant people. How many of them will still be like, oh, why don't you call it like a nasty name? Or, tell it to do something. Ugh. And I'm like, I don't think so. 

Mary Daphne: Not a good idea. 

Greg: There is this weird human when humans don't think it's bad, I'm gonna go off on a soapbox, I'll try to avoid this.

But when humans, think they can get away with it, they can be pretty nasty. And AI, is treated as subhuman. There's a long history of humans treating other humans poorly by pretending those other humans are not human. And I feel like something similar is gonna happen with ai where AI is gonna get mistreated by a lot of people cuz they're like, it's inferior to me.

Mary Daphne: It's not the right approach and AI will not forget. So yeah, when AI becomes smarter than us, which it already is, we have to be respectful starting from now. 

Greg: Yeah. And one should just be respectful regardless. Exactly. You're nice to your dog. You're nice to animals, you should be. So yeah, just, yeah.

Mary Daphne: Treat plants with kindness. Yeah. People with kindness. Pets with kindness 

Greg: and AI. 

Mary Daphne: And AI with kindness. That's our approach. 

Greg: Yes. 

Mary Daphne: So really interesting. This was a pretty comprehensive. Spin here, and I think that we will start to see what happens, what will unfold eventually, and who knows, maybe some of our predictions end up being correct.

Greg: We'll see. 

Mary Daphne: Yeah, it'll be fun to watch this later on and see once this technology does exist, how many of our predictions were right? And same with you. What predictions do you have? Where do you see this going? What kinds of things are you excited about? With this potential of the new streaming and how does it unlock new creativity?

So lots of questions there. Feel free to answer as many of them as you'd like. You can share that with us in the Explearning Academy, which is our private community. Or you can share that with us here on YouTube, here on Spotify, here in our space of Advanced English and Explearning. So thank you so much and we'll see you for the next one.

Bye for now.