Netflix: Summer Solutions for Busy Parents

Help make your summer easier and less expensive

by: Erica Ehm

Netflix: Summer Solutions for Busy Parents

Summertime just got easier for parents thanks to the new Netflix Families portal (www.netflix.com/families).

Be honest.

How many of you have to deal with "I'm Boooooored" all summer long? (ME!)


Who has had trouble finding one movie to watch at home that will entertain the whole family? (ME!)


Whose kids have stumbled on inappropriate shows online while trying to stem their boredom? (ME!)


How many of you have put your kids in front of the TV for short periods to keep them entertained while you snuck in some work? (ME!)

A lot of the discussion I was part of at the Stream Team blogger session at Netflix Headquarters in the Silicon Valley recently lasered in on family viewing. If you haven't read my first post about Everything You Need to Know about Netflix, you should hop over there now for a quick recap.

I'll wait.

Entertaining kids with safe, age-appropriate, high-quality programming is a challenge for parents, especially during the summer. This is why Netflix is investing a ton of dollars and development on enhancing Netflix for families. Here are some highlights you should know about to help make your summer easier and less expensive.

Netflix Families Section

Did you know there is a brand new Netflix Families portal (www.netflix.com/families) that was created especially for busy families? I didn't. It is filled with how-to tips on streaming, plus custom-made suggestions just for parents. When you turn on Netflix with your kids, this is the area you should be in this summer. No inappropriate film or TV options. All family-friendly programming, commercial-free, all the time. 

Ready When You Are

One of the awesome perks of Netflix is that it's on demand. When your kids are melting down (or you are), their favorite shows are always ready to be streamed with a click of a button. Need some time to make dinner? No prob. Time for a quick dose of Handy Manny. Got a client call you have to make? An episode of My Little Pony will give you around 20 minutes of quiet time. And it's not just for your kids. When your little ones are down for a nap, that's when you can take your iPad back to watch Breaking Bad or Mad Men.

So Many Shows To Choose From

Right now in Canada, Netflix has relationships with some of the top television producers for children's programming. Cartoon Network (Adventure Time, Ben 10, Regular Show, Johnny Bravo), Hasbro Studios (My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, Transformers Prime, Transformers Rescue, Bots, Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters, Littlest Pet Shop) and Disney Jr. (Jojo’s Circus and Handy Manny). Just recently added to the roster is Magic School Bus and an exclusive tween mermaid series called H20: Just Add Water.

In fact, there are lots of shows that are exclusive to Netflix Canada. So, the only place your kids will be able to stream movies like Ice Age: Continental Drift, Rio, Puss in Boots or Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked will be through Netflix. Just this week Netflix announced an exclusive deal with mega-producers Dreamworks (Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon) for a ton of original family programming premiering on Netflix later this year.

It's NOT Just about the Kids

Thank you Netflix for acknowledging my existence. If you visit www.netflix.com/families now, you'll notice a bunch of curated rows of shows that have nothing to do with kids. Instead there's a section called Catch Up TV for Busy Parents and Movies Based on Bestsellers. If the kids are outside playing in the backyard, grab your iPad and get some me-time viewing in. Or take them out for a really long bike ride so they drag themselves to bed early. Movie night for deserving parents!

Common Sense Media Reviews

I'm also applauding Netflix for creating a partnership with Common Sense Media. If you're not familiar with this organization, you should check them out! They create independent and transparent reviews of programming to help parents and kids watch age appropriate shows. Now, when you click on any show featured on Netflix, you will find a Common Sense review and rating to help you make informed decisions. A great example of this is their review of Hunger Games, a film that's hard to categorize but definitely not in the kids section based on their recommendation.

Parental Controls

So let's say your kids haven't logged into the Families area for some reason. You can still have some control as to what content they can or cannot see on Netflix. With your subscription, there is a Parental Control feature you can enable which will only show them programs appropriate for their age and stage.

Summers Are Expensive!

Between summer camps and family expeditions, I am bleeding dollars. Taking my family to a movie costs around $50 — not including popcorn! Argghh! Just for savings alone, www.netflix.com/families is a life saver. For $7.99 a month everyone in our family can stream shows either alone or as a family commercial free. We can grab the iPad or laptop or even the smartphone when the kids are climbing the walls and wherever we are we just log in and watch. Hotels, in the car or at the grandparents, we're handled. 

I plan to work less and play more this summer. More running around with the kids, bike riding, adventuring, and picnicking. But there will be those work days or rainy afternoons when we all need a little down time. That's when Netflix gets turned on for a little sanity-saving session. Know what I mean? 


Taylor Swift Concert Style

No Wardrobe Malfunction Here

by: Erica Ehm

Taylor Swift Concert Style

This past Saturday I took my 9-year-old daughter to see Taylor Swift's Red Tour at the Rogers Centre in Toronto along with 45,000 other mothers and daughters. It was a special night for us — it was my daughter's first concert, which I consider a rite of passage from girlhood to tweendom. Of course my daughter and I got all dressed up for the show, because a Taylor Swift show is all about style. 

So rather than review the show's songs, which you already know from the radio, I thought it would be more fun to show you a variety of stylish outfits Taylor Swift wore onstage for her concert. She made her grand entrance wearing a black porkpie hat, a demure long-sleeved white satin top and skinny black pants.

The theme for the night was red — Taylor's fave colour. I didn't capture them on camera, but an accessory highlight for me was her sparkly red flats that matched her bold red lipstick.  Even her microphone was covered in red sparkles.

The next look was a gorgeous red short halter top bodysuit designed by Marina Toybina with a flowing long red shirt open in the front showing off her long legs. (How tall is she anyway?) But the skirt stayed on for only one song, and in a flash was replaced with this simpler short white polka-dotted skirt more appropriate for banjo picking.

The thing I loved about Taylor Swifts costumes? They were age appropriate for her mostly teen girl audience. From the tasteful, button-up silk shirt above or the high school look below, this is a girl I want my daughter to emulate. A simple black and white long sleeved shirt designed by Michael Kors, red jeans by La Joie and a varsity style jacket designed by Charlotte Russe, her hair pulled back into a simply high ponytail made clean cut hip. She reminded me of Betty from the Archies.

Then, in a quick-change flash, preppy Taylor Swift disappeared, emerging in a stunning Cinderella-inspired gown designed by Alexander McQueen. I loved the juxtapositioning of Taylor belting out her tunes and controlling the stage, yet wearing a romantic, old-fashioned gown. I can only imagine every girl in the room wanted to be Taylor Swift at that very moment.

And from the light, we go to the darker style side. Black corset with short black shorts and high black boots was a little racy for the little girls in the audience — much more Madonna S&M territory than I was expecting for my 9-year-old daughter. 

A gorgeous black buster-style top with a semi-open back and a playful tulle Moschino skirt which glowed ethereally under the spotlight. The simple black and white combination is strong and elegant on stage. Her bold red lips finish the look off perfectly. No wardrobe malfunctions here.

She slips off stage while the band plays for another quick stage, and comes out wearing this! Just wow — a gorgeous princess gown designed by J Mendel perfect for her song Love Story. I could almost hear 45,000 moms and daughters sigh with satisfaction when she hit the stage, sparkling in this gorgeous gown with a (literally) handsome prince by her side. 

The show ended with a glittering fashion bang! Taylor Swift's last outfit was designed by Marina Troybina — perfect for the ringmaster of a rock'n roll circus! The teen audience screamed their appreciation for their 22-year-old role model who wowed them with poise, positivity and a serious onstage wardrobe.

In my day, we used to run to the record store and buy the artist's record after a concert. But all my daughter and I want to do after this show is go shopping for clothes! It's awesome having a daughter!

Sometimes it's not about what you, but what you DON'T wear. You can read about the time I posed topless to make a statement.


Netflix: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

What to watch and how

by: Erica Ehm

Netflix: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

"How would you like to come to fly to Silicon Valley for an inside look at Netflix?" 

Call it irony, synchronicity, or "beshert" that the invite popped into my inbox while I was watching one of my coveted episodes of the beloved Mad Men series on my iPad via Netflix.
File this under offers I can't refuse. I agreed to be part of the #StreamTeam—bloggers from around the world who were invited to hang out at Netflix for a couple of days, meet the CEO and the innovative team behind this tech startup, and get a look at the programming plans for the coming year.
NetFlix StreamTeam

Why was I so excited to visit Netflix headquarters?

On a personal level, my family's viewing habits have changed substantially since we hooked up Netflix through our Wii to watch on our big screen TV. Weekend nights you will often find us all cuddled on the sofa taking in a movie we've (miraculously) all agreed upon. And when we're on vacation, my kids whip out the iPad at the hotel for some quick and easy entertainment. Night times, my hubby and I watch our fave shows—sometimes together on the big TV. Often separately, (for me—Mad Men; for him—Breaking Bad) each on our own iPads.

From a business perspective, the chance to meet the innovators who are shaking up the entertainment industry with leading edge technology and strategies would be nothing short of inspirational for a small biz owner.

Also, let's be honest, to be able to connect with experienced big-name bloggers behind sites like Dooce, Girl's Gone Child, Alpha Mom, and Rage Against the Minivan, as well as a dozen other international parenting bloggers was a networking bonanza.
Netflix #StreamTeam

So I took one for the team and spent a day and a half learning (almost) everything there is to know about Netflix to share with you. 

Netflix is Huge and Growing

With over one billion hours of content streaming every month, Netflix is currently the largest paid streaming video service in the world. With a staff of 1,000, the company is diligently inventing new technology for end users like us to watch and share content in the most simple way. 

Watch Netflix on over 1,000 devices...and Counting

We're able to stream Netflix programming on over 1,000 devices with the number constantly rising as more tablets, computers, smartphones, smart TVs, and players hit the market. Each device functions and presents differently, so there is a ton of backend programming to optimize the experience for each device. Of course this is something I never even think about when I turn on my Wii or iPad. I just want it to work. We learned how incredibly difficult it is to simplify every single process, from connecting to Netflix, signing in, and ultimately curating the right content for each viewer to be displayed in the most user-friendly way.

What I didn't realize is that you can start a show on one device and finish it on another. Netflix saves your place for you. Cool, eh?

What's Most Popular at Netflix

  • Of all 1,000 devices that stream Netflix, most popular devices are PlayStation3 (PS3) and iPad.
  • Prison Break is consistently the most popular series in every market around the world (Yup, folks at Netflix are surprised too).
  • Most viewed show in Canada is (drum roll please) 90210.

Why Is Netflix Programming Different in Canada?

This is the big question! Why are certain shows not available to Canadian audiences? Conversely, why are there shows ONLY licensed for Canadian viewing? Interestingly, the bloggers from each of the various countries represented (England, Ireland, Brazil, Finland, Mexico, Sweden, Denmark) each were wondering the same thing as it relates to their country. The short answer is Netflix has to navigate the often messy task of licensing each show per territory because that's the standard why broadcasters and producers have been selling shows around the world. Netflix is an international streaming company, which is new territory for licensers. But rather than me answering, I went directly to the source and shot a short Q & A with the Director of Content Acquisition for Domestic TV, Andy Yeatman. Watch it here.

Your Behaviour is Curating Netflix Programming

Without wanting to freak you out, you should know that Netflix is watching how you interact with their service. They compile information about what you watch, how long you watch it and how and where you stream your shows. This behavorial information is part of their Big Data which informs the algorithm to curate those personalized horizontal tiles on your Netflix home page. Basically, they will show you more recommendations based on what you watch. What I didn't realize is that those sliding rows of shows are just a small percentage of all the content available on Netflix. You can also type in genres, actors, directors or show names in the search bar for a ton of other relevant programming.

Not only are you helping Netflix decide what to show you, your behaviour will also help inform the acquisition team to better understand what Canadians are into. Shows which see very little traffic are eventually dropped from their programming. Popular shows will be relicensed whenever possible. So vote with your eyeballs. The more of a show you watch, the better chance it will have of staying on Netflix.

Netflix David Watson

Netflix is Focused on Families

Did you know that your kids are just two clicks away from something explicit on YouTube? Netflix is investing a huge amount of time, energy and dollars into a safe family friendly programming experience for kids 12 and under. In fact, they've built an entirely separate Just For Kids interface. And for Netflix, it's not just good business. It's personal. Almost everyone we met from the staff is a proud parent passionate about delighting kids with awesome age appropriate content. It was entertaining listening to Todd Yellin, head of Product Innovation at Netflix, shared how he noticed kid-centric titles Caillou showing up beside indie-trash film Zombie Strippers in his family's personalized Netflix Recommended bars. That personal experience prompted him to create a safer environment to keep his (and our) kids away from inappropriate adult programming.


Personalizing Your Netflix Experience Even More

Going back to the problem Todd Yellin had with his choice of shows clashing with his kids' viewing habits was a result of having only one profile per family. The recommendations Netflix algorithms create for you is based on the combined viewing patterns of everyone in your household. That clearly wasn't working for families with a variety of viewing styles. So, BREAKING NEWS. Netflix is currently rolling out a feature allowing different customizable profiles per account! Once your build each member of your family's profile, each of you will begin to see age-appropriate shows based on your taste. So no more Zombie Strippers beside Caillou for your toddler. The most controversial kids programming on Netflix you'll have to deal with is when little boys choose to watch My Little Pony!

From Curation to Production

This is a huge shift in the Netflix business model. Historically just a content curator, this tech company has jumped into the entertainment business and is shaking up the way television is being produced. Traditionally broadcasters shoot a pilot, and if successful, they'll invest in a short series. Netflix did it differently. Their first self-produced series, House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey, went straight into a full season of production with a 26 episode commitment without any pilot—which is unheard of in conventional TV production circles. Based on their big data (which your viewing habits contributed to) Netflix producers already knew Kevin Spacey is a big draw on their platform, and shows in this genre are well watched by Netflix subscribers world wide. Plus, instead of launching each episode weekly as per traditional TV, they posted every single episode simultaneously, letting viewers decide how they'd like to consume the show. The response has been amazing and cast and crew are currently shooting the next season to launch exclusively on Netflix in February 2014.

House of Cards Netflix

Their next big exclusive series Arrested Development just launched amidst huge media hooplah. Fans of the defunct American cult comedy series were thrilled to be able to stream a whole season of new episodes of Bluth families misadventures.

Now Netflix is also getting into production of children's programming. They just signed a sweet deal with mega producers Dreamworks to create a kids series based on the upcoming animated film Turbo F.A.S.T. Once again, all episodes of the series will be posted at the same time so kids can stream as many episodes whenever and however they'd like. And because they own the series, like Arrested Development and House of Cards, Netflix is the only place you can see these shows worldwide.

The Value Proposition

My monthly bill for Netflix is $7.99 — this cost covers unlimited streaming of unlimited shows on unlimited devices. Compare this to the cost of renting one movie you watch once and return. And don't even get me started on the cost of traditional cable with all their additional fees for different channels. I'm not yet an official Cord Cutter (someone who only watches streaming TV vs traditional cable), although my family's viewing habits are definitely heading that way. Between YouTube and Netflix, I'm happy to say my kids rarely watch TV littered with sugar-cereal-fuelled ads.

I haven't managed to squeeze in all the cool stuff I learned during my short Netflix on-site immersion in this post. Why don't you share your experience with Netflix so far below. What do you think of the service? Did you know all of this already about Netflix? Anything you're wondering about that I may be able to answer?

Gotta go. Time to jump on my treadmill and watch Mad Men on my iPad.

Mad Men on Netflix