Ben Munson at FierceCable disagrees with my assessment of the new Philo OTT service. “Since all the programmers involved in the Philo launch are also strategic investors, the service also provides them with some degree of distribution ownership … There doesn’t seem to be any reason Philo won’t have a material impact for all involved.” I’ve been wrong before.

Brian Fung writes in The Washington Post that ATSC 3.0 is just another facet of the FCC’s broadcast TV changes that benefit media consolidation at the expense of localism. It’s really quite depressing.

And Troy Dreier at Streaming Media magazine has the right response to the typical newspaper hand-wringing about using OTT services to replace cable TV. The future of video has begun, and “we can all enjoy a variety of niche services that … we can now select from. Did I say select? No, apparently we’re forced to subscribe … to all of them.” Exactly! So many of those articles rebuild a matching set of pay-TV channels using streaming services, then complain that they’re about as expensive. Which is the opposite of the point of OTT – the ability to pick and choose which channels to buy. It’s not a la carte, but it’s the closest we’ve got for now.

 

The big news today is the rollout of Philo, a streaming TV service bundling 37 channels for $16/month or 46 for $20/month. Several reports on the new service point out that it has no sports channels and is therefore targeted to viewers who don’t care about sports.

That certainly is a skinny bundle, so skinny that it’s missing plenty besides sports. As Alex Weprin wrote at MediaPost, “Philo will not have programming from NBCUniversal, Disney, CBS, Turner or Fox, … in part because of their extensive sports programming.” So the premium Turner demands for baseball coverage on TBS meant that Philo couldn’t include CNN or Turner Classic Movies? FS1’s price meant no Fox News or FX?

It’s a truism that every person has favorite channels and thinks that the others are trash, but just look at that lineup. Will BBC World News and Cheddar provide enough news? Are there enough movies in that mix? Compare it to Sling Orange for $20/month including commercial-free movies, more news channels, and plenty of sports that you are free to ignore.

Philo reminds me of Pluto TV, not just because the names are similar. Both offer a few dozen ad-supported entertainment channels, and both are free to watch for the first week. The difference, after that first week, is $16/month. I just don’t see Philo’s appeal at all.

 The Flying Deuces (1939) on IMDb

I hope this won’t spoil your enjoyment of the rest of this list, but The Flying Deuces is the only Laurel and Hardy movie in the Internet Archive Top 100. Its fast pace and “Shine On Harvest Moon” dance number make it an excellent representative for the boys’ talents.

Ollie suffers a broken romance and joins the French Foreign Legion to forget. Stan comes along, of course. And of course the boys have no idea of the rough business they’ve just volunteered for. It’s a wonderful comedy, and I’m grateful that there’s at least one L&H in the IA.

Bay Area BTV screen capture with program guide

The Bay Area BTV user interface. (Click to enlarge.)

Didja, the company behind Phoenix BTV and Bay Area BTV, recently dropped three Katz Broadcasting diginets from both services. Bounce, Escape, and Grit had been part of both lineups at their launches but are now gone or inactive.

In an email sent to Phoenix subscribers Friday afternoon, Didja announced that it had added the Charge! diginet but “Unfortunately, we are temporarily unable to provide Grit, Escape and Bounce on (sic) PhoneixBTV. We hope to bring you these channels again soon. In the meantime, if you are a fan of these channels, send us (an email) and let us know!”

Subscribers who click the grayed Bounce listings on the program guide see the message: “Bounce is not currently available on PhoenixBTV. If you’re a fan of Bounce and would like to see it return, please let us know at …” Which sounds like a trial balloon to see whether regaining Katz’s content would be worth whatever that would cost.

At Bay Area BTV, those three channels are simply gone, as if they had never been there. That service has a wider variety of channels still available and different DVR pricing; it seems likely that Didja is trying different experiments in different markets.

Jeff Baumgartner wrote last month, “Didja’s service carries only the broadcast networks via its OTT service that have offered consent, and access to those lineups are limited to the consumers if they are currently in the local area.” (Or if they know how to pretend to be in the local area.) Didja’s CEO hopes to eventually offer a lineup of 60-70 channels per market including the major networks. That’s going to take a lot of paid additions, and at the moment, Didja might be going in the other direction.

 

 Oh, Mr. Porter! (1937) on IMDb

Will Hay was very big in the UK in 1937, and Oh, Mr. Porter! is a good example why. Instead of his usual schoolmaster roles, here he plays a stationmaster in Northern Ireland on the border with Ireland. He renovates the station, then gets involved with gunrunners posing as ghosts.

The British Film Institute included this movie in its 360 Classic Feature Films list. TV Cream, a British nostalgia web site, listed it at number 41 of cinema’s Top 100 Films. Leonard Maltin gave it 3½ stars, which is one reason why it’s 33 in the Internet Archive Top 100.