Mill Creek 50 Movie Collection: Mad Scientist Theater

One of Mill Creek’s inexpensive movie collections

Seriously long-term readers of this blog might remember Mill Creek Entertainment. I mentioned these folks way back in 2010 as a source of classic public domain movies after White Springs TV went off the air. At the time, the Internet Archive’s movie collection was still skimpy, and broadband internet was less common, so a lot more people could watch a Mill Creek DVD than download a movie.

A few months ago, Mill Creek flipped that paradigm on its head by releasing a series of movie packs on its Watch Mill Creek online platform. For less than $5, about a quarter of the price of the DVD equivalent, you can buy 50 online movies in one of several flavors: Crime Wave, Cowboy Legends, Icons of Comedy, Mad Scientist Theater (pictured), and many more. Once purchased, that owned content is available through a Roku app and most web browsers to watch as often as you want.

The online movie packs don’t match up with any particular old Mill Creek DVD collection, but the titles are very familiar. Most of these are available at the Internet Archive, but Mill Creek’s better user interface might be worth a few dollars for the convenience of calling up one of your favorites on demand. And their email specials, such as this Mad Scientist pack for a dollar at Halloween or a special free Thanksgiving sampler, are another reason to sign up.

There’s also a smattering of non-public domain available for purchase, such as It’s Ernest (the Jim Varney TV show), Archie’s Weird Mysteries, and Liberty’s Kids, but when it comes to Mill Creek, I’m looking for the quantity entertainment of 50-movie packs. These flicks might not be worth much, but they might be worth their asking price and even a little more.

 

 

I was reminded today why I often find it hard to write anything on Fridays. That seems to be the day of the week when all the bad news comes out.

Ben Munson at FierceCable wrote about reactions to the FCC’s vote yesterday to relax media ownership rules to make it easier for broadcasters to own newspapers in their markets, and to own multiple TV stations. Supporters thought it was a gift to broadcast groups such as Sinclair, and opponents thought it was a gift to Sinclair Broadcasting.

Brian Heater at TechCrunch rounded up the evidence that the FCC will vote to kill Net Neutrality next month. There’s another case where on a Monday I might have exhorted you to call your legislators to fight to keep equal treatment for all bits, but on Friday I just see a future where Comcast charges extra for OTT services it doesn’t own.

And there’s news, also from Munson, that Sinclair is going full speed ahead on ATSC 3.0 just hours after the FCC voted to allow the broadcast standard. According to a Reuters story, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the new technology would force consumers to buy new televisions. “The FCC calls this approach market driven. That’s right — because we will all be forced into the market for new television sets or devices.” On the other hand, Sinclair calls it “the Holy Grail” because it will tells them who is watching and where, so there are privacy concerns.

There must be some good news in the middle of all this. Maybe I’ll find it on Monday.

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.

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.