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Netflix for Skateboarding? ETN Review!

Today we’re taking a look at ETN Network, which is a paid streaming service, kind of like a Netflix for skateboarding shows. A lot of people have asked me to take a look at it, but what does ETN have to offer? There’s a lot of stuff on there. There’s contest coverage like Street League, Tampa Am, that kind of stuff. You have a live game show that they do, which is pretty cool. They have a bunch of other things. One of the big benefits of having a paid Network is that they have a budget to have pro skaters, Pro filmers, travel to different places and see different areas. So we’ll take a look at all the stuff that they have to offer.

My plan is to do the one-week trial. Basically, if you sign up for a monthly subscription at 8 bucks a month, they give you the first week for free. You can cancel during that week and they won’t charge you, or you can do the year-long subscription and cancel anytime in the first month. I went for the week, just because I don’t trust anybody it seems a little lower risk if they “accidentally” charge you or something like that. Been in that situation a lot of times. So I decided to sign up for it, and I’m gonna take a look at all the different shows and show you what they’re like. But one thing I want to point out is that I was watching these all on my computer because I have to do a screen capture and stuff. They do also have an app but the web interface is kinda not great. They use a Flash player, which is really out of date. Not very secure. Really slow. Kind of weird that they’re still using Flash, but it also just didn’t look that great. You have trouble scrubbing around the timeline. It would glitch out for a while, and also the sound didn’t work at all. I would have a video playing in one tab in YouTube or something and switch back to ETN, hit play, volume is all the way up, and I’m getting nothing. I went to start up my screen capture program to show you me turning the volume on, and nothing happening. But the volume played through the screen capture. It was really weird. I had to watch it in my screen capture and not the actual video. Really weird. I could probably have figured it out, but I don’t know why it was so messed up. But just something to point out. Their web player is a little out of date, but there the app and all that kind of stuff. But let’s get into the shows.

The first show is called Redemption. It’s all about taking a skater back to get a trick that they couldn’t get before. So far, there’s only one episode, which is a theme you’ll see quite a few times in this review. It’s got titles and graphics set for it, and you’d think that they’ll probably make more, but you just never know. I have a feeling that they wanted to launch a bunch of shows at the same time so they would look really busy. I’ll let you be the judge on that. The only episode is of Diego Najera. Funny story, he and I used to share a deck sponsor. Sure, I was getting a discount and he had a pro model, but still. It’s cool to see how far he came. He’s doing this kickflip over a picnic table the long way. It’s a 16 minute video, and he’s narrating it. Annoyingly, it’s all phone voice quality, which kind of sucks. The idea is cool though. It’s interesting to hear about what’s going on in his head as he works out the trick. This is very similar to NKA’s behind the clips series. But in theory, it has more reach. You could potentially see some bigger names on here. But with only one episode, time will tell.

The second show is called Get Lost. Basically, they do a overview of what it’s like to skate and live in a certain city – Berlin, in this case. They meet up with local skaters, show you what the spots are like, what the culture is like surrounding skating, and that kind of stuff. How often do you get kicked out, what do people think when they see you skating in the streets. But they also do stuff about the night life, and talk about the local drinking and smoking culture. It’s 18 minutes long, and I really like the idea, but again, there’s only one episode. It’s really the perfect idea for ETN though. You used to see stuff like this on 411 or OnVideo, but you won’t see anything like this on YouTube. My average video, if I’m lucky, might make around $5. A huge channel like Braille might make a couple of hundred, but even that’s nowhere near the amount you’d need to actually fund a trip to Europe and make something like this.

But while I was watching this video, I started to notice that it didn’t really look that good. It maxes out at 720p, and even with that, the frame rate started to get pretty bad. I’ve got a pretty decent video editing rig here and a good internet connection. The problem wasn’t on my end. Keep an eye on this throughout the review. You’ll see a lot of frame dropping and resolution drops.

The third show is called Foooour Wheels Live. This is another really cool one that you won’t get anywhere else. It’s a game show for pro skaters. There’s an audience, some prize money, and a pretty good host too. Here’s how it works – each skater will have to do a trick, which is randomly decided by these 4 wheels. One will pick the spot, one will pick the stance to do the trick in, one will pick the type of trick – like a flip trick, spin + flip trick, grind, or whatever else. And the last one is what makes it interesting. This is an extra challenge that will spice it up, like having to do it with your pockets stuffed, like you see here with Marc Johnson.

Another one is doing it with wind, like they did here with this giant fan. Brandon Westgate had to do a fakie grind on this, and he somehow pulled it off. Another time, Brandon had to hop a fence before every try, but they spiced it up by hiding the key to the fence in this wheelbarrow of pennies. The show counts everything in pennies. The random tricks are given a difficulty rating, which translates into how many tens of thousands of cents they’re worth. In the end, whoever has more gets to keep their money. I thought this show  was really cool. I had a good time watching it. It’s fun, high energy, and you get to see some skating you never thought you would.

The fourth show is called Face Melters. This is a live show where somebody skates at a spot. This one is at the Staples Center hubba, where Taylor Kirby is planning to do a front smith on it. This show seems like it’s pretty official. You can see cones set up in the street, nobody comes to kick them out or anything. I get the impression that they got permits and they’re doing everything legal and legit for this one. The show starts with a little hype video about the spot and what makes it so impressive. Geoff Rowley is talking about how high it is, and how you have to go crazy fast and commit 100%. Then we cut to it live. With a live feed of a skate spot, you never really know what’s going to happen. It’s not just a fun session, it’s a guy trying to get a certain trick. He could land it first try and then it’s over, or he could work on it for a half hour and give up. You just don’t know, and I think that’s the appeal here. It was cool to see how something like this would go down. Like, he does the first attempt without even waxing it. Do pros use wax? Yes, but apparently not very much. At least not on a really huge steep spot like this. Get enough on there to prevent hangups, but not so much that you’ll slip out. In most of the episodes, there are 2 skaters, which is probably more interesting than this one. In this case, Taylor hurt his heel and his ankle and he had to stop. Maybe he’ll be on the next episode of Redemption. I watched a couple more of these and had a good time.

The fifth show is CPH open, which is footage of a Copenhagen contest series, where they do a best trick competition and some other things. The part that I jumped to was just this. Two angles of an unedited best trick contest. There’s no commentary or anything, even though you see some people holding microphones. I don’t know if that was a technical problem or if that was just coverage from someone else. It started to get a little boring after a while. I jumped around and got to a best trick contest on a real street rail. They edited together all the best tricks and showed what it was like. This part was pretty cool. You’ll see a lot of contest coverage here on ETN. This one probably wasn’t the best.

Another example of a contest series on here is Street League. This is basically what you’d expect. I watched the women’s final for a while. They’ve got really good graphics and supers and production value and everything. I don’t need to explain what Street League is like but you basically know what to expect. If you’re into this, this is probably one of the best reasons to get ETN. There’s also stuff like Tampa Am and some other contests to check out.

The seventh show I’m going to cover is Topical Paradise with Chris Nieratko. It’s a talk show where Chris has guests on and they talk about big topics in skateboarding, like fashion, the olympics, and girls in skateboarding. It’s about 25 minutes. This one is Leticia Bufoni – at least, he calls her Leti-sha. On Street League, the announcer called her Leti-see-a. She doesn’t correct him, but he can’t even say Nora Vasconcello’s name, so I don’t know. Anyway, the first thing you’ll probably notice is the set. It looks terrible, but it seems like it’s on purpose. There’s something about skateboard talk shows, not that there at that many, but there’s something about them that people think they have to look terrible. I don’t really know why. Do you remember the Captain and Casey show? They also have a fake audience, which is also common for some reason.

Anyway, it’s kind of a generic interview about how they got started in skateboarding and stuff like that. They cut to an interview in the field with some random people. This one needs a little work. Hopefully it gets a little more polished with time. At some point, even the guests were making fun of the show.

I don’t think they really tackled the topic all that well this time. But the show has a lot of potential because of the reach. They could get all kinds of skaters on here. So I hope it gets more polished in time.

Eighth is Kamikazes, which is another live contest thing. It’s really weird though. Basically they just go to this hill and have people race down it and try to get the lowest time. They set it up like this is a series, but this is the only episode. There’s not much else to say about this really. I think you’ve gotten a pretty good look at what it’s like.

The ninth show is called Disaster Series, which is a ramp contest series. I use ‘series’ lightly, of course, because there’s only one episode. They have these two trucks set up and have a ramp built between them. It’s a really cool ramp that they have built here, and they have a bunch of skaters here for a jam contest. Winner takes $5,000, everyone else gets nothing. Like most of the other live shows, this one is pretty awkward and uncomfortable. The hosts don’t really know what’s going on most of the time. The rules don’t seem entirely clear. There’s a really long awkward wait between the introductions and the contest while they wait to figure out who’s “winning”, even before there have been any runs. When they finally start the time, a couple skaters drop in at the same time. I didn’t think they knew that they had to take turns.

But the rules are that you can skate until you bail, pretty much. You know how on the X Games or Street League or anything else like that, they interview the skaters before the contest and they talk about what they plan on doing, or what they landed in practice and that kind of stuff? Not here. The announcers basically just yell the skater’s name as they skate.

At one point, Al Partanen is holding his mic wrong and you can barely hear him. Again, it just kind of comes across as unpracticed and unplanned. It would get better with time, but who knows if they’ll ever do another episode. After a little while, the quality dropped way down for a little bit. I wasn’t using my internet for anything other than this, so I think the problem was on their end. Pretty annoying. It’s really cool seeing more ramp stuff though. I grew up on X Games vert, doubles and best trick, so I’m always happy to see more transition. I have high hopes for this series, but time will tell if they iron out the kinks.

The last show I’m going to talk about is Jumping Fences. This is live, again. It’s a lot like Face Melters, but it’s got a different vibe. It’s a whole team going to a spot and just casually skating it. But it’s more authentic. They don’t have permits and stuff like that, like you’d expect from the name. They risk getting kicked out or ticketed or whatever. In this one, the Birdhouse team goes to an ‘Undisclosed Location’, which is immediately revealed as Rodondo High School.

This one is cool because it’s a more laid back session. People are just doing tricks. You’re more likely to see more stuff landed than on Face Melters because it’s not video part level stuff. It’s kind of like a best trick contest, but less structured. There’s no professional commentary though, just David Loy is micc’ed up, and he’s talking about how hurt his elbow is. Part way through, he decides to start talking to other people there to liven it up. But they go for a while, you see some tricks, then they get kicked out. What happens when they get kicked out? Well you get to watch them drive to the next spot, live. They’ve got a graphic ready for that, because they’re expecting it to happen. I don’t know why this isn’t an edited segment. If this was a ten minute documentary and it was narrated, kind of like a Day in the Life segment, that would be a lot better. Luckily, since I was watching the recording, I could jump around. If I was really watching it live, I probably would have bailed out at this point. They go to this giant set where Jaws wants to ollie over the rail. It’s kind of cool seeing how they do crowd control and seeing the reactions from the people who are there. But there’s a ton of downtime. It gets exciting when he finally starts trying the trick though, and you see his process for working up to something this huge. He rolls up to it a couple times, and between attempts, he locks fingers with people to take their ‘energy’. That must be his secret. Anyway, it starts to get exciting, and he does finally put it down and roll away. It was sick to see this go down, semi-live.

There are a few more shows announced, like Holyland, Lunch Money, and How High. These weren’t up during my trial, and I don’t know anything about them.

So what’s the final verdict on ETN? I just don’t know yet. With so many of the different series only having one episode, it’s hard to tell what it’s gonna be like moving forward. Are they gonna cancel most of those shows and leave them only at one episode forever? Are they gonna be able to maintain all of those shows moving forward forever? I just don’t know what it’s gonna look like in a year. But one problem I do have is the focus on doing everything live, with the awkward hosts and a lot of downtime. It just seems like it would be better served to be edited down. And I also think that that might be one of the technological problems that makes it limited to 720p. I saw on one of the face melters episodes I watched, they’re shooting on a Red camera, which can do a lot more than 720, so I don’t know. If they focus more on edited mini documentary type of content, that would be something that would be interested in more, but that’s up to you. You’ve seen all the types of stuff that they have done. So it’s up to you to decide whether it looks interesting to you or not. But as for me, I did cancel my subscription, and unless I edit anything in right here … then they didn’t do any weird charges that they shouldn’t have. The thing is that, for me, although I really liked most of the series and I had a really good time watching it, I just really don’t have the time to fit it into my skateboarding research because I’m watching skateboarding all the time. I’m just watching an old 411 issue, I’m watching an old video from the 90s to try to figure out when this guy first did this trick. That kind of stuff. So for me, if I’m trying to watch all this new content, hours’ worth every week on top of it, it would crowd into the channel and be worse for you guys. But that’s just me. That’s the weird position I’m in. So if it looked interesting to you, go ahead and check it out. But that’s what I have to say about my free trial.

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