Thank You, Netflix

I’m a little surprised by the negative reactions to Reed Hastings’sannouncement that Netflix is splitting its services into online streaming and DVD rentals.

When Netflix announced its price increases a few weeks ago, I evaluated my streaming queue and my DVD queue, thought about the costs, and decided to dump the DVD side of the service. So now I pay $7.99 per month — around 27 cents per day — for continual access to a spectacular selection of streaming television shows and movies. For that pittance I can watch most of the Star Trek series, CharmedThe Twilight Zone, and tons of other awesome shows, films, and documentaries. In what universe is that not a spectacularly amazing deal?

If I wanted, for another $7.99 per month I could rent DVDs, one at a time, without monthly limits. At least where I live, the Netflix DVD cycle takes around three days, meaning I could rent as many as (around) eight DVDs per month with this plan. (Realistically I’d probably cycle through around four per month.) In what universe is $2 or less DVD rentals not a spectacularly amazing deal? However, it just wasn’t quite a good enough deal for me, given the alternatives. Redbox rents new release videos for a dollar, we also use Hulu (the “free” version), and I purchased a couple seasons of House on used DVD. But I came close to dumping my other sources and going solely with Netflix and Hulu.

Think of it this way. If Netflix didn’t exist, and a new company suddenly came on the market to offer what Netflix now offers, a streaming service plus a DVD rental service, each for a low monthly price, people would fall all over themselves signing up and lauding the new service. Apparently, given that Netflix has been offering its customers such amazing value for so long now, the company now deserves derision and scorn rather than praise. I think that’s a little nuts and frankly a little ungrateful.

Now, I do see a problem with disconnecting the DVD queue from the streaming queue. The problem is that, when I (used to) put a DVD on my queue, and then the same item became available in streaming, the item appeared automatically in my streaming queue, and I didn’t burn a DVD rental on it. Now, if you get both services, you’ll have to manually add an item to streaming and delete it from the DVD queue.

However, Netflix seems to be anticipating — and I think correctly — that most people will come to want one service or the other, but not both. I think everything available for streaming is also available on DVD, and the opposite will increasingly become the case as time goes on. I can see why some people would prefer DVDs over streaming, though I definitely prefer streaming. I found this line from Hastings to be especially interesting: “DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible.” It will be interesting to see what happens as streaming gets faster and cheaper and the United States Postal Service continues to struggle financially.

For now I will simply offer my gratitude to Netflix and stand amazed at how much better my life has become in the Internet Age.

1 thought on “Thank You, Netflix”

  1. Comment by kazriko September 19, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    I feel mostly the same, but have a massive queue of DVDs built up that aren’t available for streaming yet. It was at 200 DVDs, but I’ve gone through and crunched it down to 130 (by deleting low rated ones I probably wouldn’t enjoy, and pushing all of the stuff available by streaming to the end past a divider so I can tell them apart) since this most recent announcement. I plan to watch through the queue then cancel the DVD service because of how hard they’re making it for the DVD and Streaming service to interact.

    I can see why they’re separating the sites though. In the process of moving things around, I noticed that there were some DVDs in my queue that weren’t tagged with the watch instantly flag, but were already in my instant watch queue. I imagine with the way they’re bundling streaming episodes into a single item, that it’s getting hard for them to keep the tables to link dvd to streaming updated.

    Comment by Ari September 19, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    I basically did the same thing; as soon as Netflix announced its price hikes, I prioritized my DVD queue so I could cancel it. I suspect a lot of people will do that over the next few weeks. Also think about marketing: it’s much easier to target DVD users and streamers, separately, rather than as one homogenous group.

    Comment by Realist Theorist September 19, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    As someone who uses both, and intended to continue to do so, I see no advantage to *me*.

    Presumably NetFlix thinks there will be an advantage to them. I think they’ve shown they’re an excellent company…up to this point. Not the pricing, but this split. There are many successful companies that manage far more complexity with ease.

    It shocks me that Netflix cannot manage these two business entities while also managing a bare minimum of integration between the two. I say “shocks” because Netflix has shown itself to be very well-managed, except for this professed inability to acheive a simple piece if integration.

    Comment by mtnrunner2 September 19, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    I think the point of contention is mainly just the clumsiness of the whole change. A 60% increase? An entirely different business? It’s not that streaming for $8 isn’t a good deal, but that the new arrangement is a bit of a shock. Granted I agree there are a lot of spoiled people in the world. I mean really, streaming video to your home. Come on.

    Odd that your area, which is just 20 or so miles north of me (Lakewood), takes one more day for DVDs. I consistently get a DVD back exactly two days after I drop it in the mail, which is about all I want to watch anyway.

    Just curious, do you have a streaming DVD player or TV and do you recommend it? I’ve considered getting one.

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