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.