Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Netflix Dilemma

Let me begin by saying that I have been a loyal Netflix customer since 2002.  It has gotten me through some really terrible times.  My ruptured kidney, torn achilles... and a broken heart or two.  I have come to rely on these little red envelopes and the ability to catch more movies than I ever thought possible.  

And, it was really convenient.  It became even more so when they announced their streaming service.  I had thought streaming to a tv was something that was 3-5 years off at the time - but devices such as Roku helped lead the way to the tv set itself.  And, it was easy.  

With all of the PR bungles Netflix has made in the last 3 months, it is certainly taken the tarnish off a company I once loved.  It's not the ignorance they showed with the price hike, or the lame apology sent by Reed Hastings that has put me off.  $16 bucks for unlimited streaming and mail order dvd's is still the best deal on the market (trust me, I checked).  Hulu Plus has a small feature film library, and they don't offer many tv shows that I'm interested in.  Blockbuster is $10/month, only available through the Dish Network - and they have 30% less titles than Netflix.  Amazon Prime is becoming a viable alternative, but you still have to pay for rentals and the like - and costs would be like the old days of Blockbuster.  No, it is not the price hike that has pissed me off.

It is two-fold.  The first is the spinning off of the mail order and streaming services.  Two separate bills, two separate credit card charges each month.  I have a queue that is cultivated over 9 years now.  Apparently that will be lost.  Vanished.  For a complete film loser like myself that is devastating.  And while the charges are currently the same, spinning them off into separate charges makes it easier for Netflix to slowly creep those up over time.  You wouldn't be viewing them as an aggregate charge, but separate ones.  So it wouldn't be so blatant.  I knew deep down this was coming, it was natural.  But none of it sits well.  And how they're handling it sucks.

The second reason is the lack of independent titles they have been securing the rights to.  As I just said, Netflix still has the best selection.  But I don't see that lasting for long.  They have slowly been acquiring studio and major network titles, and disregarding the independent titles.  Part of the reason is the way they view the value of a title.  For the mail order DVD's, if you add a title to your queue it is part of the computation.  But for streaming, it isn't.  And since Netflix is trying to push everyone to streaming, where do you think this is heading?  If they are only counting titles that are streamed, not that are added - then it will be a depot for successful or studio titles.  It will no longer be the place to go for undiscovered or festival gems.  

And this depresses me.  I just hope an alternative springs up in its place.  The door is wide open for such a company.  It may even be a smart move to start an 'independent streaming service' - where you focus on independent titles, and cultivating an independent community - and even acting as a purveyor of all things indie.  IFC has a great opportunity, but they focus on their own titles.  We need an aggregator.  If only I had a few million to start licensing titles...

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