Monday, September 19, 2011

Quickly Leaving Netflix

It all started with the DVD Christmas Special of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. That was when Netflix first really let me down. A DVD-exclusive release of an episode, that should have been shown on TV in the first place, is the definitive reason for keeping Netflix around, even after you've watched all the movies you ever wanted to see. Blockbuster had the Sunny Christmas Special - but not Netflix.

Still, that was a small thing in comparison to the seemingly endless array of movies you could see for a low monthly price. Yet then that endless array began to become a bit more finite. It was a slow and gradual thing - but more off-to-the-side movies, anime, and TV shows where being ignored and not offered at all. Season 2 of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods sit in limbo, marked with the death sentence of "Availability Unknown". The only alternative was to actually spend the money and actually buy those DVDs myself; but that sort of defeats the purpose of Netflix, when the movies you actually want to see aren't made available.

In addition to squeezing out more obscure DVD releases, Netflix was also delaying newly released DVDs by months, so as not to cut as much into the profits of the DVD sales. Fair enough, I suppose; but still another discouraging mark against Netflix as a whole.

For a lot of people the big shock came when Netflix raised their prices, requiring people to pay for streaming service, which before then had been free with a subscription. Again, I understand the reasoning behind it - but a whole lot of people where thoroughly displeased with this, and showed it by canceling Netflix subscriptions in droves.

For me, I never liked Netflix's streaming service. So it wasn't a big deal not having that. Of the few times I did use the service, through my PS3, it was a horrible mess. The audio was regularly out of synch with the visuals, making it unwatchable. I reported this to netflix, and they said my internet provider, Verizon, isn't the best choice for Streaming service with them. I laughed at that, asking "What, you want me to change my service provider?"

The thing about streaming movies - it is becoming a very big thing, but it's not here just yet. And every time I hear "Streaming is the future" -- I cringe, become my experiences with it have been so bad - added to the fact that most American households still like having a psychical item in their hands, rather than the etherial movie buffering and loading on you're computer screen. Yes yes - I know that isn't everyone's experience, and many people have much fancier TV set ups, allowing them to watch streaming movies on their TV, and not the computer, BUT -- those household prepared like that, to have a good Movie Streaming Experience, are still just too far in-between.

I told that representative over the phone, that if their streaming service didn't work effectively for everyone, regardless of internet provider, they where going to be in a big heap of trouble if they actually go ahead with the rumored plans to go totally streaming.

And here we are - Netflix has officially announced that they are going to be exclusively streaming!

I know there are a lot of other factors pushing this decision. Movie studios have been asking for more money to provide their movies through Netflix. It really actually makes sense - because when Netflix started, all the contracts they made with movie studios where for little to nothing compared to the enormous profits they where making. A by-mail DVD rental service was simply unproven at that point, so Netflix was able to get all their studio contracts cheap. Now that Netflix is a smashing success, when it comes time to renegotiate contracts, the studios want to be paid more; and somewhat justifiably so. Satellite Providers where looking at the deals Netflix had, and how insane it was that they where paying so much more for the same content. (At least thats how I've heard the situation described.)

(We want DVD Renters gone as QUICKLY as possible!)

There is a bit of hope, though. Netflix is starting a new service, called Quickster! This new service will be a completely different entity from Netflix. (Though still the same parent company.) There is the positive news that Quickster will offer video games for rentals -- which I would definitely be interested in. Though I hope it's better than Gamefly, or the other services out there. (They specifically NEVER have the games you want to play.)

We'll have to wait and see what Quickster is all about. As for me, I'm conflictedly waving goodbye to Netflix. They provided an excellent service while it lasted; but they sure as heck can say goodbye to me as a customer.

Update: Well, that was quick. Netflix has announced that their idea for Quickster is dead - saying that it would cause too much confusion to have DVDs and Streaming Services acting as separate companies. Wow - really - did their focus groups tell them that? You'd think that would be something they would have thought of before thinking up such a stupid idea -- but to their credit Netflix has reversed course. Still, I think this whole situation just illustrates Netflix's desire to get out of the DVD-Rental game.

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