Netflix, why after years and years of service have you decided to change everything up now? It almost makes me laugh as how I only signed up about a month or two before they decided they would hike up 1 DVD + streaming prices up 60%. It seems I really should have hopped on board at the start. There were still price increases, but I think somehow it would be easier to deal with than all this change at once.
If you haven't heard yet, Netflix will soon be splitting their company into two entities. "Netflix" will become only streaming. The company as a whole is going to continue to offer DVD-by-mail but now under the brand "Qwikster". This means there will be two sites and two bills. Two sites... that will not sync with each other beyond the initial launch, or so they say. All the movies you rate on one site will not show up on the other. Movie listings will never again be able to tell you if they are available for DVD or streaming if they are on the opposing site. Aka, even if Mother's Day is available on streaming via Netflix.com, you won't ever know simply by browsing Qwikster.com. Well, we don't know this yet but they basically stated as much on their most recent official blog entry. This is going to be hugely inconvenient for many users, not just high-frequency users like me.
While no prices have been detailed, it looks like both sites will retain the most recent pricing models. So if you were a member of both services at their basic levels you would be spending the much as you are currently on Netflix's plan. That's not a bad thing. What is so bad about this though is basically everything else.
Why is Netflix severing the ties between the two so dramtically? Why is the Netflix name being put only on the sub-par streaming library? What it looks like is they will sell off DVD-by-mail Qwikster. What other reason could they have to rebrand it? Mailing discs costs money and looks like a destined to fail plan. Personally, I don't see physical DVD rental dying off any time soon, but it will become a harder method to manage in the future. Shipping rates will only increase in the future and Netflix is the only one who pays that bill. Not to mention the fact the USPS is going to close many shipping facilities and is even back in talks about cancelling Saturday delivery. Qwikster is so named because it wants to imply "fast" service. But if there will be two whole days cut out of shipping it will make deliveries more sparse and appear slow. As is, Netflix already slows down the process if you're a high frequency DVD user so... Not a good thing.
I fully believe Netflix wants to cut off it's own arm (DVD-by-mail) because it costs too much and feels antiquated. But then, their streaming service is far from futuristic. The streaming selection may be large, but it is full of junk. I've felt for a long time that Netflix will buy anything that has a very cheap license to put onto the service. I mean, really, OC Babes and the Zombie Slashertown, Stupid Teenagers Must Die, and Freak Out? Honestly, Freak Out is a really fun movie but these are all super indie features. Super cheap indie features. Netflix is trying for quantity much more than quality. They're also lacking in high-scoring recent releases and television.
Then you've got the fact that most of the catalog isn't available in HD streaming. Obviously a lot of older films can't offer that but you'd think more of the recent stuff would be ready for HD. Finally you've got the fact that the catalog is NOT constantly expanding. The titles are simply cycled in and out which means any growth is very small. It's always terribly annoying to pop into my instant queue and find that 7 movies are going to be removed from streaming on the same day - 5 days from today. Netflix likes the illusion of having a large breadth of titles but when you really look at it what they offer is nearly depressing. But of course some people like it as many customers switched to streaming only when the price increased at the start of September.
Netflix needs to seriously upgrade streaming if they want it to be the meat, potatoes, and everything else of their company. The Netflix name has been acclaimed for many years but now they seem ready to lose it all. I'm sure that they would love streaming to be their future, but as it currently is, it seems like it will be their downfall. The name Netflix has always been associated with the huge amount of content available quickly and easily. With their tiny catalog of worthwhile videos their name will certainly be tarnished. Funnily, I like to hope and feel like Qwikster will succeed more than Netflix. That's my pipe dream anyway.
The biggest reason people will stick with Netflix/Qwikster though is because there is a lack of other options. With Hollywood and big media trying to cut down on streaming anyway it's hard for anyone to bust out onto the scene. There's Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, Blockbuster and more offering streaming media. Hulu is excellent for TV but for some reason has ads even for pay users. Other services tend to only offer a small selection of items free for streaming and then charge per item, like the On Demand services of TV.
In the physical realm, there's also not much challenge. Redbox sprang up out of nowhere but is only really valid for recent releases. Then you are still going to be charged night after night if you don't return the movies fast enough. That's mostly like a video rental store minus the great selection a store could have. Of course there are still video rental stores out there too. However, Netflix has made many people spoiled about having to pay rental or late fees. Blockbuster is probably the only other big name in the DVD shipping realm. Their selection is comparable (from what I've looked up so far). There are a great many rare titles you won't find through them, but the same holds true for Netflix.
There are a few upsides for Blockbuster as a physical DVD option. One, they do not charge extra for Blu-ray like Netflix does. They also have been offering game rentals as part of the DVD plans for a while (Netflix will only start offering this with the rebranding, as well as charge extra). Blockbuster's 2 DVD at a time price is about the same as Netflix's 1 DVD + streaming. If only Blockbuster could make their streaming more like Netflix it would be easy to choose them. I'll keep my eye on Blockbuster though as I'm not sure if I want to keep justifying Netflix's worthiness after they keep flip flopping on what they seem to want to do with the brand.
I'll be watching Netflix. I want to see what happens after these changes are all said and done.