Perhaps a year ago I wrote an article praising Blockbuster Total Access and explaining why I preferred the service above Netflix – now the tables have totally turned. What happened? Well the main factor was Blockbuster’s decision to essentially kill the Total Access program. They performed price hikes several times within a several month period – the last one to somewhere around $40/mo. The second factor which killed Blockbuster was Netflix’s offering of Watch Now, which allowed instant availability of several thousand movies and television shows for free with a paid Netflix DVD subscription. Blockbuster could have been ahead in this game, but dawdled for reasons unknown to me and even now after acquiring market leader in online video rentals Movielink they still lack a program similar to Netflix. All that to say – its possible in six months if Blockbuster gets their act together again that I may switch back and write another article – but it will only be if Netflix completely drops the ball like the great Blockbuster already has.
But enough analysis, let’s talk about the Netflix service. The most common program costs $17.99/mo. and gets you three DVD’s at a time. You can have a queue of up to 500 DVD’s (why the limit Netflix?) at any given time. When you return a DVD they send you another. While I have three-at-a-time I rarely use this service anymore, instead preferring to utilize Netflix’s Watch Now service which offers thousands of movies and television episodes instantly and for free. Netflix has also just begin offering an inexpensive set-top box that you can use to effortlessly view these on-demand episodes/movies on your television set.
What is the future for Netflix? If they are smart they will begin offering their entire collection via the Watch Now service. They should consider utilizing technology from a company like Joost or Bittorrent to facilitate reduced bandwidth and storage costs. If they can’t afford to allow all movies to be instantly viewable, they need to acquire or start a service similar to Movielink and offer discounted prices on instant movie purchases – e.g. even $2/title would ensure I stayed home and used their service rather than visit Blockbuster or download from iTunes.
Netflix makes financial sense. Its significantly less expensive than cable ($50+/mo.), costs the same as four DVD rentals from blockbuster (at nearly $5/ea.), and reduces gas expenses. Alternatively, if one has a good local library many have begun stocking a significant DVD collection there as well. One can also go for a lower Netflix program – as low as $9.95/mo. one still receives the Watch Now service.