Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Tale of Two Netflix

So, you'd just about have to live under a rock to have not heard about the Netflix price hike.  The media has had a bit of a field day with this, and a fair amount of customers have decried the move, claiming they plan to jump ship and go with Blockbuster's service or use their local RedBox for DVD rental, or possibly the new Amazon service.  My question is, what is everone so up in arms about?  This is a non-essential service provided for strictly entertainment.  Not only that, but as has been mentioned by a Netflix exec, increasing prices and making the streaming and DVD plans divergent means that they can provide better service.  I only just joined in February of this year, so while I understand I feel the impact of this FAR less than someone who has been a member for years, I still don't quite understand the huge backlash that has happened.

I will wholeheartedly agree with the majority of Americans who think gas prices are too high, or property taxes are too high, or taxes in general are too high.  I will wave my flag of support behind initiatives to shrink the size of government and end corruption in politics.  I cannot fault anyone who says that products and services are becoming too expensive in general to truly budget for everything families want and need, because though costs go up, wages aren't following suit.  But when a service like this changes their price structure so they can provide better service, and it's a relatively small price change, isn't it a bit petty to decry the service and suddenly leave said service strictly for that reason?

To be fair, I'm a bit of a niche Netflix subscriber.  My wife and I have used the streaming service almost exclusively.  Granted, the Instant library is far greater than it was even just a few months ago when we first started, but being able to stream TV shows, movies, anime, and documentaries from our Wii, laptops, and my iPhone are a wondrous thing.  Not to mention that some of my favorites are available via this service, which just makes it more attractive to me.  I understand that average subscriber is going to be pining for blockbuster films on DVD as soon as they're released, but let's be honest - how often are you going to be the first one to get the big blockbuster in the mail as soon as you've added it to your Netflix queue?  Chances are, if everyone wants "Film XYZ" on DVD and have it pre-loaded into their DVD queue, plenty of folks are going to be disappointed when it doesn't show up in their mailbox the week it's released, or 2 days after they send back whatever DVD they've had in their home.

But as much as content is becoming more and more online and less with "owned" content, it makes sense that this model would be the right move.  They can continue to expand and support the DVD business for those subscribers that want it, and they can focus on having the monies available to continually license good content for the Instant service, which I suspect will only continue to grow and get better.  I'm a DVD lover, and I own a number of DVDs of varying types: music/concerts, movies, niche fare, and TV series.  Some of that content is on the Instant, some of it is not.  But as more becomes available online, the more opportunity I as a subscriber will have to have more ready access to that content, even if I already own it in a physical format.  I will continue to purchase DVDs for content that either will likely never be on Netflix Instant, or for stuff I want to permanently have a physical copy of for my own uses.  I will use the Instant service for quick access to content, regardless of whether I own it or not, and it affords me the ability to see all kinds of stuff that I will enjoy watching, but would never pay full price for in a physical format, or purchase digitally.  If there are "must see" movies that I miss in the theater, I can always rent a DVD here and there, but by and large, the Instant service meets my needs and provides a lot of value for what's available and how much my wife and I use it.

In short, I don't feel the need to complain about Netflix's price hike and service level change.  Companies change over time and sometimes the growing pains of those changes include paying more.  As far as I'm concerned, Netflix offers a valuable service at a low price-point, and this change isn't going to convince me to change service providers or "jump ship" as a means of showing Netflix that I'm a dissatisfied customer, because if I'm being honest, I'm quite satisfied.

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