Wednesday, September 21, 2011

True Confessions of a Jilted Netflix Movie Slut

What is a movie slut to do? Netflix has decided to split its instant streaming and DVD by mail businesses, and that means I have to rethink my whole movie-watching lifestyle.

First it's confession time, I watch a lot of movies. When it comes to the 1-5 star ratings, give me a 3-star movie and I'm happy. Give me an occassional 2-star, I'm not proud. They don't all have to be Being There, I like to watch. Just how many movies I watch is a lot of movies:


Now, not all of these titles are movies. Some are TV shows, in fact a great many of the Instant titles are TV serials. And that's a big difference on Netflix between Instant and DVD. DVD has a lot of recent movies, really pretty much all the new movies that have come out on DVD or Blu-ray. Instant doesn't, at least not yet.

Netflix wants $7.99 per month ($96 per year) for the Instant unlimited streaming plan. That's a good deal, around 62 cents per title. And I can stream Netflix directly onto my TV through my Samsung Blu-ray player. But Instant doesn't get me many of the new movies I want to see.

I'm on the 3 DVDs out at a time plan which costs $19.99 per month ($240 per year). That is costing me about $3.50 per title, which judged on price alone is not such a great deal. And now it's going to be called Qwikster. The clear message from Netflix is to find a new service before Qwikster goes into the dumpster.

What made Netflix by mail great was the convenience of dropping the returns in the mail box and getting another movie by return mail. For the first few years I supplemented by also renting from Blockbuster, and that covered the
occassional inconvenience of not having a Netflix movie I wanted to watch.

When I stopped going to Blockbuster I put myself on the 4 DVDs at-a-time plan to help cover that gap. But that lead to doing things like keeping out Where the Wild Things Are for 186 days from 5/6/2010 to 11/8/2010 and The Bunker for 147 days from 7/14/2010 to 12/8/2010. Also, the average number of days I was keeping DVDs before watching them increased with the addition of Instant movies. So when Netflix raised its prices at the beginning of this year, I dropped back to 3 DVDs at-a-time.

Blockbuster by mail has a 3 DVDs out at a time plan for $20 per month. But that's the same price as the Netflix Qwikster option. The nearest Blockbuster store is 5 miles away. I'm not going to drive from Cambridge to Malden for a movie. Blockbuster lost my business when they closed their store that was only half a mile away.

Hulu Plus costs $8 a month but like Netflix instant streaming I've heard it doesn't have a lot of movies. I'd need to buy a $59 Roku box to connect to my TV. And Hulu has commercials, so why switch?

Amazon gives you free unlimited streaming if you sign for Amazon Prime at $79 per year. Or you can rent instant movies for around $4. But just what is available, for how long, and how do I hook that up to my TV is all unclear.

Comcast On Demand has a lot of new movies, some are free, but the best new movies cost $5 and up and are typically only available for a limited period of time. I expect to rent more than 4 movies a month (48 a year) so I am better off with Netflix Qwikster.

Redbox may be the best deal. They have one of their red movie vending machines at my grocery store. The rental deal is $1 a day for DVDs and $1.50 a day for Blu-ray. That compares well to Netflix even if I keep the movie 2 or 3 days. I'm not keen on having to return movies, but at least it's a trip to the grocery store.

So for now I'm keeping Netflix Instant, but I'm dropping DVD by mail from 3-at-a-time to 2-at-a-time. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings doesn't need to know, but he just saved me $5 a month, which is $60 per year. Redbox will get my bootie calls when I'm in the mood for a little something extra on the side. Who knows, I think this may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Update: has a cool see-inside-the-box feature. I can pick a location on their website and browse through the list of movies inside that particular vending machine, reserve one, and go pick it up.

No comments: