Tuesday, November 15, 2005

TV, Why Do You Mock Me?

Have you guys heard of this Netflix thing? Okay, okay, you've all heard of it, I'm the last one to know what's going on (as usual). Lately I've been feeling like I'm too much in the thrall of the ComCast cable entertainopoly, so I thought maybe I'd try out this Netflix thing. My secret plan (don't tell Mrs. T this) is to wean us off cable TV by renting lots of TV series and movies from Netflix. We'd still get the broadcast channels for news and Simpsons reruns, but do I really need to pay $70 just to get ESPN? Don't even get me started on all the poopy channels they add on. Dammit I hate the cable companies.

So I signed us up for the flix last week, the primo 3 DVDs at a time plan. (As all red-blooded Americans do, my first order of business was to cue up every single Dr. Who DVD that's been released.) Now, 5 days later, Mrs. T sends me a link to this MSNBC article saying that Netflix may behave just as poorly as any of your big media corporations:

Last year, Netflix was sued by a consumer who claimed the firm had several sneaky ways to limit the number of movies it actually sent home. For starters, those one-day-turnaround deliveries could actually take up to six days. The company didn't count Saturdays or non-postal holidays. And in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that Netflix purposefully tacked on an extra day here or there while handling DVDs. In reality, someone who paid for the "three-at-a-time" movie package could at most rent 10 movies a month, the lawsuit claims, a far cry from unlimited rentals.

What's more, the lawsuit claims, Netflix gave quick turnaround to new customers and consumers who didn't watch many movies -- their most profitable consumers. Avid movie-watchers who burned up the path to the mailbox were selectively penalized, getting movies slower than other members.
Ten DVDs a month? What is this crap? Okay, it was just one consumer, who may or may not be a crackpot. The company admits to nothing, but they did spring for a settlement (for just how corporatastically crummy the settlement is, read the whole article). I had no illusions about the "unlimited" aspect, and it's not like I need a new DVD every day (how many episodes of "What's Happening?" can you watch in one evening?), but I was thinking we could get at least 15 DVDs a month.

What is it about the entertainment industry (specifically the distribution side) that seems to inspire such assitudity? Wait, I think I know the answer to that ($$$). Here's some better questions. Are any of y'all on this Netflix thing? How has it been for you? How about the competitors - I know Blockbuster has a similar plan, for one. They any good?


Otto Man said...

I'm on Netflix and it's phenomenal. I don't know what that lawsuit is all about, because the service we get is incredibly quick. Maybe the lawsuit filer lives out in the middle of bumfuck.

If we drop a DVD in the mail on Monday, we generally get the next one back on Thursday. Which means -- in theory -- if you have the 3-at-a-time deal and you watch each DVD the same day it arrives and turn it around the next, you'd have a new DVD every single day except Sunday. The only real delays we've had with Netflix is when we order something and can't get around to watching it. (Kinsey sat on our coffee table for about five weeks.)

I was worried about the mailing DVDs thing, but they've been really good about it. Any time a disc seems to be lost in the mail, you just let them know and they send out another, no questions asked.

You're right that the best thing about Netflix are the TV DVDs. Since joining up this summer, I've watched six full seasons of "Homicide" and the lovely and talented Malibu Stacy has started soaking up "Sex and the City" as well. I may start back in on "The Wire" when "Homicide" wraps up.

Mr Furious said...

Years ago, in NYC, I joined NetFlix simply because DVDs weren't readily available in the little local video stores in Brooklyn. It was great then, and I can only imagine they've improved on it since.

I just loved the whole process of going onto the website and cueing up the movies I wanted and having them just show up in the mail. Mixing the selction up meant having good options anytime we sat down to watch one—comedy? indie flick? blockbuster? And this was before the ability to get the TV series on DVD. Getting the "Homicides" Otto mentioned is almost reason enough alone to rejoin.

(Curse my decision to put out all my VCR tapes of Homicide on the curb before I left NYC)

I have a friend in Florida who did exactly what you want. He has Netflix and no cable, and loves it.

We don't currently watch enough movies in my house to make either Netflix or the Blockbuster version cost-effective. Plus, the advent of TiVo has allowed me to weed out all the shit on tv to what I want when I want, so I am satisfied with my TV viewing (I blogged about this just yesterday).

My optimum situation? Basic DirecTV with TiVo (what we currently have) augmented with a Netflix subscription for movies. The obstacle to that for us is time-constraints, but it would also be cheaper than having cable with all the HBO crap tacked on...

Susie the Bear said...

I have Netflix and am quite happy with it. I'm on the cheapskate plan though (2 at a time, no more than 4 a month), so I haven't been trying to max out my rentals. Otto is right though, they've been really quick with turnaround time...mail Monday - arrive Thursday is pretty standard. The only advantage I can see to the Blockbuster plan is that if you don't happen to be in the mood for what you've got at home, they give you a couple of in-store rentals per month along with whatever you get through the mail.

Studiodave said...

Behold! You can get your "What's Happenin'", "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Perfect Strangers" fix all for free:


Essentially, this is content which they can't sell even at 2 am on a tuesday to any TV affiliates, but thanks to the Internet - we can consume this tripe for eternity...

InanimateCarbonRod said...

I loves me the Netflix. I've been a member so long that I signed up when the basic membership was 4 discs at a time. They lowered it for everyone else, but I'm still getting 4 at a time for the same price everyone else pays for three. That alone get major stars in my book. I'm awed by how quickly they can turn these discs around. I dropped a disc off at the airport one Saturday night and got an email from Netflix at 7:00 Monday morning that they had received it.
Sometimes, though it will take a few extra days for discs to work their way through the system. I always chalk that up to the Postal Service instead of Netflix. My brother was disappointed with Netflix, but his strategery was to get a disc in the mail, copy it with his DVD burner, and drop it back in the mail. I'm more legitimate, so it's rare that I don't have something to watch.
Another thing I like about Netflix is that you can have separate queues for each member of the family. It saves lots of fights with the missus if she can put all those Sandra Bullock movies on her queue and not mess up your Bruce Campbell festival.
One more thing and I'll get off this stupidly long comment. The selection is excellent -- far better than your local Blockbuster, especially if your into Kung Fu or artsy Francophile stuff. The queueing ability is great because I was constantly encountering a problem. I'd leave for the video store with 40 movies that I want to watch and then show up at the place and my mind would be completely blank. This way you think of a film, put it on the list, and voila!
I would like to know how long people's queues are. My wife thinks I'm some kind of freak because I have 193 on there. (And that's after some paring down.)

InanimateCarbonRod said...

Studiodave, don't be rediculous!

Otto Man said...

I'm with iRod on the strength Netflix shows in its rare movies. I've managed to fill in some long-neglected gaps in my film geekography -- all the Kurosawa films I'd never seen ("Ran," "Rashomon"), all the spaghetti westerns I wanted ("Wild Bunch," "Bad Day at Black Rock", "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia," etc.), tons of bad '70s urban action (the original "Assault on Precinct 13," "The Warriors," "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three," etc.), and lots of classics ("Elmer Gantry," "A Face in the Crowd" with Andy Griffith!!, etc.).

Basically, every time we went to Blockbuster we couldn't find new stuff we wanted and couldn't remember the old stuff we swore we'd get next time. Now it's just all queued up and ready to go.

My queue was originally 60 long, and now it's down to 25. I should probably update it, but right now I'm good through the holidays.

Otto Man said...

Studiodave, don't be rediculous!

You forgot to add the Cousin Balki html tags.

Mr Furious said...

... Cousin Balki


Hey, look! My word verification is "danzig"!

Thrillhous said...

Okay, I'm feeling reassured over here. Following the model of our noble president, I will take the advice of a bunch of shady characters with weird names and commit myself fully to Iraq - I mean Netflix.

Artsy francophile stuff, iRod? What's the emoticon for a wedgie?

I agree with y'all about selection. I've been looking for The Brood for about four years, and I've never seen it in the store. Now it's in my cue (after all the Dr. Who, of course).

Right now I'm at 36 in the cue, but the wife hasn't had a crack at the list yet; we could get into NASA-level numbers.

Mrs_Thrillhous said...

we could get into NASA-level numbers

What does that mean? Afraid that the length of my list could be expressed exponentially?? To the moon, Alice Cooper!

I haven't tried Netflix yet because Dr. Who has been slamming our mailbox. (his half of it) Also, getting through my Monty Python backlog will take many fortnights yet.

If my calculations are correct, iRod has an amazing movie habit...

ORF said...

"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" is a really cool film. I had to watch it for a class I took in college about violence and cinema.

Anyway, I'm also considering ditching cable for the very same reasons you mentioned, T'Hous. I HATE having to pay a bajillion dollars for a bajillion channels I don't watch. My new roommate is OBSESSED with the Food Network. Now what is that about??? I guess she's equally mystified by my appreciation for NASCAR races. But seriously, there aren't even any crashes in cooking shows.

Anyway, I'm glad to read all these opinions about Netflix. It's helping me to make my decision to cut back on my cable plan. Besides, if I wanted to see "Chain Reaction" on TNT five times, well, I'd just rent it.

Thrillhous said...

Oh man, orf, do I hear you on TNT and their incessant showing of the same movie over and over. It's like HBO, only the movies are already old and there's no cussing.

Susie the Bear said...

Oh T-hous, the no cussing drives me nuts! I once saw a showing of Mallrats that dubbed over Jay's, "All it took was a fat chronic blunt!", with "All it took was a fast karate punch!". If you're going to try and remove all pot references from a movie like that, you might as well just not show it. And if you ever see Office Space on cable, all Lawrence can say is "__-A!".

I-rod, you're not alone in having a lengthy queue...I logged on to check mine, and it was at 153. By the time I logged off it was at 169. With the plan I'm on, it'll take me years to get through them all.

sideshow bob said...

I've had enough dealings with Blockbuster to tell you to steer clear of them. They proclaimed the end of late fees not by actually ending the fees, but by calling them "restocking fees" instead. They also got a hold of my credit card and started charging me for a rental plan I never authorized. Eventually, I had to cancel the card to stop the charges.

I gave up cable and instead now buy a set of dvds each month. Next month is Simpsons season 7...woo hoo!