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June 4th, 2005

Netflix: Worth It?

(I know, I couldn’t believe we hadn’t written a Ping about Netflix before, either!)

So, I’d like to share with you the current television entertainment situation in the McAleer household. We’re paying $19.99/month for “expanded basic” cable from Comcast, but it’s approaching the final month. And to be honest we’re not that comfortable with the normal rate, which is – I’m not joking – $50/month. So one idea my smart wife put forth was to dump Comcast back down to the “super incredibly basic” package ($14/month, local channels only) and getting a Netflix subscription.

The reasons for Netflix? Well, we own about 18 or so DVDs but really don’t watch them – renting seems like it’d be better for us. We also have TiVo, naturally, which maximizes our TV usability. Netflix seems mighty appealing in that we could get a steady stream of movies we’ve wanted to see, as well as TV programs we miss like Six Feet Under.

I thought the cable/Netflix combo was a great replacement for DirecTV, which we’re unable to get in our current place for myriad reasons. (I still carry a torch for the day when we can get it again though, because with the DirecTV/TiVo box it was the best TV ever.) As a bonus, it’ll get us watching a little less TV.

I’m ever curious if any Pingers have given this setup a shot, and what you think. Also I wouldn’t mind general thoughts on Netflix and its competitors.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

FROM: Cat [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday June 4, 2005 -- 2:15:33 pm
I haven't tried your exact setup, though if you're keeping cable for the movies, that certainly seems like a good way to go.

I hope you'll consider Netflix alternatives like GreenCine, considering Netflix's deal with Wal-mart.

There are some more alternatives listed in the comments here:

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday June 4, 2005 -- 6:38:51 pm
Oh yeah, I don't have brand allegiance to Netflix but obviously they're the most well-known.

The basic cable would be kept for the TV shows we watch - the majority are on network TV now. (Cable is kind of meh. Definitely not $50 worth of meh.)

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday June 4, 2005 -- 6:58:05 pm
We just started Netflix last week. So far, it's been a two day turnaround on movies: mailed one back Thursday and got a new one today (Saturday). Pretty happy so far, although to be honest, it's only been a couple of days. Nice to catch up on theatre flicks that we missed over the past few years.

My biggest complaint would be that their search capabilities seem lousy. I have not found a way to search by actor. But their library seems large, even including some older subtitled kung fu titles. I'm sure I can find enough to watch.

And there's no danger of an "off-season slump" where the TiVo can't find anything better than old Spiderman cartoons to record... like, well, right now.

Oh, and my Comcast "expanded basic" runs $55. It was $28 just seven years (and 3-5 company changes) ago. I've been tempted to cancel it even without having a viable alternative: for that much I could buy 3-4 DVDs each month...

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Saturday June 4, 2005 -- 7:24:40 pm
Again, the Ping is very timely. Why, I myself was discussing Netflix with my sigoth the other day. I haven't decided on which package--they seem to hide the $9.99 basic rate and details of it in their literature, which I found to be a turn off.

Now that I'm aware of alternatives, I'll investigate those. Thanks Cat.

Mainly, I'm looking for old Classics. Blockbuster hardly seems to stock anything good, and they censor their films without letting you know at all that this is their policy.

We've never had cable, since it's just so darned expensive. We've bought a couple of favorite movies for as little as $6.98 from Target.

FROM: Robert [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday June 4, 2005 -- 10:14:21 pm
I just started up a Netflix account yesterday. Hopefully, my first discs (both Six Feet Under season 3) will come early next week. I considered Greencine, but I live four blocks from a video store that's pretty well-stocked with cult, foreign, etc. titles, so I'm set on that end.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday June 5, 2005 -- 5:58:20 pm
Joseph: their offers also seem to be differently priced depending on how you get to their site. Annoying.

In terms of the choices, we went with the "3 at a time for $18" deal, figuring we could sweep through all the things we had been waiting for, and lower it to two at a time if we started running out.

Worst case, it'll be an extra $18/mo during the summer before the fall season starts. Best case, we'll drop to basic cable (or even antenna TV!) and save a ton of money.

FROM: Chris [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday June 5, 2005 -- 10:13:31 pm
I've had Netflix for about a year - no problems other than the occasional damaged disc. They have been very good about crediting my account when I notify them that a disc was unusable.

We are on the 4 for 11.99 plan. We get 4 DVDs a month for 11.99. Thats about right for us as I tend to watch a movie on either Friday or Saturday night.

FROM: Rafael
DATE: Monday June 6, 2005 -- 7:14:45 pm
I have been a member of Netflix for a little over two years, I have not had any problems except your occasional damaged DVD. In the past I made a notation on the DVD envelope and returned it. Now days I notify them directly though their Web site and they will ship out another DVD right way and that does not count against my three out at a time.

Nextflix is constantly making enhancements to their Web site by member’s suggestions. I my self have suggested a few enhancements but the one I would luv to see is when you choosing a movie title and if you already have watched this movie it should tell you when you last returned the movie. I have done this a few times were I have forgotten I had watched that movie…well you get my point…very disappointing because now you have to channel surf for something to watch or watch re-runs on TiVo.

Here are some of the cool features:

1) you are able to reserve movie titles that are not even out on the theater yet
2) while on your queue you can hover over the movie title and a brief description will pop up
3) you can set up a sub account for another family member, this is a great feature if you have children because it lets you set the maturity level
4) the ability to invite friends to view each others queue, ratings and the recommend titles to each other

Overall I’m very satisfied with Netflix and I recommend it all of the time to friends and family. Also the great thing is that there are a couple of co-workers that are also members. The great think about that is that we trade movie titles that we have on our queue and we have a very long wait time.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday August 22, 2005 -- 12:00:01 pm
I now have a question about Netflix I haven't seen answered, and I figured my own Ping about it would be a good place to ask.

When renting TV show seasons, does one get all the discs in a season's set at once - or individually?

FROM: Maria
DATE: Wednesday August 24, 2005 -- 4:51:57 pm
I've been debating signing up for Netflix (and this Ping pushed me toward it some more), and was bored during some downtime today at work, so I set up my free trial period for the 3/$17.99 plan. I will probably end up keeping it indefinitely if it works out.

Paul: I wondered the same thing myself, because I was planning on renting "Sex & the City." I put them in my queue today, and each disc counts toward your quota. The thing that could suck about that would be if you have a season of some show that has 4 discs, you could never have the full season all at once. I wonder, and will soon find out I guess, whether my first shipment of 3 will all ship together or in separate envelopes. I would hate to get Disc 2 before Disc 1.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday August 28, 2005 -- 2:41:27 pm
Paul: yep, Maria is right, each disc is a separate "item". Slightly more annoying is that a disc is an item, whether it is a 3.5hr Jeeves&Wooster or a 30min anime item. It sucks to get the 30min one just before a long weekend.

That said, I'm very happy with Netflix. I have the "three out at a time" deal. Using subaccounts, my partner chooses two and I choose one -- mostly because few of my selections are of shared interest. (why are so few people into ancient kung fu or lost Dr. Who episodes? why?)

Combined, we've worked up a queue of almost 100 items. At five or so a week, this should last us a good long while (since we'll drop to two-at-a-time once they start putting out new TV shows).

TiVo + Netflix... I can't imagine living without them now. Which is scary. I hear people say the same thing about cell phones, which I loathe. Must... not... become... evangelist...

Maria, one thing to note about multi-disc seasons of shows: if you rate one disc it applies to the entire season. Just so you know.

FROM: Maria
DATE: Friday September 2, 2005 -- 1:13:48 pm
Just an update on my new Netflix situation: I live in Montana, so I do understand that it's kind of remote, but I also live in a city, definitely not on a rural mail route. The nearest distribution center by my estimation is Spokane, WA, but they're sending our DVDs from Denver. A) they didn't ship the day I put them in my queue/opened my account, B) they took two business days to get here but, C) when I mailed back two DVDs on Monday, they did not receive them today and the one I mailed back on Wednesday has obviously not been received yet so, D) my free trial is already over half over and I've only had 3 DVDs and, E) I was hoping I would have the next couple to watch this weekend but as they're shipping today, I will not get them until Tuesday. I'm a little disappointed.

DATE: Friday September 2, 2005 -- 7:55:14 pm
Been using Netflix for about 8 months. Highly recommend it. I gave my g/f my username and password and she adds stuff she likes to see and mixes them into what I've already put in the queue. I like Netflix better than the other online DVD rental outfits because of their selection. They have practically everything, whereas other places seem to just have the most popular stuff. I switched to basic cable (12.95) too just for the improved reception, but seem to get most channels via Comcast anyway, not just fox, abc, cbs, nbc, but HGTV, food, MTV, weather, Fox News, MSNBC, and a whole bunch more.

Netflix is great about replacing the occasional damaged disc (online reporting). It's highly unlikely also that if you order a series, you'll get disc 2 before disc 1. They usually enter the queue in the right order. I end up moving them around a bit so that I don't get all 24 discs of Xfiles in a row, but get disc 1, then a couple other movies, then disc 2, then a couple others, then disc 3, etc.

A few times Netflix has emailed me asking when I got the disc. I wonder if the reply I send alters the shipping schedule. Could Netflix be trying to make sure I didn't get TOO many movies by holding the next disc for a day or so? I wonder if I tell them I get the disc really quick, if they hold the next disc so they are still making money. I tend to exaggerate how long the disc takes to get to me.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday September 4, 2005 -- 3:35:11 pm
Maria: ah, well, I live maybe thirty miles from their central office. The big delay for me is the post office. I can mail on Mon, and Netflix gets it either Tue or Wed (and ships out the same day), I then get it the next day.

So satisfaction probably depends on the hub: how far you are and how fast they are.

That said, I don't think we saw more than five movies in our trial period. We have averaged about 20-25 movies a month. Even at only 20/mo that's a mere $1/movie.

They do have serious problems with long weekends. Usually we get a bunch of movies on Thu, meaning we won't get anything until the following Wed. Frustrating, since that is exactly when you want the movies. I understand that it's because of the delivery system and the previous weekend's interruptions. Still.

Stu brings up a good point: they have DVDs that you will never, ever see in stores or rental stores.

FROM: Maria
DATE: Wednesday September 14, 2005 -- 5:11:14 pm
My favorite feature, hands down, is going to have to be the ability to save a movie in my queue that's currently or will soon be in theaters. That way whenever I see a trailer on TV and say "Ehh, I'll wait for DVD" I can put it in my queue/saved list so I don't totally forget about it.

We are averaging about a week turnaround time on our DVDs. Two days to get to me, four days to get back to them. It makes it easy in the sense that I know if I send something back on a Monday I'll get its replacement the following Monday, but for all the positive hype Netflix gets, I find it to be too slow.

As for DVDs you'll never see in a store or rental store, there may have been a few that I've come across that would be hard for me to find locally, but I go to a really well stocked rental place, so the only problem (aside from the prices) I usually encounter there is if something is already rented out. Netflix definitely has the foreign film market cornered, though, I'd say. However, my boyfriend was highly disappointed when I told him that Netflix doesn't carry adult films.

On a final note, I know for a fact that "Out Of Sight" with George Clooney is out on DVD and has been for at least a few years, but Netflix lists it as unavailable with an unknown release date. That's the only one that has me stumped.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday September 17, 2005 -- 3:09:11 pm
Yes! The queue is amazing. It's like memory, only it doesn't fade away.

I cannot think of how many times I have been in a bookstore, seen a new hardcover, and think "hey, I should remember to look for this in paperback!"... only to forget about it completely.

Plus, if you live with someone with different tastes, you can have two separate queues and choose how many movies from each queue get chosen. Great if tastes differ.

If it's taking a week in turnaround you might want to convert to their "N movies a month" rather than "N at a time" -- I think it's cheaper, and if you aren't going to get more than that...

It must be great to have a well-stocked rental place. I live in a densely urban area, and all the indie stores are gone. The local Blockbusters devote 90% of their shelf space to movies from the last year. Since my current tastes are running towards 80s kung fu movies with subtitles, there's literally nothing there that I want. So, yeah, for foreign films it's great. (and yes, not much in the adult film market) Also for less-popular things it can be nice. I don't see many rental stores carrying DVDs of Airwolf... just not enough demand.

FROM: Bill C
DATE: Friday October 7, 2005 -- 2:23:05 pm
Netflix at Walmart? Great! Now I can get turnaround instantly instead of two-three days. This will be for commonly popular movies only, I presume. However Netflix has the best selection of obscure and early foreign, documentaries, and classics - much superior to the dismal selection carried by the typical Blockbuster style shop. Netflix really and truly offers an education in film history and film as art if you apply yourself to other than superficial Krap kulture. I was skeptical but after joining I found their available DVD catalog to be fantastic. No other way I can satisfy my desire to see the best film art over the century in this part of the country. SE USA is a cultural desert except for gut pluckers. Bill C Nashville

FROM: Rafael
DATE: Wednesday November 2, 2005 -- 6:42:52 pm
Hey did any of you get the following message from Netflix?????

You are receiving this notice because you were a paid Netflix member before January 15, 2005. Under a proposed class action settlement, you may be eligible to receive a free benefit from Netflix.

A class action lawsuit entitled Chavez v. Netflix, Inc. was filed in San Francisco Superior Court (case number CGC-04-434884) on September 23, 2004. The lawsuit alleges that Netflix failed to provide "unlimited" DVD rentals and "one day delivery" as promised in its marketing materials. Netflix has denied any wrongdoing or liability. The parties have reached a settlement that they believe is in the best interests of the company and its subscribers.

Netflix will provide eligible subscribers with the benefit described below, if the settlement is approved by the Court.

Current Netflix Members: If you enrolled in a paid membership before January 15, 2005 and were a member on October 19, 2005, you are eligible to receive a free one-month upgrade in service level. For example, if you are on the 3 DVDs at-a-time program, you will be upgraded to the 4 DVDs at-a-time program for one month. There will be no price increase during the upgraded month. (If you cancel your membership after October 19, 2005 and before you receive the upgrade, you will have to rejoin to get the upgrade.)

Former Netflix Members: If you enrolled in a paid membership before January 15, 2005 but were not a member on October 19, 2005, you are eligible to receive a free one-month Netflix membership on your choice of the 1, 2 or 3 DVDs at-a-time unlimited program. (If you rejoin after October 19, 2005 but before you receive the free one-month membership, you will receive a credit for the free month when it becomes available.)
These benefits will be provided after the Effective Date as defined in the Settlement Agreement. Your eligibility for the benefits is based on your membership status as of October 19, 2005. The full Settlement Agreement is available for review at

You have four options to respond to the proposed settlement. You have until December 28, 2005 to make your decision:

Option 1. Sign Up For The Benefit As Part Of The Settlement
To receive the benefit, you must complete the online registration process no later than February 17, 2006, at By signing up for the benefit, you waive your right to bring a separate lawsuit against Netflix concerning the Released Claims (as defined in the Settlement Agreement found at

Option 2. Do Nothing
If you do not wish to receive the benefit, do nothing. You will not receive the benefit but will remain a Class Member. You therefore waive your right to bring a separate lawsuit against Netflix concerning the Released Claims.

Option 3. Exclude Yourself From the Class
To exclude yourself from the class, you must mail a letter by December 28, 2005. By excluding yourself, you preserve your right to bring a lawsuit against Netflix concerning the Released Claims. However, you will not get the benefit described above.

Option 4. Make An Objection To The Settlement In Court
To object to the settlement, you must file legal papers in the San Francisco Superior Court by January 5, 2006.

To receive your benefit, you must register by February 17, 2006 as described above in Option 1. You will not receive any other reminders to register for the benefit. If you have registered for the benefit and your eligibility is confirmed, then you will be provided additional information by email following the Effective Date as defined in the Settlement Agreement.

After the benefit period ends, the new or upgraded level of service will continue automatically (following an email reminder) and you will be billed accordingly, unless you cancel or modify your subscription. You can cancel or modify your subscription at any time.

In addition, if the settlement is approved by the Court, Netflix will modify portions of its Terms of Use. Netflix also will refer to its Terms of Use in certain advertisements.

To get more information about the settlement and procedures, and to take options 1, 3 or 4, visit

SRC: 10312005CAS
(c)1997-2005 Netflix, Inc. 970 University Ave., Los Gatos, CA 95032

FROM: Maria
DATE: Thursday February 23, 2006 -- 3:56:16 pm
The news media recently called attention to the fact that Netflix has employed a practice called "throttling"--where frequent renters are identified as such by their computer system, and are placed at the back of the line for high-demand DVDs and returns are placed on hold for a day or two before replacements are sent out. Finally, an explanation as to why the DVDs only take 2 days to reach me, but 4 days to get back to Netflix. As long as I'm still getting enough movies per month to justify the $17.99, I'll still consider it a value, but it does bother me a bit. Especially when I don't get any movies by the weekend and end up spending another $6 to get something at the local rental place. As long as I can get my DVDs by Friday-Saturday each week, I am happy. I've also found that for me it seems to work out better to return 3 at once and get 3 at once in return, rather than staggering them.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday February 26, 2006 -- 10:30:38 am
Yeah, I've been a victim of the throttling. Even complained about it only to get a canned response saying "we favour infrequent customers more". Sigh. And they are frustratingly slow after three-day weekends, and way too fast during the week when I do not have time to watch things.

Still, even in the worst months we have gotten thirteen movies ("3 at a time" subscription). That's under $1.50 per movie, and I do not have to browse past shelf after shelf of dreck...

FROM: jrencher
DATE: Tuesday March 7, 2006 -- 3:02:06 am
Netflix is a disaster. If you haven't tried them yet, just AVOID THEM unless you want headaches and frustration. Their customer service has to be the worst of any online service I've ever encountered. When there are problems (frequently) I always send a polite inquiry using their help system. 90% of my inquiries are ignored, and the rest get a canned response that I could have read on their website.

The free trial was great, and I loved them for the first couple of months after that. Lately, however, I've had nothing but issues with them. Shipping and receiving times are suspicious. I live 20 minutes from the distribution center, and sometimes shipping takes 2-3 days. Some days they receive 2 DVDs and only send 1. Some days they wait a day or two (without explanation) before sending new DVDs. Some days they randomly decide to ship from a distribution center several states away. (WTF?) Also, Netflix is a postal-dependent service, so they have no excuse not to work Saturdays to send/receive DVDs. I'm on the 4-at-a-time plan, which means I should be able to receive at least 32 DVDs per month. Instead, I'm getting less than 20, which is a significant loss of money and value. I'm closing my Netflix account at the end of this month, once I've had a chance to export my queue.

Netflix will ROB you because they know the current alternatives are even worse. They are a terrible company and an embaraassment to the online business model. Worst of all, there's no way to contact their top management to file a formal complaint. If there's ever a class action lawsuit against Netflix(and it's only a matter of time before they're busted) I'm totally on-board. Hopefully they'll get their sh*t together first and finally become what they promise and pretend to be.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Tuesday March 7, 2006 -- 10:00:45 am
Some people I know in the office share a single membership. This way the cut the costs by like five times.

DATE: Friday March 17, 2006 -- 7:45:30 pm
I had a trial membership with Netflix which I have cancelled after one month. Customer service would not/could not help me unscramble my account names, wouldn't allow me to cancel any names and as a result - I never received any movies other than some trial stinker of a film they sent which was beyond stupid. The choice process is laborious.

DATE: Tuesday April 4, 2006 -- 1:55:06 pm
I agree their customer service is a nightmare. I've had threads 10 messages long, just bouncing back and forth. Either the reps are totally disempowered or it is an AI system just pushing back crap.

To be fair their user interface and recommendation engine are excellent. Their policies feel totally slimy though, from throttling to favoring blockbusters to a walmart deal. Good engineering, heartless business/executives.

I'm going to try greencine, just to spite netflix for refusing to refund my money over an account dispute.

FROM: Jen Smith
DATE: Monday April 24, 2006 -- 4:02:06 pm
I agree with some of what is said. Their customer service leaves a LOT to be desired. Do not expect a personalized answer ever. If you are lucky to never have a problem then are great. Where else could you ever get new release movies for under two bucks each. I have been with them for over two years...had a 3 month suspension when I moved last fall and have had nothing but good luck ever since. I typically mail movies by Saturday afternoon cut off for mail and they almost always hit on Mondays so I can get the new releases. Then they ship them and 90% of the time I have them on Wednesdays. I am on the 3 at a time plan and always get 12 movies in a month. For less than $20.00 a month and never having to take movies back or pick them is a bargain no matter how you look at it.

To the guy on the 4 a month would you ever expect to get 32 movies a month? I think that is a little unrealistic and you would break them in postage. They would never make any money.

I will say I love it and would hate for Netflix to become non-exsistent. I myself have never tried any of the other services like Netflix but my brother did and came right back to Netflix the turn around time on the others is horrible!

FROM: Steve A
DATE: Monday April 24, 2006 -- 5:34:04 pm
We've been using Netflix for some time. My current strategy is to mix movies and TV episodes. Usually I'll get 1 movie to 2 TV shows or vice versa. I also mix TV programs as well. That way I'm never 'stuck' watching only one genre.

Personally, I love the system and I don't mind the wait at all. When I mix things up it's sort of like a grabbag when it comes in the mail. Sure, I can look at the email and it'll say "XYZ" shipped 4/24, but it's more fun opening the prezzie when it gets here!

We've watched several programs we wouldn't have had access to (HBO, Showtime, etc) and some we've seen before and others we missed. I've ordered some I've seen and she hasn't and vice versa.



DATE: Tuesday April 25, 2006 -- 9:08:10 am
I use NetFlix in additional to the Dish Network with HBO as soon as the Soprano's start reuns off it goes. I will stay with Netflix and basic DISH.

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