What Are The Alternatives To Netflix?

I was talking to my wife about Netflix and told her about last weeks announcement that included the statistic that over 800,000 subscribers quit last quarter and how their stock has fallen around 75% since they started messing with their pricing and other ill-advised strategies that have riled up their customers and sent investors panicking.

She asked me “What are people using instead?”

Good question.

Here are some of the Netflix alternatives I can come up with off the top of my head.

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Netflix, Please Find Your Way Back

Last week was not a good week for Netflix, as they were down around 30% for the week as they revised subscriber counts way down from prior estimates. I’ve been a Netflix cheerleader for years, but after having witnessed some of the things that have happened over the past few months, last weeks nosedive is not surprising.  In fact, it should have been expected.

How did Netflix lose their way?

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Is This The End, Netflix?

I’ve been a subscriber of Netflix since sometime in the early part of the 2000’s.  I got fed up with Blockbuster, joined Netflix, and loved it.

For the first few years, I was on their three-at-a-time plan, where you could have three DVDs out a time.  I went through them like crazy.  Being a single guy, and at one point traveling every week (read: bored), I was paying less than $2 per DVD on a pretty regular basis.

After I got married and moved into the house, and especially after having Little Boy Beagle, our usage fell to the point where we moved down to the unlimited one-at-a-time, and eventually all the way down to the bottom plan, one-at-a-time with a maximum of two rentals per month.

That was the lowest we could go, right?

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We’ll Soon Be Bumping Up Our Netflix Plan

I’ve been a subscriber of Netflix for almost seven years.  I have gone through multiple plans and have rented over 600 movies in the seven years.  I actually am nerdy enough to where I keep track of my cost per rental, and as of August 2009 (last time I updated the numbers), I was running about $2.16 per movie.  I think that’s pretty good.

Back in my single days, especially when I was traveling, I was on a 3-discs-out-at-a-time plan.  I made great use of it.  As time has gone on, as we bought a bigger house, found new hobbies as a married couple, and began our family with the birth of Baby Beagle, I have lowered the plan a few times, to where I’m now on the most basic plan. We get one movie at a time for two rentals a month.  That works out to $2.50 per movie.  Right now, that’s been pretty good though there have been times that I would have liked more movies.

One of the things that Netflix started doing over the past year or two is streaming their movies to ‘Netflix ready’ devices.  The biggest of those was the Playstation 3 and the XBOX 360.  Various other devices, such as specific Blu-Ray players and devices designed only for Netflix streaming, exist as well.

I didn’t own any of those devices but thought it would be cool.

Now, I will have that chance.  We purchased a Nintendo Wii last year, and Netflix announced that they will begin support of streaming to the Wii beginning this spring.  All you need is a Wii that is connected to the Internet via wireless.  That’s the first thing I did with the Wii after plugging it in, so as soon as Netflix gets the partnership going, we’ll be good to go.  All they do is send you a disc that you pop into the Wii, and it will add a ‘Channel’ that will link up with your Netflix account, and we’ll be on our way!

That will make it a lot easier for us to watch and rent movies.  Though they only stream about 20% of their catalog, I know that there are plenty of movies that we could watch.  If we bump up to the minimum plan to support streaming videos, and watch two per month that way (in addition to two on DVDs), we’ll break even.  I don’t think we’ll have a problem with that because my wife and I have gotten into the habit of watching a movie on Saturday nights.  Right now, we watch two per month with Netflix, and we’ll spend the other two movies either watching a movie we own or trying to find one with our On Demand package or on Starz, both of which are included in our cable package.  Still, those two features only give us about 100 movies to choose from where the Netflix option will give us 17,000.

We’ve been talking about bumping the plan back up anyways.  Once they activate this option, this is a no-brainer.

I’m a big fan of Netflix and have always been.  Prior to that, I had used Blockbuster stores, which had high prices and horrible customer service.  Netflix has used technology over and over again to create new opportunities and ways for customers to experience movies.  They were the first to deliver DVDs to you via mailbox, and they were the first to then stream videos on a widespread basis.  They have said that over the next 10-20 years, they expect the DVD in the mail aspect to disappear altogether.  By then, who knows what else they’ll have come up with?

Chances are, I’ll be subscribing and will still be a satisfied customer!