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.

  1. Redbox – The kiosks are at many grocery stores and other common shopping places around town.  They’re cheap (though I heard they just raised prices too?) but you’re limited as to whether they have a movie in stock that is of interest to you.  We’ve never used Redbox.
  2. Video store – You could still go to your corner video store.  If this even exists.  Most of the video stores within a five mile radius of our house have closed within the last two years, with the latest victim a Blockbuster.  We haven’t rented a movie from a video store in years.
  3. Cable – We get Starz as part of our Digital cable package.  They have movies On Demand that we sometimes watch reguarly.  You can also ‘rent’ movies from the ‘On Demand’ service as well as Pay-Per-View.  We’ve never done that but many movies are $2.99 so it could be well worth it.
  4. The internet – I’ve watched a few things streaming but only on a laptop or desktop monitor, which is admittedly a step backward if you ask me.  We don’t have our TV hooked up to the Internet, but I know Roku boxes these days are dirt cheap, and you can find shows to watch for free or for a low cost subscription (such as Amazon Prime).  I’ve been tempted but haven’t gone down this path yet.
  5. Library – Our library gets a good selection of videos.  Renting movies from the library has been our main source of substitution since we put our Netflix subscription on hold at the beginning of the year.

I think Netflix blew it because they assumed that once they ‘beat’ Blockbuster, they had cornered the market on video services.  Except, as it turns out, there are more options turning up that customers are happy to deal with.

What options do you use alongside or in place of Netflix?  Did I miss any big ones off my list?

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?

  • They celebrated.  When Netflix started, they were a pesky fly buzzing around the big giant of the video world, which of course was Blockbuster.  They went full tilt at Blockbuster and never stopped, and in the end, they ended up taking Blockbuster down.  I think they got a little too complacent after beating Blockbuster, and decided to take their foot off the gas for awhile.  Bad move.
  • They cheesed off the wrong group.  When Netflix announced changes to their pricing structure, they effectively unbundled streaming video and DVD-by-mail.  This was great news for those customers who preferred one and had no interest in the other, but those groups are ‘fringe’ customers.  The fact remains, the bulk of their customers would like to have access to both, but the new pricing plan turned their nose at those people.  If you’re going to willingly cheese off a group of your customers, fine, but cheesing off the biggest group is generally not the best move.
  • They got cocky.  After the new pricing was introduced, backlash started almost immediately.  I read somewhere that Netflix basically said that they expected some of their customers to be upset and that they were actually prepared to lose some customers as a result.  What?!?  Even if a company is OK with losing customers, rule number one is that you never, ever say that you’re OK with losing customers.  Any Netflix customer reading that had to feel a lot less important after reading that.  Really, really bad choice of words.

So can Netflix return to winning ways?  I think so.  Wanna know how?  I’m not going to talk strategy or partnerships or pricing.  Those details aren’t so as important as their way of thinking.

It’s simple.  Forget about the fact that you’re the top dog.  In fact, don’t even pay attention to those nipping at your heels.  Instead, pretend that you’re the one chasing someone else and nipping at their heels.  Why?  Because that’s what worked for you.  Netflix was untouchable the entire time that Netflix was chasing after Blockbuster.  Netflix, you need that hunger, the one that got you to the top, so create yourselves an invisible target and make your moves as if you’re chasing after them.

Otherwise….you soon will be.  For real.

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?

Well, maybe not.

Even with that, we’ve found that our watching habits have gone down even more to where we were often renting just one movie per month.  At $5 per month, getting two movies isn’t a bad deal, but if you only use one, it’s suddenly pretty pricey.

So, my wife proposed what I would have once called unthinkable.  Getting rid of Netflix!

We’re always on the lookout for cost cutting measures, so I looked at the numbers, and agreed that it might be time.

For now.

So, with little fanfare, I sent back our last movie (Date Night), which fittingly we hadn’t even watched yet, and for the first time in eight years, was not scheduled to get a new movie sent out.

However, I have faith that we’ll be back.

I think we’ll get greater benefit from a Netflix streaming plan, where you can use a gaming console or a Roku system to watch movies right from the Internet.  My parents have this and my dad loves it.

Right now, we simply don’t have the time to watch movies as we have plenty to watch on the DVR from our favorite TV shows.

As we get more settled in the upcoming years, and especially once the kids grow and we decide to perhaps let them watch  TV shows (educational, of course), I think we could justify re-subscribing.

So long, for now (but hopefully not for long), Netflix!

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!