22 July 2011

Netflix sux

Like everyone else, I was annoyed and irritated by Netflix's latest reduction in services: pay more, get less! It had all been so easy and elegant when it started. That's why I, along with apparently everyone else, was fooled into falling in love with a corporation. I was interested to read that the format my protest first took in my head -- a break-up letter -- was the most widespread format in the outpouring of irritation.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing to be reminded that your beloved friend/corporation is really a money-making scheme. (As some realist is always eager to point out, Netflix is not a charity, it's a business, and paying more to receive less is just the American way these days.) If Netflix wants to trash its brand loyalty, well, that's their business, in every sense.

What I really object to, though, isn't so much the price hike; I'm not crazy about it, but the service is still cheaper and better in every way than going to movie theaters. No, what I really object to is that Netflix has been steadily trying to pressure (or bully) customers into streaming rather than receiving DVDs by mail.

I see how it would be cheaper for them, but I really don't care. DVDs are easier and cheaper for me, and offer superior sound and picture. Streaming would require me to replace all of my home-viewing equipment at considerable expense, and all for lesser quality (I've been told reliably that picture and sound for streamed movies is not nearly as good as on DVD, let alone Blu-Ray). How long can I keep something I've streamed? Can I go back and easily watch just one or two scenes again? Can I stop it halfway through and pick it up again two days later?

These are questions I don't really want to know the answers to, because I don't care. DVDs are perfect for me, and I'm afraid I selfishly put that above increasing Netflix's profit margin.

I get very suspicious when corporations start cheerfully asserting that something is so much easier for the customer; usually it means it's cheaper for the corporation, and the customer now has to do all the production work. And I get very, very suspicious when corporations start implying that resisting whatever cost-cutting convenience they're trying to force on me means I'm resisting the very future itself. In a youth-obsessed society there's always that undercurrent of panic that you'll be rendered irrelevant by the kids and their crazy digital devices. But I'm not interested in watching [insert the name of your favorite film/director/actor] on an iPhone, and I don't believe that anyone who really cares about movies would be interested in that. Streaming, as far as I can see, offers a lower-quality, disposable product for people who don't care that much about the product to start with. It's Kleenex. (That's assuming they even have the film you want to see available for streaming; I understand there are huge gaps in what is available.)

So I'm down from my three-DVDs-at-a-time service to one-DVD-at-a-time. OK, I have quite a backlog of purchased but unwatched DVDs to work through. And I suspect there will be a bit of a spike in DVD sales; considering how long it will now take me to watch something like the six seasons of the Sopranos or even the three seasons of Deadwood, I might be better off just buying the whole series if Amazon or Barnes and Noble has a sale.

Does anyone know of another DVD-by-mail service? I'm looking to switch.

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