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Netflix Review: Is It Worth It?

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Netflix Thumbs UpWhenever someone talks about frugal expenses, Netflix always seems to be the popular example held up as the sacrificial lamb to the frugal gods. I think it’s a popular target because it’s so easy to attack. Subscribers pay a flat monthly fee to watch movies, a pure discretionary entertainment expense, and so many times our lives get in the way. Movies sit on the table unwatched, unreturned, and the only cost is a flat monthly fee. It’s all too convenient and so it makes an inviting target.

Before I was a convert I had no idea why people signed up for Netflix and took my fair share of shots at Netflix. So what changed my mind?

Online Streaming Video

Getting the DVDs sent to our house is only the beginning of the service and, quite frankly, the least valuable. I enjoy movies but on my list of entertainment options, movies aren’t near the top of the list. However, the online streaming video options that Netflix offers include lots of television shows that aren’t carried on sites like Hulu. If you want to watch the past seasons of popular television shows, Netflix has plenty of them available streaming to your PC or TV. If you like PBS documentaries, they have those (or History Channel, or any number of documentary-laden channels). DVRs are nice, but the show has to be broadcast before you can record it. :)

XBox Live Integration

The clincher for me was integration with XBox Live, which is the online service for Microsoft’s XBox 360 game console. This puts the entire library of Netflix’s online content at your disposal because the XBox is already hooked up to the TV. You don’t have to fiddle with connecting your computer to the TV and streaming the video that way, it’s all set up.

Six months ago, the process of watching shows or movies on the XBox was tedious. You had to add shows or movies to your Instant Queue before you could watch it on your XBox. Now, you can search the library from the XBox without having to add it to your queue first. You can still add things to your instant queue if you want (and we do, it’s easier than searching for it).

To take advantage of this you’ll need an XBox, XBox Live Gold membership, and a fast internet connection. So while the minimum plan is only $8.99, unless you have it set up then you’ll have to pay more for the infrastructure.

Review of Netflix Plans

Netflix has a variety of plans starting with the $4.99 a month for one DVD out at a time (limit 2 a month) and 2 hours of online content to $16.99 a month for 3 DVDs out at a time and unlimited online content. I personally don’t see the value in getting the $16.99 3-DVD plan, at most I’d get the $13.99 a month 2 DVDs out at a time because it lets you keep one while one is in transit.

Here is a review of the four plans:

Plan DVD Limit Online Limit Cost
1 DVD out at-a-time 2/month 2 hrs/month $4.99/mo
1 DVD out at-a-time Unlimited Unlimited $8.99/mo
2 DVDs out at-a-time Unlimited Unlimited $13.99/mo
3 DVDs out at-a-time Unlimited Unlimited $16.99/mo

Was Netflix Worth It?

Qualitatively, I think so. We are on the1 DVD out at-a-time plan plus unlimited instant watching for $8.99 a month. We chose that plan because of the unlimited instant watching, which is what you’ll need to get the XBox 360 integration I talked about above.

I went back to look at Feedfliks, which will take your Netflix account usage data and calculate the cost per movie, how long it takes for you to return DVDs, and other good statistical information to tell you whether you’re maximizing your usage. For us, it’s been worth it as our Relative Cost/Movie is at 40 cents each. Our usage is heavily influenced by our instant watching (25 shows or movies in the last month, 75% of which were TV shows).

Free 2 Week Trial

Netflix offers a 2 week trial that can help you decide if you like it. It’s long enough to get a couple movies by mail, to see how long it takes to receive them, but the real value is that it lets you browse their library to see if they carry the things you like to watch. If you sign up for the trial, select a plan that gives you unlimited video so you can watch content online. If nothing else, you get two weeks of all the online content you can mash into your brain. :)

Do you use Netflix? Hate it? Love it? Please share your opinion in the comments!

(Photo by brymo)

{ 88 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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88 Responses to “Netflix Review: Is It Worth It?”

  1. Joy says:

    Personally, I love Netflix! We live in a rural area and have difficulty using the streaming instant aspect, but I rent by mail constantly. I liked your reference to Feedflix and went there immediately to discover what kind of savings I was enjoying. While paying $1.61 per movie may be high in comparison to your $.40 cost, it is still very low in comparison to the local rental costs. We do not have cable, so Netflix is our movie and TV entertainment. We watch whole TV series seasons in the space of a month and at one tenth of the cost. We are addicted to it now, being able to watch them without commercials! The 2 DVD/month plan costs much less than local cable and suits us perfectly. Love it, love it, love it.

  2. aua868s says:

    i signed up for netflix..availed the free trial…loved it but had to cancel due to the excessive traveling nature of my job

  3. JNichols84 says:

    I was skeptical about NetFlix like a few others. I tried out the Redbox, and liked it, as long as I was able to watch the movie right away, and get it back to the Redbox booth by 7:00pm. Once my friend convinced me to try the trial, I was hooked! No matter how long I keep the video, there are no additional fees. No matter how many videos I stream, there are no additional fees. No matter how many DVDs they ship me a month, there are no additional fees! I love it!

  4. Eric says:

    I’ve been a NetFlix customer since 1999 (I think…), supporting them when they were the underdog. I generally have been happy with the service until this year. In June, they cancelled my account after being unable to charge my credit card, even though I entered a new credit card number successfully after they notified me. At the time I was on a “charter member” plan that they no longer offer and was a better deal than the plans they do. NetFlix is unable to explain to me why my otherwise perfectly operating credit card failed in their system, or why they were able to charge the 4 DVDs I had at the time to me on the same credit card after they cancelled my membership.

    Calls to their support department go around and around in circles, with their support management alternately telling me it is “impossible” to put me back on the same plan (something I know not to be true, being in the internet software industry) and then if I get them accept that it is not impossible, they tell me it is impossible for me to contact or be contacted by someone who can fix the problem.

    They will not allow me to communicate with executive management, which indicates to me that they like to “look” like they give good service but how good a service can you give if your VP of Customer Service won’t speak to customers?

    The problem is that in the intervening time, they have become a heavyweight, essentially a monopoly, and their former humility has been replaced with arrogance.

    Do you want to give ANOTHER arrogant company your business? It’s up to you, but I won’t do it. There are alternatives in the form of local video shops and the new online video services.

  5. Paul V says:

    Netflix streaming selection is outdated and piss-poor. I have the $8.99 subscription and turnaround time during the trial period was awesome. Starting with the first DVD after the trial was over the delivery time is 2-3 days instead of 1 and the turnaround time total once I drop it at the post office went from 3-4 days to 6-7. I think they do it on purpose. First they get you sucked in thinking they are very fast and efficient. Then they make you wait so you’ll upgrade your subscription to allow multiple DVDs out at the same time. It’s a deliberate strategy to increase revenue and I’m canceling my subscription at the end of the month!

  6. eric says:

    Netflix just announced that they have made some important deals with major studios to carry more streaming movies. The reason they haven’t been so far has been the studios, not NetFlix: the studios were afraid of the loss of revenue from this “new” delivery method. NetFlix has been stating clearly for the last few years that the costs from the DVD rental are very high, so they want to focus on streaming, but haven’t been able to for lack of good relationships with the studios. I don’t like the current streaming selection either, so I console myself with their great DVD selection until it gets better. My turnaround time is 3 days.

  7. Anonymous says:

    why about half movies I can stream and other half I can’t and same movies on ps3 and my panasonic blue ray. they will stream on computer. I use wifi but have tried eithernet cable ditrect still same half of movies don’t stream {boot up bars, no quality bars} we have 7 m for speed. movies that do play play good.

  8. Dave says:

    If I could give them a zero I would my girl got me a 6 month internet subscription cool right ….. wrong . You have to sign up and give your cc information then make sure you stop the billing after the 6 months. Plain and simple I didn’t feel the need to do so turns out they make sure you (or your significant other) can’t get their money back so It’s use it or lose it essentially. Beware of these guys and if your OK with that then that’s your thing I just feel like they just want to make sure your money is pretty much not refundable. Legalized theft gotta love it.

  9. Chris Ryder says:

    I love the idea of being able to stream the netflix BUT I did not realize that most of the current movies are not included. After reading some of the replies I understand that they are trying to include more movies but for now, I’m not interested in watching movies made years ago that I’ve already seen

  10. jim says:

    I was wondering if I could download a movie at a coffee shop and then take it home and be able to watch on my TV, then about how much kbps or mbps does each movie take, thats if I use a aircard to download a movie,anyone have an answer to this, thanx

  11. 00chuffer says:

    Just try to remove your credit card information from the Netfilx site after the trial is up or you stopped using their service. They will not remove it only ban it. The info is still there and accessible to hackers. If the network gets hacked like the PS3 then what? Go ahead try and as them to remove your credit card. The site says you can cancel 24/7 and that’s a lie you can only put your account on hold.
    Use a reloadable MasterCard/Visa to sign up to netflix do not use your own. Or your card Info will be there forever or till a hacker gets it. What ever comes first.

  12. ghostflame says:

    Netflix has become increasingly more dissapointing. I like the array of B-movies that you can view streaming, but more and more I have noticed that the internet infrastucture is getting more challenged by the bandwidth. I just saw a news report stating that Netflix is now using 40 percent of all Internet traffic. How long will it be before they bog down the whole system? I have personally noticed extreme lag time between soundtrack and video, and frequent freezes. All signs that Netflix has to slow down in order to let Internet infrastucture catch up, which sounds like an endeavor that Netflix may have to pay a great deal for. I am surprised they are not being charged or fined for their bandwidth thrashing. Some bad times ahead for Netflix.

  13. MTS says:

    Does Netflix limit the streaming on programs one likes to watch more than once? I like to watch the same movies/tv shows over and over and it seems like the ones that used to be streaming, all of a sudden became available only via the DVD. It seems like Netflix halts the availability on something that you enjoy repeating…That’s starting to make me annoyed. Maybe it was in the fine print. But it doesn’t make me happy.

    • Jim says:

      They don’t halt it because you enjoy it, they have licensing agreements with the various studios that limits how long they can offer something (not how often you can watch it). Sometimes things expire because the deal has expired.

  14. Ryan says:

    I used netflix for one year and I was happy with it, for $9.99 a month it was great. The DVD’s came on time and all the DVD’s played ok. I only had one DVD that played not so good. But, I have just got a email from Netflix talking about Price Change and New Plans. Reading the email, it was talking about price is going to change to $15.98 a month. It is not worth it $15.98 to me, so I cancel netflix. Below you can see the email:

    We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

    Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

    Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
    Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

    Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

    These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

    You can easily change or cancel your unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both, by going to the Plan Change page in Your Account.

    We realize you have many choices for home entertainment, and we thank you for your business. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-357-1516.

    –The Netflix Team

  15. Zena says:

    Netflix used to be my favorite thing in the world, then they eliminated the DVD feature from the basic plan and raised the price. Then they reduced the number of devices you could stream on, used to be two, now it’s only one! Then they made the x-box interface worse by adding that shadow effect and took away user ratings, genre, year, etc. I actually liked reading all that stuff, the comments entertained me. Netflix called these changes “enhancements” and said it made searching for a movie “easier” but they couldn’t have been more WRONG! Furthermore, if you were searching for a movie that wasn’t on instant streaming, it would appear as “DVD only” and Netflix would recommend movies that were “like” it. Their recommendations introduced me to a lot of movies I had never heard. That feature is gone now. If you have the streaming membership, you can’t even search for “DVD only” movies on their website. They want you to pay for the privilege to see their DVD list. SO, unless you know the exact title of the movie you want to see and it’s on streaming, you’re stuck simply strolling through the movies on the main page. I predict that another company will do what Netflix used to do except better and that will be the FALL of Netflix. Perhaps, Hulu Plus?

  16. RhapsodyinBlue says:

    I’ve had a netflix DVD by-mail account for a few years now and was quite satisfied. Recently a reservation (for the 2nd season of Treme) disappeared and I was put at the back of a very long list of more recent orders. I was surprised by a customer service rep whose training apparently never touched on the “service” dimension. I was told to deal with it or go to Amazon to buy the set. I did the later, but cancelled my subscription in the process. I agree that Netflix is unlikely to thrive or even survive over the coming months. That’s sad – but it’s a fate of their own making.

  17. Lauren says:

    Horrible. Absolutely horrible. I saw an offer for a free trial, so I bought into it. A whole month of free movies, right?? They had NOT ONE MOVIE I WANTED and CHARGED ME FOR CANCELING. I was utterly dissatisfied so naturally I canceled my FREE trial, and got charged $7.99. Be warned, on A SCALE OF 1-10, this brings in a disappointing -7

  18. Lauren says:

    I feel like such a jerk-wad. Yeah, they still didn’t have what I wanted, but the customer service rep was very kind and understanding. Full refund for the misunderstanding. So, allow me to restate: My Netflix experience? I’d say a 2-4 on account of the difficulty of finding foreign films. My CSR experience? +10 and that nice girl needs a raise!

  19. Kim says:

    I used to love Netflix but the longer that I have it, the less satisified I am. I have the 2 DVDs rental with streaming but am finding the there is less and less on streaming that I want to watch. Even older movies that I would enjoy watching are only available for DVD rentals. I’m a little confused by the enhancements that were suppose to increase the number of streaming movies. Apparently they mainly stream movies that I have no interest in watching.

  20. Nicole says:

    Very disappointed two shows have now disappeared with out warning!! I understand Netflix doesn’t always have a choice in which shows are available, but at least you could warn us that a show is going to disappear. I was in the middle of Stargate SG1 which was there yesterday and gone today. A couple weeks ago I have a couple episodes of Atlantis left and bam it was gone. All I am asking is a little notification when shows with multiple episodes or seasons are going to leave Netflix.

    • Carolyn says:

      I have the streaming version of Netflix and on mine it tells me what date that movies or tv shows are going to be taken away. I believe it was on episode details.

  21. Barry says:

    One big problem I have found is the bugs on their web site. For example, you can’t update your payment information on the account page. That’s so fundamental – why haven’t they fixed it? Then, you can’t send them feedback anywhere except by calling them. Seriously, in this day and age you have to resort to calling them? That’s either just amateurish web site design or they aren’t really interested in customer satisfaction.

  22. Ray says:

    I’ve been a Netflix user for over 5 years at the “3 at a time” level. Lately, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the number of damaged disk I’m sent. The last straw was tonight when I inserted a disk into my player and it didn’t play. I ejected it, and found that it was broken and that someone had glued it. So, I sealed it up to send it back. Then I inserted the 2nd disk in my player (after checking it for damage) and, not only would it not play but
    my player started thrashing like a washing machine with a bunch of nuts and bolts throw into it. I ejected the disk and it came out spinning and too hot to handle. Also, after it cooled down, I noticed that the disk had been badly scratched by my player. I called Netflix customer support (at 4:30 in the morning) and the support person (Andy) said that they could send me replacement disks but would not compensate me for the damage. I sort of expected that, but…
    When I asked to speak to his manager, HE REFUSED. AND WHEN I ASKED FOR HIS LAST NAME, HE REFUSED. SO, I CANCELLED MY SUBSCRIPTION. In the end, they’ll pay a lot more than the cost of a dvd player. What he did should be illegal.

  23. Sheila says:

    I have been a netflix customer for years, and mostly I have been satisfied. I get more mad at the post office for failure to pick up the disc I am returning or delaying my delivery than I do at netflix.

    However, if Netflix wants to stick to streaming, why is it that I have over 100 discs in my queue, but only about 16 shows in my sreaming queue? I have had discs saved for 3 years, waiting for their arrival. And there are things I would like to see, but don’t want to waste my precious disc allowance (1 disc at a time) on, that I would try if it was available on streaming.

    Netflix needs to pay attention to their customers. You can’t promise live streaming, but never have the things on your wish list available. They talk about old tv shows on streaming, but you can’t watch Happy Days, or Punky Brewster, or Barney Miller, or a host of other 1970-1980 sitcoms. Movies are available for streaming for short periods, and when you go back to watch it again, it’s disc only.

    If they really want to get people to sign up for live streaming, they ought to have it mostly available with a few exceptions, rather than have mostly UNavailable, with a few exceptions.


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