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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. PA Mom says:

    FYI, you haven’t listed all of the plans:

    1 – $8.99
    2 – $13.99
    3 – $16.99
    4 – $23.99
    5 – $29.99
    6 – $35.99
    7 – $41.99
    8 – $47.99

    We’ve been using Netflix for years and love it, especially the variety they offer, and even more so since they started the online streaming. They have lot more to offer than at the local video stores and also more than cable. We’d give up cable before we gave up Netflix. Actually, we will most likely be canceling cable before the end of this year in favor of Netflix and sites like Hulu.

    • daemondust says:

      Don’t forget about the surcharge on top of the base subscription price if you want Bluray. It’s $1 plus the number of discs out at a time ($2 for the 1 disc plan up to $9 for the 8 disc plan).

    • saladdin says:

      Hulu announced they will start charging.

      saladdin

  2. daemondust says:

    I love my netflix subscription. Not so much for the DVD/Bluray part, but the streaming. It’s getting even better soon now that the PS3 will be able to stream, instead of just the XBOX 360. I only had my XBOX Live subscription because of it, which I won’t be renewing because I’ll be able to stream to my PS3 before it expires.

    • daemondust says:

      Though I have no idea how the streaming looks on a lesser Internet connection. I’m lucky where I am to have a 100Mbps connection, that regularly hits 80-90Mbps. More often than not, I’m limited by the other side’s connection or TCP’s slow ramp-up. I have my system tuned well for expecting my full bandwidth, but most sites aren’t tuned, are already saturated, or are artificially limiting resources.

      I do see artifacts on many shows, somewhere between VCD and DVD quality. Their “HD” flag seems to mostly mean 16:9 instead of 4:3, though bitrate is probably a bit higher too. The artifacts certainly don’t make it ‘unwatchable’ unless you’re being extremely picky. I’ve seen a lot of poorly mastered DVDs look as bad or worse.

      • mikestreb says:

        Where on earth do you live where you have a 100mbps internet connection? How much is it a month? I am stuck with silly DSL at like 3mbps and I only ever hit 2250kbps.

        • daemondust says:

          I’m in Indiana. I work for my ISP’s networks department, so I get the best of the best. Actually, it’s 1 gig to the neighborhood and 10 meg to most of my neighbors (meaning we aren’t oversubscribing at all at this level, when we say ’10 meg’ we really mean it. not when Comcast and the like say ’12 meg’ but really mean ‘you might someday see 12 meg for a fraction of a second but most of the time you’ll be crawling’) and 100 meg to me. I’m also the first to get things fixed (and my neighbors too since we’re on the same back haul). I’m not sure how much the 100 meg would cost since work picks it up and we don’t offer that for sale…. But the 10 meg works out to be the cheapest high speed in town, on the order of $20 a month.

  3. Steven says:

    Don’t forget the announcement, Hulu will start charging “soon”. Could be tomorrow, could be next year, but it’s what they said.

  4. Jayde says:

    I’m a big fan of video rental subscriptions. Just wondering if you ever looked into Blockbuster and if you know which has better prices/options?

    • saladdin says:

      Had BB plan first. They constantly changed plan rules that looked like they were wanting you to drop them. So I switched to NF. Difference is night and day.

      saladdin

  5. I absolutely loved Netflix and I had it for years. I quit last year though because I just didn’t have time to watch the DVDs and the online watching didn’t work on my Mac.

  6. eric says:

    I did the trial a few years ago but didn’t watch enough to justify continuing. Everyone I know seems to have Netflix though :D

  7. Scott says:

    We love Netflix. We killed cable well over a year ago now – it’s easily one of the most underanalyzed expenses in every American household. Now we just do Netflix and download shows from iTunes that we can’t get for free on the major networks. Bottom line is you have to watch A LOT of television for cable to be worth it financially (typically at least one non-free show every single day).

  8. melodie Moore says:

    I am all for netflix, however i much prefer sites that stream movies. 10 a month and i can watch pretty much any movie right away, when ever i want, unlimited to how ever many. I really like mega video, i’ve watched a few online for free, but you get cut off after the hour.

    I would choose this option over netflix, because i want instant gratification and my movies now,

    • daemondust says:

      Netflix does do streaming. I think the client is Windows only, but they also stream to some proprietary consoles, XBOX 360, and soon PS3.

      It isn’t the whole catalog, but they do have a lot. I’ve noticed lots of kids shows, but I haven’t paid much attention to any that aren’t from when I was growing up.

  9. zapeta says:

    If you have Windows 7 Media Center, streaming from Netflix is built right in after you do a brief update. If you go to Movies, you can log in to your account to stream.

    We’re considering getting Netflix now since its already integrated in to the system.

  10. Carla says:

    I’ve been using Netflix since the company first started. Whenever I need to take a break for whatever reason, I put my account on hold. I haven’t tried watching streaming videos since I’m not a fan of watching “TV” for entertainment on my computer since I have to work here so much anyway though.

  11. I used netflix for 6 months, and found they always delayed the new release CD’s to us. I think there was actually a lawsuit against them for it. They’ve probably changed since then, but it’s too late.

    I’m a loyal Blockbuster Online user now. I love the convenience of trading in my DVDs at a store for something new immediately if need be.

    FS

    • saladdin says:

      When they changed their in-store exchange rules they lost me. I have a BB 3 minutes from me so it worked out great. I don’t mind stopping in a store like most folks. But, when they made that rules change it sealed the deal for me.

      saladdin

    • daemondust says:

      I have noticed months where I cycle through lots of discs new ones start coming from farther and farther away, or the “nearest Netflix facility” on the return envelope isn’t really all that close.

      It may be coincidence that the farther out ones were the closest that had what I wanted, but it may not be.

      That said, they’ve also been pretty good about sending me a second DVD (I’m on the one at a time plan) when the one at the top of my queue was ‘delayed’

      I’ve had more problems with my local postal carrier (erratic pickup and delivery times, sometimes not delivering at all for days at a time….) than with Netflix themselves.

      • saladdin says:

        I noticed that also. I live 1.5 hours from Memphis and 2.5 hours from Nashville but mail moves faster between me and Memphis. My first few movies were a mixture of Memphis and Nashville return addresses so I hoarded up the “Memphis” envelopes and only return movies there and always have atleast 2 movies per envelope.

        saladdin

        • daemondust says:

          I’m one mail day from Indianapolis. I’m also usually one day from somewhere in Kentucky, but that’s occasionally two days away.

          When they were “rate limiting” me last I started getting them from several states away that took two or three days each way.

      • Are you suggesting that this is intentional (the address on the return envelope)?

        Maybe I’m missing something – but what does NetFlix gain by having your returned disc in the hands of USPS longer? Sure, they don’t have to send out your requested disc until a day or two later, but they also can’t send your old disc out to anyone else, so it would seem to be a wash. I can’t imagine why they would intentionally do this, considering that there is no benefit, and there is a cost (you being not as satisfied).

        • daemondust says:

          I’m not sure if it’s intentional, or just circumstances. Depending on their licenses with the content rights holders, it might be in their interest. Yes, it’s out of their hands and unavailable to send to another customer, but it’s also helping them set a maximum number of rentals per month that may, hypothetically, be in one of their contracts. I admit I know nothing about their contracts with rights holders, but I could imagine there being some limits or paybacks on rentals.

          Of course, it could just be my bad luck all along. I won’t discount that possibility at all.

          • saladdin says:

            They don’t have to have that exact disk to send out. My que has 100 movies in it.

            It has to be in their best interest to slow mail times/limit rentals per month or they would not throttle customers. If I was a movie rental business I would want my customer to rent 3 and sit on them forever. My fees collected are the same.

            1.The monthly fee is paid every month if the customer rents 3 movies or 200. The postage I pay as business owner on 3 movies is less then 200.

            2. It allows me to have more movies available for high users. Of course I hate high users unless they are in the 8 at a time fee structure. Maybe if I extend their mail-to- time the 3 at a timers will upgrade to a higher fee rate.

            I have learned that everything a business does has profits as the #1 motivator. Not a bad thing really, but that is a businesses motivator.

            saladdin

          • OK, I get what you’re saying. My thought would be that it would make more sense to keep people happier and pay for a higher cap in their contracts. Customer retention = good thing.

            It’s an interesting point, though.

          • Saladdin – I think it makes sense to throttle usage, but not in the mailing aspect. Whether the customer has the movie of the USPS has the movie, NetFlix doesn’t have it. If you’re going to throttle, you want the throttling to occur during your processing of the request. Get the movie on Monday, credit the person’s account on Tuesday, and you’ve throttled them, while still having the ability to shop the old disc to another customer on Monday.

            Good point about postage costs, though.

  12. Money Funk says:

    So, I’ve never used netflix. However, I did use GameFly for my son’s video game rental (same type of service as Netflix. And I had nothing but problems with getting games back to them. And I would send them back from different locations. I think employees probably just snagged them knowing they were games.

    Anyhow, I have to say that I probably wouldn’t use Netflix but remain a continued user of Redbox. I can order the available movies online and they will have them at my local Redbox in no time. Or I can just rent the ones that have in the console at the time. It’s very convenient for me and takes seconds to have the film in my hands.

    • daemondust says:

      I’ve always wondered why Netflix didn’t enter the video game rental market. They already have the logistics worked out, and I’ve never heard anyone happy with GameFly.

    • saladdin says:

      My Redbox has copies of Low “B” movies such as La Bamba. Not even worth a dollar.

      saladdin

      • daemondust says:

        The ONE time I tried to use a redbox kiosk was a nightmare. The one at Kroger said it was out of order. A piece of paper on it said to go to Marsh. The one there was out of order too and said to go to a third place I can’t remember, which was out of order as well and directed me to the first.

  13. saladdin says:

    One thing I found out with Netflix is that if I take the movies in my que that show “Long wait,” “Short Wait” or “Good Luck Sucker” and move them to the top of my que I get the mythical “bonus” movie. The first 3 or so movies in my que are always those that show “Wait” but it works very consistently in getting the bonus movie.

    saladdin

    • daemondust says:

      Does it really say “Good Luck Sucker”? I’ve never seen that, but wouldn’t be at all surprised. You have an interesting way to game the system. I wonder how long that would work before they stopped shipping the second disc out.

      • saladdin says:

        It feels like it sometimes. I have had one show “Long Wait” for about 6 weeks.

        I’ve had iffy thoughts on my que’ing method. Is it ethical, etc..? But I don’t add movies based only on wait time. If it’s in my que I want to see it. NF allows changing of the rankings and I don’t go looking for “Long waits”. But I’m sure I am not the only one who has found this method and the loophole will be closed.

        saladdin

        • daemondust says:

          Somewhere they had to have programmed that into their scheduling algorithms. Maybe it’s an unintended consequence, but until (unless) they stop it, I don’t see any ethical problems with it. It’s still playing within the rules they set. If they don’t like it, and feel it’s worth the programming effort, they’re perfectly within their rights to stop sending the ‘bonus’ disc.

          More than likely, as long as there aren’t too many people abusing it, they won’t see it as a problem.

          • emma says:

            I just had this happen to me for the first time (the bonus movie). My first and second choices showed “short wait” status, so they sent the third in my Q, then the first became available and that was sent as well – somehow I’ve ended up with 4 at home when I’m on the 3 plan. I never knew they did that. I don’t turn mine over fast enough to take advantage of an extra one more than just by chance as it happened this time.

  14. I’m a big fan of Netflix. The founder Reid Hastings was on NPR a little while ago and said one of their top priorities is expanding their streaming video library. I was happy to hear it. Then he said he expected almost everything to be available for streaming in ten years. woah – that was longer than I expected.

    Here’s the NPR link if you’re interested: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112339635

    • daemondust says:

      The hold up probably isn’t technical. Netflix could probably have the entire catalog available for streaming within a few months if they could convince the content rights holders to allow it.

  15. Neil says:

    I’ve been viewing netflix and their imitators as an alternative to cable, which makes it a great deal. For a few dollars a month, I’ve replaced a bill that was over $40, and I can’t say I miss it.

    Anything with a flat monthly fee can be a bad deal if you don’t use the service. Whether it’s netflix, a cell phone that gets a call or two per month, cable, or anything else, you need to determine your own usage and set the price you’re willing to pay accordingly.

  16. daemondust says:

    I’ve figured that the one disc at a time plan works out to be between one and eight or nine discs a month. Say they ship me a disc on Monday, gets here Tuesday, I ship it out Wednesday, they get it and ship the next Thursday, on for four weeks.

    So, it works out to be about $1 a disc, if you have quick turn around, and they don’t start rate limiting you.

    • saladdin says:

      That was my thinking at the beginning and I tried to turn them around as soon as possible. But, life doesn’t allow that sometimes. I would be too tired to watch and sit on them until the weekend and have them back in the mail on Monday.

      I think two keys/things to keep in mind for “getting your money worth ” are:

      1. Are you renting TV Series? Member since March 2009 and 111 dvds returned. 90% are TV series. Your “break even” is going to look off because it takes longer to watch a disk with 8 episodes of NewsRadio. But I am getting 4 hours of entertainment instead of 90 minutes from the latest National Lampoon straight to dvd release.

      2. Streaming. You have to stream movies you can and order through the mail the ones you can’t. Bought a VGA cable online for $5 for my $300 cheap laptop now I’m streaming away. You don’t need a Cray supercomputer that can decode the Nazis Enigma.

      saladdin

  17. Bryant says:

    Didn’t want to flow through all 44 comments, but netflix is going to be streaming to PS3 soon! http://www.netflix.com/ps3

    Once that kicks in, i’ll switch from blockbuster to netflix and just get their cheapest plan since I can stream on-demand to my ps3 and watch it live, there’s no need to have any more than that!!

    Blockbuster is okay i guess…they don’t charge extra for blu-rays which is nice….

    • saladdin says:

      NF’s cheapest plan does not allow unlimited streaming. You have to go one more up. Make sure before you choose a plan.

      saladdin

    • nickel says:

      Also, in case you’re not aware, the online streaming selection isn’t great. We can usually find stuff, but it’s slim pickings vs. the DVD selection.

  18. Lauren says:

    I’m a Netflix subscriber and proud of it! Four months ago I cancelled my $120-a-month cable plan. Now I pay $9-a-month on Netflix to watch all my favorite shows and movies. We connect the big-screen tv to our laptop and watch everything on demand right there. Who needs Tivo when you can watch shows instantly for $111 cheaper?

  19. We are on the $8.99 plan with netflix, and we use it mainly for the streaming video through xbox 360. I’m amazed at how good the quality is on their streaming offerings (looks great on our 50″ TV), and while the number of movies available on the streaming side isn’t as extensive, it’s getting better all the time.

    We just watched all of the seasons of Lost through netflix streaming, the streaming side is especially good if you want to watch full seasons of your favorite tv show.

    Verdict: We love it!

  20. James says:

    I’m a Netflix skeptic. Although I’ve used a friend’s streaming box and that’s amazing. The service is great, but I still think it’s a budget item easy to cut.

    That said, I think people who are too cheap for Netflix or who want to supplement one of the lesser plans should see if their local library lends DVDs.

    Mine has a really decent selection. If something’s checked out, you reserve and wait for your turn to pick it up. But there are caveats. Anything recent is pretty much weeks, even months in queue.

    On the other hand, other stuff can be reserved, sent to your library, and available within a week, if it’s not already on a shelf. It’s really good for catching up on nonrecent movies, foreign films, and documentaries.

    Learning how to work the reserve system and self-service pickups also factor in making the process easier. And everything depends on your library.

  21. Jim says:

    I’ve been a Netflix member for several years and I like the service a lot. They have a huge variety of DVDs and the service is convenient and works fine. I generally recommend it. It may not always be the cheapest option though. If you only watch a few movies a month then Redbox might work better.

  22. Sarah in Alaska says:

    It’s Netflix for me.

    We don’t have Redbox. We do have BB but they, and the grocery store charge an arm and a leg for dvds.

    We’re really happy with our $5 Netflix service. Unlike many other companies who refuse to ship to Alaska, they’ve gone out of their way to make sure that our dvds arrive and in a timely manner.

  23. JPeteQ says:

    I love Netflix, but I’m planning on scaling back to one or two at a time. We just don’t watch movies often enough now to justify the 3 at a time plan. We’ve got very basic cable and we usually wait till a movie is on Netflix to watch it.

  24. Daniel says:

    I love netflix but had to cancel it due to time constraints. I didn’t feel I was watching enough to get my moneys worth. Now I stick to sites such as Hulu. Although, streaming on devices such as PS3, Wii and Windows media center make it more attractive.

  25. mikestreb says:

    I just signed up. They came out with a way to stream to PS3 ( http://www.netflix.com/InstantStreamingDisc ). I think that will make the $8.99 a month a lot more enticing for a lot of people (it is what convinced me to sign up).

    • mikestreb says:

      My PS3 ‘Watch Instantly’ disc shipped today. Pretty excited!

      • daemondust says:

        The interface isn’t as pretty as the XBOX 360 version, but it gets the job done. It does have the same recommendation categories, recently watched, and instant queue tabs the ’360 version does, but isn’t nearly as pretty.

        I haven’t done any side by side comparisons, but the streams look fine to me.

        I’m almost certainly not renewing my XBOX Live when it comes due in a few months because of this. I bet a lot of people will do the same.


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