Why Do People Sign Up For Netflix?

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Netflix Thumbs UpI don’t understand why people have Netflix subscriptions.

I never rent movies and when I do, I usually turn to the $1 a night RedBox vending machine at my local Giant. For $1.05 (MD sales tax is 5%), I get a recent release that I happened to miss in the theaters (I enjoy going to the movie theater, paying $9, and watching a movie with my girl) and most of the time I can find a coupon online that gives me the rental for free. That being said, I don’t really understand why people sign up for a recurring rental service when something like a RedBox exists (unless it doesn’t in your area). And no, Redbox isn’t paying me. In fact, if you sign up for Netflix through that link above, Netflix is paying me a commission so enjoy my brutal honesty.

Let’s take a look at the cheapest Netflix plan, $4.99 for one movie out with a maximum of two movies a month. That makes it $2.50 a movie with the only advantage being that you can have that movie for as long as you want. How likely is it that you’ll be watching that movie more than once? I’d say the probability of that is exactly 0%, certainly 0% within a one month period. Netflix says they can send out a movie within a business day, and let’s say they’re right, that means the lag time between when you order a movie and when you get it will be at least one business day. So, if you wanted to watch a movie tonight, you wouldn’t be able to unless you already had it in your hand.

Like I said earlier, I’m not trying to validate the RedBox video rental model. What I’m actually trying to do is understand the psychology behind why someone would use Netflix because everything I read about American consumerism seems to point towards RedBox and not Netflix. For example, Americans are impulsive. That means we don’t, in general, plan what we will watch on Thursday the Tuesday beforehand. We plan what we watch on Thursday night at around Thursday afternoon. Another point, Americans love cheap. Redbox is $1.00+tax a night, I will only watch the movie for one night, so it’s cheaper than Netflix. Why pay more just so I can have it sit around on my coffee table?

So, for all those folks out there that use Netflix… why?

(Photo by brymo)

{ 105 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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105 Responses to “Why Do People Sign Up For Netflix?”

  1. Matt says:

    If all you ever want to watch is what RedBox has and you’re not interested in maximizing your return, then sure…use RedBox instead.

    But for the rest of us, Netflix is a great value…especially when you employ a decent optimization strategy…and even moreso if your mail delivery is early in the day.

    (When we get DVDs in the mail from Netflix, we rip them. Immediately. Then we seal them back up in the return envelope and drive them to the post office. Even with our mail coming between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, this USUALLY allows us to get them back in the mail the same day, which means Netflix gets them back the next morning, and we have another delivery the day after. For our $20/mo, we get four DVDs every other business day. In a typical month, we receive 60 DVDs, and it’s only that _low_ because a lot of the time we’re not finished with the ripping until after the post office closes, so it costs us an extra day. If our mailman came in the morning, we’d be up to 80 per month. Then, when we actually want to WATCH something, we have a huge collection of iso files to choose from.)

    It simply isn’t POSSIBLE to get that drink-from-a-firehose level of content from RedBox, even if you’re willing to settle for what RedBox offers, because they don’t rotate their selection enough. And certainly it’d be WAY more expensive, even if they did.

    • Netflix watcher says:

      that is illegal and u should not do something like that. It is considered stealing and the people who make those movies work hard and desreve to get paid and when u do what u do they lose some money from it

  2. jim says:

    Hey Matt, so what you’re saying is that you are just using Netflix to copy your own DVDs… 🙂

  3. I love Netflix. Before Netflix, I hardly ever watched movies, maybe twice a year. I now watch 3 or 4 movies a week, I even bought a projector in order to enjoy the theater experience. I have been on Netflix a year and a half now, and I have become to spoiled that I no longer watch TV at all, nor listen to radio – having grown to really HATE commercials.
    I have watched movies that I never would’ve heard of because of Netflix’s rating systems and their “other movies you might like” section. I can watch previews, and read the reviews to get an idea if a movie is worth watching or not.
    I have the 3-at-a-time. I select a comedy, a foreign film, and a bombastic action or CGI flick that can take advantage of my 7.1 surround system, so I always have something on hand whatever mood I’m in.
    Netflix rules!!!
    Oh, and they have pretty much EVERYTHING that is out on DVD.

  4. Natural says:

    It works for me. Just sent a movie back this morning.

  5. Matt says:

    I use copying to time-shift the difference between when I hear about something I’d like to watch and when I actually watch it. It’s not like I’m selling or even giving away those ISOs.

  6. PV says:


    I was amazed to be able to rent, “Tahitian Hip Hop,” not something I’d be able to find in a video redbox in Western PA. Not that I’d rent it again, but I do take advantage of their overall selection.

  7. NetFlux says:

    Netflix’s recent move to provide “unlimited” would have been the coolest thing ever—if it weren’t a lie and a rip off.

    That’s right. After you watch your 17 hours of seamless streaming movies, it starts crashing your browser for you. So some folks are not actually GETTING the unlimited hours. Officially, they’re on unlimited, technically however, Netflix prevents it.

    This is a classic bait and switch. I have tracked this since the unlimited thing BEGAN.

    Consistently, and every month, after 17 hrs of watching seamlessly… it won’t allow any more watching and crashes browsers to prevent users from the promised “Unlimited”.

    People should be outraged. Netflix was fine before this, after this, I can’t trust them anymore.

  8. Megen says:

    I don’t know why everybody pays for movies at all! The library has tons, literally tons, of movies of all kinds for free. Or if you want a super new-release, it’s a dollar a week around here. It’s seriously a great deal!

  9. Danni D says:

    I’ve rented movies from Netflix, Blockbuster, Walmart, Redbox, and the library. I agree that Redbox is best for new releases. has free rental codes so I rarely pay for a movie. The problem is that I return the movie on the way home from work. Being hungry, I end up buying more groceries. Of the online rentals, Netflix has the largest selection. However after a couple of months I found that I’d exhausted the list of movies that I wanted to see and was venturing into foreign films. As for the library, in my experience they have extremely long wait lists. Until gas is $5/gallon, I think I’ll grab a snack and head over to Redbox.

  10. Shawn S says:

    I live in a moderately sized town (120,000) in Texas and my only choices are Blockbuster (look up their rates) and Hastings (you probably have never heard of them, just like I’ve never heard of RedBox). I choose Netflix because I get ‘on-demand’ video on my comuter, and I get a DVD sent to me in about two days from the time they receive my last video. If I order a DVD it’s because I missed it an the box office. And if I missed it then, I can wait a few days to see it again.

  11. Sarah says:

    I don’t know why people use Netflix/Blockbuster either. I check out dvds for free at my local library and get to keep them for a week.

  12. Dominick says:

    I have a Netflix account. I get 2 movies at a time by mail, but can have unlimited movies sent per month. I also can choose from thousands of movies I can watch instantly online.

    I have an Xbox 360 and for the movies in my instant queue that are compatible on my Xbox (over 400 on my list of 500 are), it means I can watch unlimited movies, every single day. I also have multiple TV shows in my instant queue like Heroes and 30 Rock.

    I watch movies a lot. Let’s say I watch 1 a day through my instant queue. I also have 3 other family members who watch movies through Netflix. So lets say they get 2 a week on top of my watching. That is 30-31 movies I watch plus 8 per month for them. That’s 40 or so movies total for $13 per month. Not too shabby IMO.

  13. CW says:

    You got the model backwards. With Redbox you do have to plan ahead. You have to plan to have time to pick it up, watch it and return it on time.

    For $1.50 more I can have the movie sitting around my house ready when I am , no preplanning necessary. And when gas was $5/gal $1.50 is what it would cost to go round trip twice to pick up and return a movie only 2 miles away. Back at $2/gal I can go 5 miles away. But the nearest Redbox is 7 miles away…

  14. Netflix watcher says:

    I rent netflix movies for $18.88 including tax. I watch the movie the night it comes in and then send it back in the next day. I rent more then 18 movies in a month so actually the price of the movie is lower then 1 dollar after the first 18-19 movies I watch. Netflix movies do get there in 1 business day which is great. Since I have a plan that allows 3 at a time I will have a 3 movies soon and each day after I get the movies I will send them back 1 at a time so that I always have a movie and always have something to watch.

  15. […] even with such posts as “Why do people sign up for Netflix?” peppering the archives, we at the BFP household signed up for the $8.99 a month plan that […]

  16. Ken says:

    Let me start by telling I am retired and I have a problem getting around and really don’t like to go to theaters, beside the cost, to see 3 to 4 movies in a months time, even at senior prices, for two the cost is $12 to $14 dollars per movie. With Netflix I have the 3 DVD plan for $16.99 plus FL tax of $1.19 total $18.18. I watch 6 movies a week and sometimes an extra 3 for weekend watching. Another plus with my subscription I am able watch up to 8 select movies a month through my computer.

    Once and a while when I don’t get a recent release from Netflix I know by Monday what will be in the mail, THEN I will reserve from Redbox on line after midniht or early morning, and usually catch the new release before it is all rented.

    One other thing in favor of Netflix is being able to watch all of last seasons series without having to spend the big bucks to buy the boxed series which most likely will be watched one time. Try that with Redbox.

  17. xxxx says:

    1.People like me pay a lot more in late fees than one month netflix charges.
    2.Iam not a fan of watchng the latest movie always.
    3.Likes to watch foreign movies.
    4.iam impulsive too…just don’t plan when to watch a movie and hate to make a trip to redbox with my kids!!!so,always a good movie is avaialble online ,when ever you want.
    5.mostly convinience.I don’t like running around redbox two times in a two days.I better not to watch anything at all.

  18. huh says:

    “Let’s take a look at the cheapest Netflix plan, $4.99 for one movie out with a maximum of two movies a month.”

    What? It’s no wonder he doesn’t understand why people choose Netflix. He doesn’t even understand how it works. It’s not one or two movies PER MONTH. It’s one or two movies AT A TIME. If you receive them, watch them, and return them on the same day and your local center is one day away by first class mail, that one or two DOZEN PER MONTH.

    • anon says:

      Actually, he was right. You are referring to the cheapest UNLIMITED plan, which is 8.99. If you only pay 4.99 per month, you can only get two movies a month.

  19. Joseph says:

    I havent seen (while skimming the responses) anyone mention what I believe to be the most valuable feature of Netflix.
    Streaming videos that can be delivered 2 ways:
    1: direct to your computer for instant view,
    2: download to a compatible PVR (there are several models to choose from and they start at around $100)
    coupled with the 1 dvd out at a time plan for 9.99 is an unlimited accsess to the Netflix instant movie libraryvia the internet. In essence I pay $9.99 a month to exponentially expand my video library.

  20. Bryan says:

    RedBox is wonderful if you love New Release movies but it has its disadvantages also. One major disadvantage of Redbox is the selection is very limited and the vast majority of the movies are New Releases because they are limited to the capacity of the machine. The truth is not every movie lover always wants to watch the latest movie released 100% of the time they wish to watch a movie. I do watch New Release movies but I love to watch a lot of the classic movies also so for me Netflix is the best option. If you just only love to watch New Release movies, than Redbox is perfect for you, but Netflix would be a lot better choice on someone who wishes to watch older movies and television shows such as Lost. One thing I do love about Redbox is that it cost only $1/night which is a wonderful price for the latest movies but another disadvantage of Redbox is the possibility of receiving a damaged or unplayable DVD in which you still get charged for.

  21. dralezero says:

    I like to rent from Family Video. They have 2 movies for $1 for 5 nights on the releases that have been out a while. That’s 50cents a movie. At least where I am it can take 3 days for me to get a new movie from Netflix. For say 30 days a month that gives me possible of 10 movies a month at 89cents each (8.99/mo) (I’m not counting tax here). I can get 17-18 movies a month at that cost going to local video store and not worry about getting it in the mail on time. I have 5 days so the next day I can return the 2 movies and get 2 more.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I completely understand your comments and I do not use netflix. Occasionally I use redbox, but mainly, I use my local library where they have nearly as many new releases as any video store, I can place holds on them to get them when they are available, I can have them for a week and best of all THEY ARE FREE!!!! Yes, FREE. I do not have to pay anything at all. So, in that case, why the heck are you paying $1.05 for something that you could get for free is my question. But, I really do understand the netflix people, too, because it IS hard when you have little ones. Also, I used redbox one night, went to turn in the movie the next evening, the box was full and would not accpet returns! My choice was to either pay for another night I did not need or to drive around looking for another box that may or may not be full! That was very annoying. I’ve also noticed that the search features on the box leave a LOT to be desired. There should be a way for someone to view available movies while someone else is making their selections or returning their movies, even if it was just a rotating view of available movies or something. And there should be something CLEAR from driving by whether it is full and unable to accept returns!

  23. Julia says:

    I use netflix because of instant access to movies online, plus new releases via snail mail. I also use the library, Blockbuster and Redbox. But with Netflix I do not have to spend gas $ to go get it or return it. In the end the cost is about the same if you factor in gas.

  24. Matt says:

    Red Box actually doesn’t get some of the new releases anymore. WB and a couple other companies cut their ties with RB so good luck getting their movies from one. I even work at Blockbuster and I still have a Netflix subscription. Why? Because regardless of how you look at it, it’s still more efficient than Red Box, and because I can stream the movies. You say it’s cheaper to use Red Box? Wrong. As long as you aren’t keeping the disc for a week without watching it and making sure to send it back immediately after watching it, then you can easily get more discs/dollar than at Red Box.

    I won’t even go into the fact that Netflix has almost every movie you could possibly want whereas Red Box only has a small selection (even for new releases its still a small selection) and is even larger than Blockbuster’s selection.

  25. anon says:

    If you want to watch box office bu77$41t, then redbox is fine. But if you have a taste in movies that goes any further, you won’t be able to find what you want. You can probably, however, find it within Netflix’ extensive selection.

    Hop off your high horse, buddy, and develop a decent taste in movies.

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