Monday, September 20, 2010

Netflix lives up to its name and then some...

Initially... when Netflix debuted over 10 years ago... I was a bit confused. With a name like Netflix, you would think that you could watch movies over the Internet... but instead, Netflix was just an online DVD rental service.

They were the first to do so (I think) and eventually Blockbuster and some others got into the game. Several years ago, when I was deciding on a DVD service to use, I went with Blockbuster because of the ability to return the DVDs to their physical store which also allowed me to double on my rentals because you could trade the returned DVD for an in-store rental, which basically doubled the number of DVDs you could rent. It went well for a while but driving to-and-fro Blockbuster was becoming more of a hassle and waiting several days for the mailed DVDs was inconvenient because I had to remember to queue them a few days prior to the weekend to ensure I would get them by then. And when Blockbuster changed their policy so that the in-store exchanges also counted as your mailed rentals, I started using the service less and less and either doing Redbox ($1 DVD rentals) or just renting at Blockbuster for that instant gratification.

Cue Netflix Instant Streaming.

While they had started doing it in 2007, it wasn't until lately they have expanded their Instant Streaming library and just signed a deal last August with EPIX which adds even more content. There are ton of movies and TV series I would like to watch and this seemed like a good way to do it, especially because they could stream to multiple devices like our iPhones, our PS3s and even our Wii (and even more devices are offering Netflix functionality like TVs and BluRay players).. Since I have been looking for an HD Media Player I have been looking into streaming services like VuDu but the great thing about Netflix Streaming is it's unlimited and included with the DVD rental service. I just wondered what type of quality was it going to be.

Well... I signed up for the free month of service and while I was waiting for our DVDs to show up (to stream on the PS3 and Wii requires a physical CD/DVD), I decided to try the iPhone app. At first it was dicey but that's because I wasn't in an area with good 3G reception. Once I was... I was amazed at how fast it started, the quality and even the ability to stop it and resume it a later time/day. And then when I got the discs for the Wii and PS3, it was even better because anything I was watching on one device, I could resume on another. I was doubtful about the speed and quality because all of my game machines are wireless but it was basically like watching a DVD (480p) which was good enough for us. And depending on the interface, it could suggest other titles, allows you to search and you can put movies on your Instant Queue to access them quicker on your different devices. I like the PS3 interface the best mainly because the Wii doesn't seem to provide search functionality but it's easy enough to hop over to your computer... use their search (which is the best way since you have a real keyboard), add it to your Instant Queue and then go watch it on the Wii (or any other device). And having the iPhone app makes it so portable as long as you are in a good service area. Being able to start watching something while at the park or a restaurant, resume watching it downstairs in the den or living room and then going upstairs to finish it is just ridiculous.

I'm not sure how Netflix is making money on this because just over this last week we've probably watched over 20 hours of streaming content while we've only rented 1 DVD. But I'm convinced, I'm going to end my Blockbuster account, continue my Netflix 1-DVD only account (currently $8.99, $10.99 if you want BluRay) and watch as much flix over the Net as I can.

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