After a long hiatus from the online DVD rental game, my wife and I signed up for a Netflix trial and became subscribers again. Why? Because they offer the best value of all the online DVD rental companies and make a great substitute for renting movies from a brick and mortar store, buying movies, subscribing to premium movie channels, or even dropping cable or satellite TV altogether.
As I’m sure you already know, Netflix pioneered the DVD rental by mail business with unlimited DVD rentals and no late fees. Netflix now offers several new features and price packages which make their plans a better deal than ever. Perhaps the most unique feature is the ability to rent DVDs via mail and stream movies over the internet.
How Netflix works
Netflix is easy to use – simply sign up for an account and start adding movies, documentaries, and TV episodes to your movie queue. You will receive movies in the order they are selected, and you can make changes at any time. Netflix also offers unlimited online video streaming with certain plans. You pay a monthly fee based on the number of disks you want to rent at a time, with free shipping both ways, and no late fees.
Online video streaming and other Netflix features
Netflix offers several price options, all but one of which are unlimited plans, which offer you unlimited DVDs sent to your home and unlimited online movie rentals via streaming.
Online movie streaming. Movie streaming is one of the best “new” features to Netflix. I say “new,” but it has been around for awhile now, just not since I last used Netflix. You will need a fast internet connection to truly enjoy the movie streaming, otherwise the picture and sound may be choppy. But that would more likely be due to the connection, and not from the Netflix side of the house. A great feature with online video streaming is the ability to pause, rewind, fast forward, and pick up where you left off. The $8.99 monthly price plan features unlimited online movie streaming, which is an excellent deal if you watch a lot of movies. The biggest downside to the online video streaming is the limited number of online movie choices, as not all new releases are available for video streaming (however, the selection of TV shows, documentaries, and other media is excellent). When used in conjunction with the DVDs by mail and your queue, you can make sure you’ve got great movies any time you want them.
Video game console integration and Netflix players. Right now the Microsoft XBox gaming console and the Sony PlayStation 3 have the ability to stream Netflix movies, and there are rumors that the Nintendo Wii will begin offering this ability next year. You can also stream online movie rentals through TiVo, a Roku player, which plays movies from Netflix and Amazon Video On Demand, through some Blu-Ray players, or directly through your computer or TV if it is connected to the internet.
Other Netflix features:
- Blu-ray movies. Netflix offers a wide range of Blu-ray movies, and they are constantly adding more Blu-rays to their library. That’s good news if you have a Blu-ray player.
- More distribution centers than the competition. Netflix has several distribution centers throughout the US, which minimizes the time it takes to process and mail your movies. So you should have a better turn around time, resulting in more movie rentals per month. As a side note, some DVD companies have admitted to throttling, which is limiting the number of new DVD releases or premium rentals their top users receive in any given month, but I have never experienced this.
- Movie recommendations, reviews, and community. The Netflix software will automatically suggest movies based on your past movie rentals, and you can read ratings and reviews of each movie before adding it to your queue. The Netflix community allows you to share movie lists with other members, exchange e-mails, etc.
- Vacation plan. you can put your subscription on a vacation hold while you are away so you don’t pay for a service you aren’t going to use.
- No commitment. Netflix does not require an annual commitment – simply pay month to month and quit at any time.
Netflix Price Plans
Netflix pricing is actually very reasonable if you subscribe to the lower level plans, but it can get a little expensive with the higher tier plans. But let’s face it – with unlimited online streaming, most people won’t need to elect the higher plans if they have the components in place to stream online movies. The $4.99 price plan is the “Limited Plan,” which only offers 2 rentals per month and 2 hours of streaming – barely enough to watch average length films, and not long enough to watch many movies. That makes the $8.99 price plan the best value for most people. Here is a chart with the Netflix pricing plans.
|Netflix Price Plans||# of DVDs
|1 DVD at a time||2 per month||2 hours||$4.99|
|1 DVD at a time||Unlimited||Unlimited||$8.99|
|2 DVDs at a time||Unlimited||Unlimited||$13.99|
|3 DVDs at a time||Unlimited||Unlimited||$16.99|
*Blu-ray movies price plans. Netflix offers Blu-Ray movies for an added fee. Add $1 to the “limited plan,” and $2, $3, and $4 to each of the other plans. The Netflix Blu-ray inventory is continually growing, which is good news for those of you who prefer HD movies.
How Netflix compares to the competition
We chose Netflix for its convenience and variety of features. The main competitors fall in 3 categories: brick and mortar video rental stores (BlockBuster and Hollywood Video), online video rentals (BlockBuster Total Access), and one day DVD rentals from a kiosk (like RedBox and BlockBuster).
How Netflix compares:
- Brick and Mortar: Netflix is hands down the winner – unlimited DVD rentals for less than the price of 2 rentals at a store, plus the ability to set movies in a queue and stream movies online.
- Online DVD rentals: Netflix offers a wider variety of movie selections and online video streaming; BlockBuster offers in store trades (read full BlockBuster and Netflix comparison for more information).
- DVD from a box: RedBox, BlockBuster, and others offer DVDs for a $1 a day, but they are usually limited to new releases and a few select classics. I would only use these as a supplement to Netflix if the movie I want is buried in my queue and it might take awhile before I receive it. Otherwise the selection and online movie streaming make Netflix a clear winner.
Can you save money with Netflix?
If you subscribe to multiple premium movie channels for the movies and not for their exclusive content, then absolutely. If you rent multiple movies each month from BlockBuster or Hollywood Video, then the answer is also yes. You can also save money if you are the type of person who buys several movies each month, watches them once, then doesn’t watch them again for several months, if ever. The key to saving money with Netflix is to change those old habits and drop the extra movie channels, stop renting from the store, and stop buying movies you won’t watch often.
You probably won’t save money if you only watch a couple movies each month, or prefer to borrow movies from the library, regardless of which movies are available (I fell into this last category for a long time; it was great to catch up on movies I had missed, but I was missing out on all the new releases!). I’m not really saving money with Netflix because we used the library for a long time, but this is a small luxury I am willing to pay for.
Netflix Customer Service Information
100 Winchester Circle
Los Gatos, CA 95032
Free One Month Netflix Trial
Netflix offers new customers a free one month trial to their service. If you like it, then you continue with the pricing plan you signed up for, and get to watch movies at your leisure. If you decide it’s not for you, then you can cancel at any time within the free trial period and you won’t be charged. All you do is sign up at http://www.netflix.com.
Photo credit: Urthstripe.