On weekends, we watch movies. In 2000, we got the largest HDTV that would fit down our stairs (a 56" Panasonic projection TV) and a great Yamaha/Paradigm surround sound system that still shakes the walls. The challenge is finding content. As part of a low noise life, we don't have cable or satellite. Visiting video stores is a hassle. The library has a limited selection and we never tried rental by mail.
The ideal for convenience and selection is watching streaming video through our home cinema.
We have a 25 Mbps Internet connection with a 125 GB monthly usage cap. We'd upgrade to 50 Mbps and 175 GB but Rogers refuses to take another $30 a month from us unless we get digital cable TV too. There's no technical barrier, just an arbitrary corporate "policy".
The PromiseI kept reading about Netflix which offers movie rentals by mail and streaming Internet video in the US.
Well, Netflix came to Canada this week and we subscribed the first day. For $7.99 a month, you can watch as many movies and TV episodes as you like. You can watch on different devices such as gaming consoles, computers, iPhones and even iPads. You can watch on different devices at the same time. So the solution is good for the family, except for a show stopper explained below.
The technology works surprisingly well. There are none of the buffering problems we sometimes experience with YouTube and other online video. Playback starts faster than loading a DVD. You're spared the previews that some discs force you to watch. There's no FBI warning either. The quality may seem blurry at first but quickly sharpens.
The Biggest ComplaintThere's lots of choice but many omissions. You won't find new releases. In the US, you'd get them by mail since streaming is included in the DVD-rental-by-mail packages. That option isn't available in Canada. Don't count on getting all the older stuff either. You won't currently find: The Shawshank Redemption, The Sopranos, any Monty Python, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Matrix series, any Get Smart, Lawrence Of Arabia, Once Upon A Time In America, What About Bob? or The Departed. Sometimes you'll find subsets of series: only Crocodile Dundee 2, only Terminator 2 and only Bad Boys 1.
However, you will find Fawlty Towers, Memento, GlenGarry Glen Ross, House of Games, Slumdog Millionaire, Frozen River, Snow Falling On Cedars, 12 Monkeys and The House Of Sand And Fog. Christopher Nolan's first film, Following, looks interesting. You can search by title, director, performer or genre. Some titles are available in HD (which doubles bandwidth consumption to 2 GB/hour).
When a selection isn't available , you're given substitutes based on your preferences. Instead of Indiana Jones And The Raiders Of The Lost Ark, you're offered Popeye with Robin Williams , the Golden Child with Eddie Murphy or The Gods Must Be Crazy 2. Isn't that bizarre? Other times the choices are more relevant.
The Right PerspectiveNetflix feels like a video rental store.
There's lots of choice but don't count on finding a specific title. If you're open to exploring, you'll find a vast selection available for instant viewing. How convenient during a winter snowstorm or if you want more variety than television can provide. Plus you can watch wherever you have a fast Internet connection.
The Show StopperThere's one major caveat if you have children. In the US, Netflix lets you setup profiles for different family members. So you can prevent your children from watching content you deem unsuitable. This option is not currently available in Canada but should be coming soon.
Customer ServiceCustomer service is fast and friendly. You enter a six digit code which you find at the bottom of your web pages. Afterwards, you receive a short satisfaction survey by email. You're asked about movie quality after viewing, much like Skype asks about call quality. You can leave comments on the Netflix blog. You'll find many complaints about the selection in Canada.
As with books, a title is new if you haven't seen it before.
In that sense, Netflix is convenient source of entertainment unless you insist on seeing the newest movies or specific movies. The selection is bound to improve (and is already overwhelming). The easiest way to tell is by trying the service, which is free for the first month.
- Netflix Canada and US
- Press release (Netflix)
- Netflix launches in Canada (Netflix blog)
- Netflix launches in Canada with limited selection (Vancouver Sun)
- Netflix could have 40% margins in Canada (BusinessofVideo.com)
- Google Alerts: track what matters to you
- The low noise life
- Netflix's lost year: The inside story of the price-hike train wreck (CNET, Jul 11, 2012) (new)
Podcast Episode 85 (5:45)
direct download | Internet Archive page
PS What are you watching tonight?