September 25, 2010


Netflix comes to Canada 500x352
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 Promise

I 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 Complaint

There'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 Perspective

Netflix 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 Stopper

There'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 Service

Customer 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.


Podcast Episode 85 (5:45)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS What are you watching tonight?


dougo13 said...

Sharktopus, SyFy Channel

Paul Nazareth said...

Awesome post!

I was wondering about how to use it and what the drawbacks and advantages were.

Was going to wait for a Globe article or something. You've saved us a ton of time - thanks as always!!

Promod said...

My pleasure, Paul :)

Unknown said...

Its nice to hear a touch of reason, i cant believe that people expect so much for 7.99 a month. one movie form bell's Vu service is over 5 dollars, and they don't get them till there already out on dvd. i think that the selection, the quality, and the ability to stream form 6 different places makes the 7.99 price tag a real nice value.
(my space bar is freaking out so forgive the random extra spaces:) )

Promod said...

Thanks Lee. I'm miffed too :)

Chris said...

Funny that a blog article about "the right way to view Netflix" doesn't mention what playback device the author actually used. Since these can make a big difference, this information would be kind of important, eh?

Promod said...

Chris, the playback devices shouldn't matter since Netflix supports so many. The complaints focus on the limited selection in Canada, not the quality.

At the time, I was using a notebook and tablet. We've now got a free disc for our Wii console that allows viewing on our TV.

The best way to judge for yourself is with a free trial.

Ray said...

It matters. Most of us that are considering purchasing are wondering what the quality is like, does it work with our PS3s, what's the wireless streaming like, do we still need the "disc" in the PS3 or is it in the firmware yet.

This article is just on a few missing movies?

Unknown said...

Selection on Canadian Netflix sucks big time relative to the US one. Looks like we have to wait another 3 years to get a similar service quality.

I am using service to watch the US version from Canada. Works perfectly on my PC and Apple TV.

Anonymous said...

Hey Leo,

Thanks for your info. I just checked out that site and it looks somewhat hopeful.

I was considering making the changes to my computer, which is where I would watch TV shows I've missed. I'm a little nervous (a lot nervous)about making the necessary computer changes so that I appear to live in the US. Will it mess up anything on my computer that is there now? What affect would it have?