Checking my account I've been a Netflix subscriber since May 2004. After today's announcement I'll continue at my current subscription rate which will remain exactly the same price as I paid last month, $7.99.
I fell out of love with Netflix a long time ago. Back in May 2004 I signed up for the 3 DVD at a time plan and I stayed on that plan for several years. I had classics, new releases and television shows coming and going in the mail practically every day. I eventually noticed that there always seemed to be an orphan title, that one that seemed like a good idea when I added it to my queue, but which sat on top of the TV for a few weeks. One day I took a deep breath and switched from the 3 at a time plan to the 1 at a time plan.
Other options began opening up. When I noticed Netflix was no longer able to regularly deliver hot new releases on their actual release date, something they had been pretty good at those first few years, I switched to Amazon Instant for new releases. I justified the $3-$4 Amazon Instant rental charge as being the same price I'd paid to rent new titles back before we did any of this online.
I still used Netflix for older and classic movies though I stopped getting old and new TV shows in the mail as I began to watch them online on Hulu, Amazon, and, yes, Netflix. But Netflix was still good for the classics right? Yes, until Warner Archives came along and a void was created out of thin air because Netflix didn't carry any of their titles.
My response was to purchase a DVD-R Recorder and grow a collection of what's currently well over 1,000 movies recorded almost exclusively from TCM. The quality is usually pretty lousy and every movie comes with multiple instances of a TCM logo at the bottom right corner of my screen, but a small sacrifice for being able to have immediate access to a huge collection.
So now Netflix was good for a small population of cult titles and basically newer stuff I either didn't need right away or didn't value enough to pay a one-time rental fee elsewhere.
The single Netflix disc grew dusty atop my television. I'd keep a movie for 2-3 weeks, then 2-3 months, sending it back usually unwatched. That's when I knew Netflix wasn't paying for me anymore.
I do like their Instant selection though, especially the documentaries and their BBC back catalog. Basically Netflix Instant selections play on my desktop, usually in the background, while I'm putting together customers' packages to ship out the next day.
It was only a lousy two bucks, but a few months ago I decided watching dust pile on top of an unwatched DVD wasn't a privilege worth paying $2 for monthly. I then cut my Netflix plan back to Instant only.
Thus, no increase for me today.
There's a ton of great coverage available about the Netflix price increase beginning on Hacking Netflix and growing across our arena from some of our favorite classic movie bloggers:
- National Examiner Jennifer Garlen writes Netflix price hike bad news for classic movie fans
- Laura's Miscellaneous Musings covers it in Netflix News: Major Price Increase (I'd forgotten about the sales tax on top ... something else I avoid with the Instant only plan).
- Stacia covers the Netflix Price Increase at She Blogged By Night
- Angela at Hollywood Review writes An Open Letter to Netflix.
My own thinking moves in a slightly different direction since the Netflix price change doesn't touch me and I wasn't relying heavily on Netflix for Classic Movie titles.
I think $7.99 is a fair monthly charge for the One at a time rental plan. I think $7.99 is probably too steep for the Instant only plan. I think $15.98/month for both is a rip-off when compared to what's been and what's out there.
Yes, I'm paying my $7.99 for Instant, but if I ever run into a period where I find nothing new to watch I'm done. Guess what happens when I'm done? If you read my long history of movie rentals during the Netflix era you can probably guess that unless they've come up with some new and exciting way to watch movies I'll have exhausted Netflix's offerings altogether by that point and begin life as a former customer.
Jessie Becker's original post announcing the price changes on Netflix's own blog makes multiple references to Netflix's commitment to DVD's by mail, a commitment I feel has been absent for some time now. Am I saying Netflix is bad at DVD by mail? Absolutely not. But they are worse at it then they've ever been. Before suspending the DVD by mail portion of my account I noticed that they were worse at:
- Providing new releases in a timely manner
- Getting DVDs to me as fast as they used to
- Providing quality DVDs -- Increase in arrival of scratched, unplayable discs
- Selection. Overall improved, but doesn't feel like it without Warner Archives
If other options such as Amazon Instant and on a more personal level, the DVD-R recorder, hadn't opened up I'd surely still be paying for one, shoot maybe even up to three, DVD's by mail from Netflix. But they did and I'm not.
So I think $7.99/month for their one at a time plan is absolutely fair. I also think that if you're paying them $7.99/month for DVDs by mail then you probably deserve the Instant as an add-on for, oh, about $2 per month. You know, the old pricing. Basically just reversing the reasoning behind it.
I don't know if Netflix vastly underrated the demand for their DVD by Mail program during their push for Netflix Instant, or if this was all carefully calculated, but to offer no break whatsoever for some type of combination plan is so poorly conceived that I'm really suspicious of their motives.
If I still subscribed to both Netflix services, if they both still met a need, I would likely cancel Instant and continue to receive my DVD's by mail. It is an infinitely better deal for most of their subscribers who value the variety of the Netflix by Mail program.
The new pricing at face value turns Netflix Instant into such a poor deal by comparison I feel like they're trying to kill it.
In my own case I'll be keeping my Netflix Instant subscription active. No reason not to. But I am and have been ready to switch to the Amazon Prime Instant plan at any hint of inconvenience or quality slippage by Netflix Instant.
If Classic Movies are your passion I'd point to ClassicFlix, whose plans immediately became a bit more attractive today. I recommend them without ever having used the service myself though I recall hearing good things from Raquelle at Out of the Past and she doesn't hand out cheap praise. You can check out ClassicFlix's pricing here. Not only do they offer Warner Archive titles but other hard to find movies as well.
Based purely on the tiny sample of very big complaints I've seen today my guess is Netflix backtracks with some sort of compromise combination offering. Of course I wouldn't be surprised at all if they leave everything as it is, but I think that means things could get very interesting going forward.
I almost created a poll asking what you were going to do, but there seem to be way too many options: Nothing, Netflix Instant only, Netflix by Mail only, both Netflix Instant and by Mail; or, cancel Netflix altogether and opt for Amazon Instant, a niche service like ClassicFlix, go back through Blockbuster's doors, Red Box, stick to cable, etc. What's your plan?