August 7, 2012

Netflix



Ah, movies. There a bunch of ways to enjoy them. I recently signed up for Netflix. Details, opinions and thoughts follow...



First, I'll list the various ways to watch things:

- Cinema
- DVD / blu-ray
- Pay Per View (part of cable / satellite)
- Subscribed TV (cable / satellite)

I used to work at Blockbuster. For those of you who have forgotten, or are too young to know what 'renting a movie' was, it was a neat little business. Think of it as a library of just movies (and later on, TV shows, via DVD). As an employee, a perk I had was being able to rent a lot of movies, and best yet, rent them a week before they were released. 

Up here in Canada, 'renting' a physical copy of a DVD / blu-ray (say you want Inception on disc) is all but extinct. Pay Per View and Netflix pretty much finished off a dying trend. 

Due to my love of movies and TV, I was initially curious, though skeptical. I'm pretty technologically inclined, but there are a few areas that are 'unknown' to me: graphic design, coding, printers, certain mobile phone interfaces, and the various ways to watch TV.

Once I started house and cat sitting for my sister and her boyfriend, I had a chance to try it out a few times for myself. Overall, I was impressed. But I'm going to break it down though, base don my experience thus far.


First of all, what do you need? The average / more common user needs a computer (with internet and an e-mail address), credit card (or pay pal) and a decent internet package to allow for upload / download rates. If you want to watch Netflix on your TV, then a gaming system (PS3, Wii, X360) makes it a bit more user friendly on the TV end of things. The reason why I mention the decent internet package is because of this: if your service provider has 'caps', well using Netflix is using the internet. So be careful how much you watch in that regard.



The selection is 'pretty good' to 'awesome'. But it varies person by person - on what you like, how new you want it, etc. Netflix offers more films than TV shows (as of now), so it's a very good replacement to Blockbuster, etc in that regard. But there are TV shows. Now, comes a weakness: you won't get the 'newest' stuff. Let me use the example of Mad Men. Season 5 has finished airing on TV, and the DVD / blu-ray will be out in Oct for that particular season. However, on Netflix, it only goes up to (and including) Season 4. It's worse with Dexter. Season 7 is going to begin premiering this September, but Netflix only has the first *three* seasons up! Speaking of TV shows, there is nothing on Netflix by HBO - no True Blood, no Game of Thrones, no Boardwalk Empire... Movies you get about a few months after the DVD / blu-ray comes out, to give you an idea. So you're a bit behind in terms of 'new content, straight away'...for the most part, as far as I've seen. I don't think you're able to watch a new season of something as it airs on that show's network - you have to wait. What you can watch, however, you watch when you want. There's no timetable, or guide...you pick and choose when you want. I do wish you could make lists 'To Watch' 'Favorites', etc.  



How about the quality of the stuff? I know of some movie watchers who like the HD, the 5.1 surround sound all that (myself included), as well as those who just want to see it. As far as I can tell, at this moment, the Canadian Netflix is not in HD or 5.1. It's DVD quality, and stereo supported. But if you use surround sound, it won't be true 5.1, but the balance gets adjusted pretty well. There may ways to enable this, but I haven't found it yet. So there's another minor snag. 

It's a great value, though - I signed up a few days ago. My first month is free, after which I'll get the monthly charge of about $7 per month. That's pretty impressive. If you look at Blockbuster, there were bundles for older movies for about that price, or you could get a new movie for about $5-$7. And, if you don't have or don't want cable / satellite; there's your monthly bill. 

To close, here's my personal breakdown. To some, these aren't important at all, but they worth looking at regardless. Just so you're aware:

Pros

- Watch when you want
- Wide, varied selection, including TV shows
- Cheap
- Multi-device support (Computers, TV, etc...)
- Personalized taste / recommendations based on what you watch, or choose during account creation

Cons

- no lists (yet?)
- You don't get the newest stuff straight away. Have to wait a bit.
- No HBO series
- HD / 5.1 surround not supported (possibly?)
- No 'live' events (Sports, news, etc..)

For myself, it's a great addition, for I need my new episodes of Game of Thrones, Walking Dead and Dexter *straight away* - from the night they air, and beyond. Doesn't matter if it's through Bell or Rogers, as long as I have HBO, AMC, and Showtime plus a PVR; I'm all set. Shows on other networks, such as Fringe on FOX or Big Bang Theory, I know if I wait a few days the networks' sites will offer them if I don't feel like watching it that night, or using the PVR etc.

With Netflix, for some, you won't need or want a DVD / blu-ray player. You may cancel your cable / satelite, and do away with PVRs. I myself am pleased with it, but will wait for better quality, and more, newer stuff before / if I 'say no to cable / satellite!'

All in all though, it's worth giving it a shot. Even if you're not satisfied, at about $7 per month (after your first free month), you can't say it was a waste of money.



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