There has been a lot of fervor over the recent news that Netflix is now splitting it’s mailed DVD and streaming video services in two and charging a big increase if you want to keep doing both. Comments sections on blogs are full of hate, the social media sites are all full of complaining. Today brings more good news for people who love bad news. If you’re one of those people, like Roger Ebert, who doesn’t feel that they need to continue on getting DVDs in the mail and are going with streaming only, the way you consume your Netflix movies is going to change dramatically. Streaming only customers don’t get a queue.
Felix Simon, in his Reuters blog, opines that this means Netflix is moving toward a business model that relies less on giving customers a broad choice of films to watch, and more on bringing them the big Hollywood releases in the most convenient way. As Netflix has to spend more of its efforts picking and choosing where the money they dish out for streaming rights goes, chances are that less and less art house films are going to be available for Instant Watch. Maybe Criterion felt this wind blowing in when they moved their movies over to Hulu.
Now, if a streaming customer searches for a film that isn’t available to stream, instead of being able to add it into a queue and be notified when it becomes available, Netflix Instant users are just prompted with a button telling them they can get it on DVD for $7.99 a month. This means less awareness of what’s available to stream, no good way to organize your upcoming viewing, and just generally crappier customer service from Netflix over all. Being someone who hasn’t been able to deal with the limited selection of Instant Watch, I’ll be keeping the DVD service, and therefore keeping the Queue; so this doesn’t really affect my habits. I am pretty miffed at the philosophy that seems to be behind these moves though, and it doesn’t give me good feelings about my future as a Netflix user. As more and more of their focus goes to streaming new release features, is the price of DVD shipping going to keep increasing to insane levels? Is there currently excellent selection of DVD titles going to dwindle as they spend more of their resources going after streaming rights for big Blockbusters? Will even the DVD queue go away eventually to be replaced with algorithm based prompts asking you to choose your next DVD off of a small list? The sky is falling! The sky is falling!