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The Professor is Dead. Long Live Netflix!
June 28, 2011 9:19 AM   Subscribe

The Professor is Dead. Long Live Netflix! As Netflix rebrands itself as a cable TV alternative rather than a by-mail video rental service, it's killing off its user community and anonymizing reviews. Top reviewer The Professor is philosophical about the change (see main link), others less so.
posted by Scram (106 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Do think it is super cool how the user base immediately whips out the contact info.

Suggestion: The written, paper letter goes farther, especially if faxed. People have to move that stuff. It has to go in a file.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:23 AM on June 28, 2011


Gladder than ever that I changed "cable TV providers" back when they proved they hated their customers.
posted by DU at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2011


The Netflix site really has become worse and worse over time. I don't really care all that much about the reviews and avatars, but Netflix.com isn't as good as it used to be.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:25 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been on NetFlix for about 7 months or so now and this is honest to god the first time I ever heard they had any type of online community at all.

Maybe I'm more of a casual user than some of these people or this Professor person but yeah, as he noted in his own post, I use NetFlix because I get almost everything I got out of cable for about 20% of the cost. My "community" was the real-world friends who I told about all the money I was saving.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


A bunch of movies just disappeared from my streaming "queue." If streaming movies are going to be time-limited, and Netflix phases out DVDs, then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies.
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


But yeah, I don't really use the "community" features. Although I do like the reviews they don't seem that helpful for choosing a movie. I'm much more likely to use off-site resources for that already.
posted by muddgirl at 9:27 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like the NetFlix user interface has changed to make it easier to stream and more difficult to queue movies for delivery recently, which is another source of annoyance.
posted by grouse at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


", then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies."

Of course, one is legal, the other not-so-much.
posted by oddman at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011


So this is why there has been "a problem retrieving member reviews" the past few days? It was bad enough when they got rid of the user lists where you could see someone's favorite grindcore movies or '70s horror gems or whatever. I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store with a focus on foreign, cult and other out-of-the-mainstream stuff that one could just drive to when the mood struck. I suppose streaming takes care of that for most people, though I'm not that impressed with the content they have available to stream.
posted by Clustercuss at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011


Oh my gosh, I'm totally going to start a MeTa about how you tricked me into thinking the Russell Johnson (The Professor from Gilligan's Island) was actually dead how dare you!?!?
posted by The World Famous at 9:28 AM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I really enjoyed The Professor's article. That is perspective and calm that is rare indeed.

Ironically, after reading that, I'd love to read his movie reviews, even though I rarely watch movies.
posted by fake at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not a Netflix subscriber.
However, from what I know of the service, it would seem like a no-brainer that, if any online service could benefit from a vibrant online community, it would be Netflix. This sanitizing seems horribly counter-intuitive to me.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: "A bunch of movies just disappeared from my streaming "queue." If streaming movies are going to be time-limited, and Netflix phases out DVDs, then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies."

You mean besides the convenience of not getting periodic DMCA notices from your service provider?

Plus a ton of no-techie people like my parents like streaming netflix, I'm not sure I'm going to suggest my parents start using bittorrent to satisfy their movie needs.
posted by vuron at 9:29 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


They got rid of friends lists a while back, which was fine by me. I don't want people to know I watched 45 episodes of Sports Night over a long weekend instead of leaving the house.

Netfilix seems a little broken recently. The new way they are displaying TV series is cool, one page for the whole series and one icon in my instant queue. But for instance, What they are calling "Kitchen Nightmares season 5" then links to a page that lists "series" 1 and 2. The episodes are all mislabeled as well.

I pretty much use instantwatcher.com for everything. I don't doubt there will be a mashup to include community features given enough time.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I really don't get Netflix's insistence on de-featuring — there can't possibly be a serious financial/engineering reason to cut something as trivial as the "Friends" feature or customer reviews on a multi-billion-dollar company's website. What is their actual motivation here?
posted by RogerB at 9:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, this provides another reason not to contribute your "content" for free to corporations. Like I'm doing right now.
posted by grouse at 9:30 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could care less who says what about whatever they watched as long as I can keep watching documentaries on my mobile devices.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, from what I know of the service, it would seem like a no-brainer that, if any online service could benefit from a vibrant online community, it would be Netflix. This sanitizing seems horribly counter-intuitive to me.

I've been a subscriber for almost 7 years now. Even got a Tivo Premier with Netflix streaming built in.

I have never, ever, even looked at a review on their site or participated in the community.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:32 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Meanwhile, the changes barely register with the broad customer base"

This is truth, right here, I never even realized netflix _had_user reviews.

It's like the "Discussions" way at the bottom of a Hulu page. Just noticed them a month or so ago.

I'm not even sure either of my netflix-capable streaming devices have a way to show reviews. I'll have to look next time.
posted by madajb at 9:33 AM on June 28, 2011


I feel like the NetFlix user interface has changed to make it easier to stream and more difficult to queue movies for delivery recently

How so? Out of curiosity I just logged on to my account, went to "Browse DVDs" and added a couple DVDs to my queue just by clicking the red "Add" button. Seems like it's always been like that.
posted by mullacc at 9:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean besides the convenience of not getting periodic DMCA notices from your service provider?

I'm speaking for myself only, and I don't get those. The Professor describes a new Netflix that focuses on providing streaming. It doesn't seem to be streaming the stuff I watch.

My point was that, if people are abandoning cable because Netflix is more convenient (can watch what we want, when we want), what will happen when Netflix is less convenient (can only watch what we want until the end of the unlisted time limit)?
posted by muddgirl at 9:34 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, so does this also mean they killed off their fantastic suggestions based on my rental history?

Usenet is cheaper anyway, but bittorrent seems to have more stuff, but in neither case have I actually received a DMCA notice. I actually have Netflix and I pay (too much, actually..I really need to look around for better pricing) for a Usenet service and almost never use it except for Blu-Rays.

I think all the "I never looked at reviews" people are funny. Have you also never looked at the reviews/ratings on Amazon? Or IMDB? Or Rotten Tomatoes? Each site has a different demographic, so you can learn a lot about a film by seeing how it fares at the different sites.
posted by wierdo at 9:34 AM on June 28, 2011


As you become the monopoly, you stop having to listen to your customers.

Hey UK folks, any similar things going on with lovefilm?
posted by infinitewindow at 9:35 AM on June 28, 2011


Try this if you like the older interface: http://www.netflix.com/WiHome?fcld=true
posted by Splunge at 9:37 AM on June 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


The Netflix site really has become worse and worse over time. I don't really care all that much about the reviews and avatars, but Netflix.com isn't as good as it used to be.

I occasionally watch a streaming video on my main desktop. I need to use a windows vm, because netflix doesn't support linux.
The new site redesign works poorly, even though the streaming still works just fine.
posted by madajb at 9:37 AM on June 28, 2011


I really don't get Netflix's insistence on de-featuring — there can't possibly be a serious financial/engineering reason to cut something as trivial as the "Friends" feature or customer reviews on a multi-billion-dollar company's website. What is their actual motivation here?

I would imagine maintaining and monitoring a massive database of tens of millions of people and their publicly expressed statements and opinions is in fact quite a financial obligation. Why they did this seems pretty clear: "the changes barely register with the broad customer base." IOW, killing it won't reduce their profits.

This is like Western Union no longer providing telegram service. A friend list isn't the "feature" 99.9% of Netflix's clientele is paying for. Personally, I'm in the 99.9% who would rather they axe an unnecessary community system instead of, say, having to raise monthly fees.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't really care about the community part, but the loss of the sortable list view has made it completely impractical to reliably discover new content. There are too many things wrong with the new interface too discuss in a MeFi comment, but suffice to say that while it's not quite enough to make me cancel outright, it's close.

I'm not alone in this, either. The official Netflix blog post announcing the new, worse interface hit the 5000 comment cap in 5 days, virtually every one of them decrying the new interface. When you're getting a thousand negative comments per day you know you're doing something wrong.

Frankly, I blame Apple for promoting the awfulness that is Cover Flow. Album covers and movie posters are nice to look at but they're a terrible way to search for and discover new music and movies.

Try this if you like the older interface

It still doesn't bring back the sortable list view as far as I can tell.
posted by jedicus at 9:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]



A bunch of movies just disappeared from my streaming "queue." If streaming movies are going to be time-limited, and Netflix phases out DVDs, then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies.


It has always(?) been this way, as far as I know. Some movies seem to stay up for a long time, others not so much.
posted by curious nu at 9:39 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have been using Netflix since shortly after it became available. The user reviews are not why I use Netflix, and is not why I use it.

The thing that makes Netflix good is their almost magical ability to know what I'd like to watch. Keep that up, and they'll keep me. The internet doesn't need another message board.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:40 AM on June 28, 2011


I think all the "I never looked at reviews" people are funny. Have you also never looked at the reviews/ratings on Amazon? Or IMDB? Or Rotten Tomatoes? Each site has a different demographic, so you can learn a lot about a film by seeing how it fares at the different sites.

Nope.
The only time I look at Rotten Tomatoes is if I'm actually thinking about seeing a movie in a theater, where it has actual cost.

If I pick something to stream and it sucks, well, I just pick something else. Generally through browsing the new arrivals queue, or picking a category if I know what I'm in the mood for.
posted by madajb at 9:40 AM on June 28, 2011


Read the signs people!

* Netflix is dumping all it's in-house social features
* The CEO of Netflix just joined the Facebook Board of Directors.

Can you connect the dots?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [37 favorites]


I'm on my second go around with Netflix. I used it years ago when I was holed up like a hermit in a rented bedroom while working night shift. Back then I was just looking for new entertainment - the reviews and user lists were helpful for find things to watch.

Now I'm using it as a cable replacement. I don't watch TV that much so actual cable is hard to justify, but I still want to be able to follow shows that I like. I already know what I want to watch and have it queued up. I didn't even miss the reviews and lists.

If Netflix is focusing on my latter experience it makes some sense in a "only do what fits your goals" sort of way to be shedding a lot of the stuff from my previous experience.
posted by charred husk at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2011


Blockbuster is loving this.
posted by Splunge at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2011


(and my apologies for the grocer's apostrophe).
posted by blue_beetle at 9:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The official Netflix blog post announcing the new, worse interface hit the 5000 comment cap in 5 days, virtually every one of them decrying the new interface. When you're getting a thousand negative comments per day you know you're doing something wrong.

A single person can generate hundreds of comments. "Internet people" get very upset about small changes. Netflix has millions of subscribers.

Me? I went into the website and noticed the change, I thought "nice, now it looks just like how it does on my Roku."

How many people complained here when it was suggested there be an option for a white background?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2011


Personally, I'm in the 99.9% who would rather they axe an unnecessary community system instead of, say, having to raise monthly fees.

It didn't lead to me cancelling, but they did raise their fees a while back, when they introduced a "streaming only" account level. So, technically, they're raising prices while chopping features.

I do have concerns about where they're headed, business-wise, as I'm not much for the "streaming only" idea, which is what it looks like they're trying to do. If the selection were better, fine; but a lot of stuff is missing, a lot of stuff seems to come and go (Farscape, I'm looking at you), and a lot of stuff just.. well, sucks. I don't want what I'm able to watch to be dictated by some corporation that says, no, sorry, you can't have a license to stream this just yet. Better luck in 6 months.
posted by menschlich at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2011


Ad hominem, you made my day with the instantwatcher.com link. How have I never heard of this?
posted by snapped at 9:44 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


what will happen when Netflix is less convenient (can only watch what we want until the end of the unlisted time limit)?

They've always had issues with time-limited licensing, I think. It all depends on the contracts they have with the various media providers. At least on the XBox interface, there is a little note that says something like "Until May 22, 2012" if the content has an expiration date. Though a lot of times I've noticed content remaining even after that date.
posted by kmz at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011


I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store with a focus on foreign, cult and other out-of-the-mainstream stuff that one could just drive to when the mood struck.

I live a mile away from exactly the store you describe. They seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. Netflix is great when I know what I want to see, and I've seen some gems come up on their automatic suggestions, but there's something to be said for physical browsing. Even in 2011, not everything is online yet.
posted by theodolite at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011


It still doesn't bring back the sortable list view as far as I can tell.

:(

It has always(?) been this way, as far as I know. Some movies seem to stay up for a long time, others not so much.

The amount of streaming content has always been smaller than the DVD content, and it's true that items would change in streaming availability. However, if it was no longer streaming, I could get it on DVD. The Professor's allegation is that Netflix is planning to reduce their DVD content as well. If I can't get movies on DVD or streaming through Netflix when I want them, then there doesn't seem to be any reason to use the service, except to watch the latest season of Generic Cable Reality Show.

Again, I'm only speaking for myself. Lots of people use Netflix to replace their cable TV. I don't.
posted by muddgirl at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I'm in the 99.9% who would rather they axe an unnecessary community system instead of, say, having to raise monthly fees.

This is ridiculous. Sure, it costs some nonzero amount of money and engineer time to maintain a review system and a set of social links, but in the context of a multi-billion-dollar Web business it's a microscopic drop in the bucket. These features are surely not something that'd necessitate a fee increase in a company with even a single competent software engineer. And there's a reasonable business case on the other side of the argument — sites like (e.g.) Amazon or Newegg spend lots of effort on user-contributed reviews and social links because they make the site "stickier."

Seriously, why doesn't Netflix want to be the place on the Web where we talk to our friends and to the world about what movies we've watched recently? What is the actual logic they're following here, as distinct from the nonsense their press releases claim?
posted by RogerB at 9:47 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


RogerB: "Seriously, why doesn't Netflix want to be the place on the Web where we talk to our friends and to the world about what movies we've watched recently? What is the actual logic they're following here, as distinct from the nonsense their press releases claim?"

What blue_beetle said. No sense in trying to reinvent the wheel.
posted by mullingitover at 9:51 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have not visited Netflix.com even once since I discovered http://instantwatcher.com.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:53 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


A site's community can be a serious liability in terms of growth, change, and innovation. They have the numbers but I'm sure the Netflix community is a fraction of a percent of people who use and pay for the site.

Anyhow, Netflix + Facebook is going to be huge. Cable-killing (or at least -menacing) huge.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:00 AM on June 28, 2011


That is to say, your community will always complain about any change. Playing to their needs will keep them happy and keep you from going after a significantly larger market and better (general) user experiences. I think it's (one of the) hole(s) Flickr has dug for itself and it ain't pretty.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:03 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


dirtdirt: "I have not visited Netflix.com even once since I discovered http://instantwatcher.com"

Most Popular in the Last 24 Hours
15. Mega Python vs. Gatoroid 2011 ▲5

I'm sure its a great site... but I still have to lol.
posted by charred husk at 10:04 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't like the new, roku-like interface either, but I can live without the member reviews. Given facebook's privacy issues, I am a bit concerned about the rumors of closer connections, but I'm sure it's a smart business move.
posted by Forktine at 10:07 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Netflix, bittorrent? HA! I legally abscond with my movie watching needs between my local library and redbox free dvd codes. Free movies with no guilt = win.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:09 AM on June 28, 2011


I also check reddit's netflixbestof from time to time.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:13 AM on June 28, 2011


"Netflix is without a doubt the single most valuable movie resource out there." Someone actually said this, and we're supposed to take him seriously? Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.
posted by goatdog at 10:14 AM on June 28, 2011


Here's my Netflix complaining:

Ever since they started a streaming service, I have been almost exclusively using streaming. I watched, I don't know, maybe three DVDs total since that time. So when they came out with streaming-only accounts, maybe a year ago or so, I figured hey, might as well save a few bucks.

I clicked on "change my account to streaming only", and they immediately threw away the hundreds of DVDs that I had saved on my queue, leaving only my streaming list. As if I would never possibly want to watch those movies.

Previously, if you had a movie on your DVD queue, and it became available for streaming, it would automatically be copied to your streaming queue. Now, all those movies that I had explicitly saved up for exactly that reason? Gone.

And, there's no way to save a movie that's not streaming.

I immediately wrote to customer support, who suggested that I keep an eye on their "New on Streaming" page. Yeah, that's a great idea, instead of movies I'm interested in automatically getting moved to my streaming queue as soon as they are available, I have to trawl that page every day, and hoping that I remember all of the movies I've previously noticed as potentially interesting.

Jackasses.
posted by Flunkie at 10:16 AM on June 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Netflix is without a doubt the single most valuable movie resource out there." Someone actually said this, and we're supposed to take him seriously? Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.

Um... No.

As limited as Netflix's Canadian offerings are, they're still far and away more diverse and interesting than Blockbuster's fare ever was. Sure, there's a lot of crap, but there's also a lot of really, really good stuff that Blockbuster wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:23 AM on June 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh... But if we're complaining about Netflix...

When I give a movie five stars, IT MEANS I LIKE IT and WILL WANT TO WATCH IT AGAIN (or in the case of something that isn't streaming yet, WILL WANT TO KNOW WHEN IT'S AVAILABLE.) But Netflix seems to think it means HIDE THIS SO I HAVE TO CONTINUALLY SEARCH FOR IT.

The website has a 'view again' row, but their console dealy, nope. Annoying!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:29 AM on June 28, 2011


Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.No way. I would so much rather have an absurdly large selection in which I can easily look up the movies that people whose opinions I trust have recommended than a wall of TRANSFORMERS 8: THE TRANSFORMINING and a suggestion from some kid who thinks the pinnacle of cinematic excellence is Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory.
posted by Flunkie at 10:36 AM on June 28, 2011


Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.

Total bullshit. Sure, fine, corporate control of culture is bad, but this is just lazy knee-jerking. As large media corporations go, Netflix is positively great for niche and independent film: they release things under their own "Red Envelope" label that would otherwise go virtually unseen, they don't censor for taste or propriety, and their large catalog makes a deep "long tail" of unpopular but great films available to viewers everywhere, who'd never have a hope of seeing them in theaters. Netflix is basically the best thing that ever happened to cinephiles who don't live in New York or Los Angeles. Though it's true and disturbing that Netflix's DVD selection is slowly getting shallower as they dedicate more effort and money to streaming big-ticket new releases — "The Professor" is right that they are just taking their cinephile customers for granted — it still seems pretty clear on balance that Netflix does a lot more to foster a healthy and interesting film culture than, say, the studios or the big theater chains or the TV networks.
posted by RogerB at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


This has been ongoing for a while. It’s a really stupid business move, no matter what the Professor thinks. They owned the market for what they did, shipping DVD’s, and the social aspects that went with it. That can’t last forever and they’re right to be getting into streaming. But they’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

They’re throwing out a market that they totally own and committing everything to a market with many players, many of them bigger, and many of whom have control over Netflix business. Comcast can cause trouble for them because they want to stream movies. The movie studios could kill them. Besides the fact that not everyone has the kind of broadband speed to use the streaming service.

For those who are new to Netflix, a few years ago all of your friends movies and recommendations were fully integrated, very much like what Goodreads is to books. You’d get notices of their reviews, etc. If you’ve only joined in the last couple of years, of course you haven’t noticed any of the social parts, they’ve been phasing it out for a while now.

I’ve been with Netflix forever. I’ve kept my account even though I hardly ever watch anything (and have never streamed anything). I keep asking myself why, and now I don’t have much reason. I liked the social part for recommendations, and the deep catalog. That’s all going away, so what does Netflix offer that I can’t get 100 other places?

Who’s going to take over Netflix old business?
posted by bongo_x at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store with a focus on foreign, cult and other out-of-the-mainstream stuff that one could just drive to when the mood struck.

There's a great video store in west LA as well, with 30,000 titles and a $0.99 for 6 days charge for most of them. A Video Store Named Desire's facebook and yelp page. He's been around for years and is a great guy. All sorts of foreign and cult films.
posted by GregorWill at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2011


It's totally ok they are sacking the reviews. Most of them were semi-literate nonreviews anyway.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Netflix is the enemy of movies.

In the same sense as Amazon is the enemy of books, I guess. They put books and movies in the hands of people who want them and they do it easily, conveniently, and cheaply! Curses!

Netflix seems to be going out of its way to get rid of the whole "convenient" thing, though.
posted by Justinian at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


TRANSFORMERS 8: THE TRANSFORMINING

Thanks for the laugh, i needed that.
posted by cashman at 10:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


semi-illiterate, I meant.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:44 AM on June 28, 2011


Shouldn't semi-literate and semi-illiterate be the same thing?
posted by grouse at 10:46 AM on June 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


", then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies."

Of course, one is legal, the other not-so-much.


Of course, one is legal, the other not-so-much of indeterminate legality.

I am a Netflix subscriber and I generally like it for DVD delivery and occasional TV streaming--I just watched the first season of Archer on it--and I gotta say getting rid of the community features are probably a good business move. It costs a lot to moderate all that shit. And for what? Your users are paying for the content. Reviews and community features are available free in a million other players.

Also, community feature encourage use of the service, and Netflix does not make money when people use the service. They make money when people subscribe.

Who’s going to take over Netflix old business?

The DVD mailing business really is a losing proposition, I think. I'm glad that Netflix still offers what they do.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:50 AM on June 28, 2011


Also, this provides another reason not to contribute your "content" for free to corporations. Like I'm doing right now.

Is MetaFilter.com really incorporated? I didn't know that.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:52 AM on June 28, 2011


I come not to complain about netflix, but to point out how scary smart they are.

1) Most of their e-staff came from a successful company in a completely different industry (Pure Software), ultimately acquired by IBM. Serial success in completely different businesses? Not easy.

2) All the difficulties involved in movies disappearing/reappearing from availability are due to the crazy legal loophole they've got to use w/Starz content and the studios. Again, not easy.

3) There are a ton of businesses that are before their time. It'd be a great idea, if only the infrastructure or customer base was ready for it. Netflix was in that position (streaming video). They responded by knowingly building a completely temporary and anything but trivial business model (DVD by mail) to have the lead in market position when streaming became much more possible. That's not only not easy, that's crazy.

Netflix is ultimately not a media company, but a a software one. And a damn good one at that. I don't work there, but every employee or alum of theirs I've run into or worked with has been super capable.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.

But doesn't Netflix have a bunch of movies available that Blockbuster didn't/doesn't?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:53 AM on June 28, 2011


Of course, one is legal, the other not-so-much of indeterminate legality.
Are you saying that pirating copyrighted movies is "of indeterminate legality"? If so, could you please elaborate?

If you're saying something like "it should be legal" or "I can probably get away with it" or "everybody does it", none of those things seem particularly relevant to whether it's legal or not.
posted by Flunkie at 10:54 AM on June 28, 2011


The DVD mailing business really is a losing proposition, I think. I'm glad that Netflix still offers what they do.

How is it less of a losing proposition then trying to be a middle man in a business that doesn't need one? Netflix only does two things for movie studios: gets movie posters in front of eyeballs, and collects fees in a centralized way. The movie studios can charge a lot more for streaming rights because they can easily duplicate it themselves. Amazon has already done it. There's no reason Sony or someone couldn't setup their own streaming site, if they haven't already. HULU is out there for TV already.

On the other hand, brands do matter.

Are you saying that pirating copyrighted movies is "of indeterminate legality"? If so, could you please elaborate?

It depends on if your downloading while re-sharing (like bittorent does) or just downloading directly from some pirate site. Simple downloading isn't any more illegal then buying a pirated book.
posted by delmoi at 10:57 AM on June 28, 2011


Is MetaFilter.com really incorporated?

There's a "© 1999-2011 MetaFilter Network Inc." at the bottom of every page. Of course, there's also "All posts are © their original authors." And here we get to bulk-download all of our contributed comments whenever we want.
posted by grouse at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2011


Simple downloading isn't any more illegal then buying a pirated book.

How illegal is that?
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on June 28, 2011


Could we please not turn this thread into yet another iteration of the familiar old arguments about the legality and ethics of downloading?
posted by RogerB at 11:03 AM on June 28, 2011


Shouldn't semi-literate and semi-illiterate be the same thing?

Probably depends on whether you think the glass is half-empty or half-full.
posted by jedicus at 11:07 AM on June 28, 2011


It's not an argument. There's nothing to argue. Delmoi made an assertion about the law and I'm asking him what, exactly, the law is with regard to the matters alleged. There is no argument to be had. Only clarification of what delmoi said.
posted by The World Famous at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


That glass is of indeterminate fullosity.
posted by Flunkie at 11:10 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I liked Indeterminate Fullosity before they sold out and started doing arena shows.
posted by kmz at 11:12 AM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


All I know is that I logged into the ps3 version of Netflix the other day (the only version I use, incidentally, since they don't support linux and I have no other computer). And after logging in and doing an update, I was given the worst fucking interface ever for finding neat new stuff.

Gone are the lists by genre and subgenre. All that's left are vague categories. And the categories don't make any fucking sense. So instead of being able to browse thousands of different titles, all nicely cross-referenced, I'm left browsing a few hundred titles with basically no guidance.

Oh, and I can search. But searching is not a way to discover stuff you didn't even know existed.
posted by Netzapper at 11:35 AM on June 28, 2011


Am I the only one who read "The Professor is Dead. Long Live Netflix!" and thought this wwas going to be about how Netflix was moving into education?
posted by madcaptenor at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Simple downloading isn't any more illegal then buying a pirated book.

Of course buying a pirated book is also illegal, so I'm not sure you're making the point you think you are making.
posted by Justinian at 11:46 AM on June 28, 2011


More on the impending Netflix/Facebook ties from the NYTimes (via HackingNetflix, which first reported that Netflix was testing Facebook integration back in March).
posted by KatlaDragon at 11:49 AM on June 28, 2011


I still love netflix but I have noticed a bit of a back slide as far as quality of the experience of using their site and as far as the catalog that they offer. I think when netflix was less popular its userbase was disproportionately comprised of snobby cinephiles. Now that it is a more popular service that's become less true and it seems as though they are catering less to snobby cinephiles and more to the more typical tastes of their users that like a few, popular, recent movies. The rights to these movies are more expensive to aquire and it seems like netflix is sacrificing quite a bit of quality cinema to aquire popular twaddle.

They've also made the interface jazzier but less functional. For example it is currently a much more difficult enterprise to get movies in a given category sorted by rating.
posted by I Foody at 11:52 AM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate Facebook. Like, I will alienate people at dinner parties with my vitriol if Facebook comes up in conversation. However, a lot of organizations have been setting their sites on Netflix over the past year, and they are going to be a lot more secure if they are in fact getting the 900lb Facebook gorilla in their corner. I won't use any new social FB features, but I can't blame Netflix for being interested in a partnership of some sort.

Netflix stands for the homogenization of culture. It's worse than Blockbuster, because at least at Blockbuster you might have had some kid at the counter suggest a movie you wouldn't have otherwise seen. Netflix is the enemy of movies.

Pish and tosh. Maybe this is true if you live in a particularly hip part of a large city, but for the vast majority of people there is no way they could hop in the car for 10 minutes and pick up a copy of Sheitan or The Host. Foreign horror is my particular genre of choice, and Netflix has given me easy access to movies that I would possibly have not otherwise found.
posted by jess at 11:56 AM on June 28, 2011


Are you saying that pirating copyrighted movies is "of indeterminate legality"? If so, could you please elaborate?

Yes, I am saying that downloading unauthorized video from the Internet is "of indeterminate legality." It certainly depends on what you do with it. If you learn anything from that video, I'd personally say it's covered by the "scholarship" provision of fair use. If you write or speak critically of the video content, I'd say it's covered by the "criticism" provision:

the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

I realize my interpretation of "fair use" is to the far left of the spectrum, but, no, I honestly don't think the issue has been settled in any (U.S.) court yet, at least not definitively. I think "indeterminate legality" is a fair assessment of downloading unauthorized and copyrighted video content in the U.S.

Simple downloading isn't any more illegal then buying a pirated book.

I, too (as always), would like delmoi to clarify.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:02 PM on June 28, 2011


Foreign horror is my particular genre of choice, and Netflix has given me easy access to movies that I would possibly have not otherwise found.

Yeah, that. Video rental stores have not been as resilient as book stores. There are a smattering of independent video stores left in San Francisco. How many are there left in Enid or Peoria?

Honestly, if I had a good video-rental store near me, I would use it. I don't, so I use Netflix.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:05 PM on June 28, 2011


http://twitter.com/#!/queuenoodle lets you know when flicks are about to expire. Pretty useful.
posted by dave78981 at 12:12 PM on June 28, 2011


NoRelationToLea wrote: 3) There are a ton of businesses that are before their time. It'd be a great idea, if only the infrastructure or customer base was ready for it. Netflix was in that position (streaming video). They responded by knowingly building a completely temporary and anything but trivial business model (DVD by mail) to have the lead in market position when streaming became much more possible. That's not only not easy, that's crazy.

I think that's some seriously revisionist history right there. They got into the DVD rental business because they wanted to be in the DVD rental business with an excellent website and lower overhead/more selection than any traditional video store. Initially, they rented DVDs in the normal way, a week at a time. After a while, they added their unlimited service and eventually phased out the weekly rentals.

Back in the yellow days, a package from Netflix showed up at my door one day, completely unsolicited. Turned out to be a little DVD holder that would conveniently hold my four DVDs and the return sleeves. Fancy fantastic, that. Point being that they've long since gotten away from that sort of unexpectedly awesome customer service and have replaced it with shit, IMO.

Literally the only reason I subscribe today is because they have more Blu-Ray options than Blockbuster. Now that Redbox has Blu around here, I'm not quite sure why I continue to subscribe. I'm still pissed that they failed to email me about my credit card expiration and used the three days of service interruption as an excuse to take me off of my grandfathered four-out plan.
posted by wierdo at 12:21 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many people complained here when it was suggested there be an option for a white background?

Mmm, if the blue was taken away entirely, and replaced with white, I think there might be some complaints (not from me though. White background all the way!)
posted by antifuse at 1:31 PM on June 28, 2011


I've definitely noticed a decrease in customer service and breadth of product in both streaming and (to a lesser extent) DVDs recently. But boy howdy do I get asked about the quality of streaming every time I stream a movie or an episode of a TV series--which I would do more often if they'd stop taking things off streaming. I'm looking at you, Avengers 1967 season.
posted by immlass at 2:00 PM on June 28, 2011


A bunch of movies just disappeared from my streaming "queue." If streaming movies are going to be time-limited, and Netflix phases out DVDs, then there's no convenience to using Netflix over pirating older movies.

May have been this: Netflix users see Starz over disappearance of Sony movies

At root, it's that any new releases are through the Starz deal, which should probably be costing Netflix a lot more than it currently does.
posted by smackfu at 2:03 PM on June 28, 2011


Netflix users see Starz over disappearance of Sony movies

(your link didn't work for me.)

I had 100 titles in my Instant Queue not too long ago. I've only watched one ("Encounters at the End of the World") or two, and I now have 50 titles in my queue.

I'm pretty sure they weren't all Sony pics.

The official Netflix blog post announcing the new, worse interface hit the 5000 comment cap in 5 days, virtually every one of them decrying the new interface. When you're getting a thousand negative comments per day you know you're doing something wrong.

Huh. I didn't really even notice. The loss of sortable lists is kinda a big deal, though ...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:10 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that's some seriously revisionist history right there. They got into the DVD rental business because they wanted to be in the DVD rental business with an excellent website and lower overhead/more selection than any traditional video store. Initially, they rented DVDs in the normal way, a week at a time. After a while, they added their unlimited service and eventually phased out the weekly rentals.

Who's your source? Mine's a netflix alum who was responsible for major parts of their infrastructure and was there for the planning and actual transition from physical media to streaming. Why do you think they were netflix.com from the beginning instead of dvd-by-mail.com, first? Note that all the copycats that came after netflix in other markets were mostly named things like dvd2go or some other name that specifically refers to physical media.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:18 PM on June 28, 2011


mrgrimm:
If you learn anything from that video, I'd personally say it's covered by the "scholarship" provision of fair use.

You are really, really wrong.

"There is no simple test to determine what is fair use. Section 107 of the Copyright Act sets forth the four fair use factors which should be considered in each instance, based on particular facts of a given case, to determine whether a use is a "fair use": (1) the purpose and character of use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes, (2) the nature of the copyrighted work, (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

...

The participants also agree that the more one exceeds these guidelines, the greater the risk that fair use does not apply."

Full article

For example, with factor 1, a film studies professor could show a Hitchcock film in its entirety to a class, because it's necessary for the task and limited to active students. The same professor could not show the same film to anyone on campus who wanted to see it without properly licensing it.

Factor 4 is the really important part with your statement. If anyone could claim that learning anything from something, no one would ever pay for anything. It would represent a massive detrimental effect on the market.

Universities have many problems with fair use and online video. Your home education argument will not hold any water legally.

If you write or speak critically of the video content, I'd say it's covered by the "criticism" provision

You're really not understanding the link you posted. You can't violate copyright by watching a movie without paying for it and say it was legal because you were going to write a review of it. What it means is that you can use excerpts of a movie or book (creating a derivative work, normally forbidden by copyright law) in your review, again bound by those four clauses.

As far as Netflix goes, I can't stand the horrible new interface's deliberate slowness and poor usability so I canceled my account. I did find the reviews rather useful in evaluating whether something I was skimming through was worth watching or not, so I think that stepping away from them is a mistake.
posted by Candleman at 4:22 PM on June 28, 2011


The Netflix giveth and the Netflix taketh away. The streaming selection is getting pretty damn good. And since they've come to place so much emphasis on streaming, they don't even seem to throttle my disc queue anymore, which is nice. But removing the member reviews dramatically impacts the functionality of the site for me, in that I have to search around the internet to determine whether I might be about to watch something that looks like it could be a real movie but in fact is, say, a stealth Asylum release. That you really didn't know shit about the film you were renting from a brick and mortar back in the day was a bug, not a feature -- and what the fuck is the deal with Netflix trying to be more like a brick and mortar, anyhow?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:01 PM on June 28, 2011


Clustercuss - "I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store with a focus on foreign, cult and other out-of-the-mainstream stuff..."

Nope. Even Videomatica has been forced to close.
posted by porpoise at 7:07 PM on June 28, 2011


I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store with a focus on foreign, cult and other out-of-the-mainstream stuff that one could just drive to when the mood struck.

Suspect Video seems to be doing alright.
posted by Chuckles at 8:14 PM on June 28, 2011


Facebook has long worked to spread its tentacles across the Web, and to persuade media companies to use its data about connections between people to make their services more “social.” In France, Mr. Zuckerberg mentioned Netflix as one of the companies that had been in talks with Facebook.

I have no problem ignoring any "social" (love the quotes) Facebook garbage Netflix might add. But the day Netflix requires a Facebook login to watch movies is the day before the day I quit Netflix.
posted by mediareport at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2011


I found the Friends recommendation feature (now long-retired) really useful and fun, since I only "friended" people I knew on Netflix who had interesting tastes in film.

Friend recommendations won't be as good if it gets incorporated into Facebook, since I don't give a shit about the Disney movies my high school acquaintances are watching with their toddlers for the hundredth time.
posted by nev at 8:19 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just canceled. It's not really so much this issue (not a big reader of reviews) as it is I'm afraid of what they've got planned for the future. Maybe I'm just suffering from confirmation bias, but I'm starting to see more and more bad PR about Netflix and I didn't want to remain a part of that.

I can appreciate what it's done for me in the short time I've been a member, though. Good experience while it lasted.
posted by tatma at 9:26 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can't agree harder with Nev.

The Community features were brilliant, as they easily allowed you to find people with similar taste, browse through their ratings, and discover things that sounded interesting. I've hardly queued anything since they removed those features. Now searching for new stuff you've never heard of on the site is like blindly fumbling through the video store. Except the rave reviews on the back of the box you pick up are only semi-coherent, and even the sensible ones can't be vetted to make sure the reviewer's favorite movie isn't Ace Ventura Junior.
posted by heatvision at 7:27 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Suspect Video seems to be doing alright.

But it's not new. The question was "I wonder if there's any money to be made in opening a retro, old-school video store" and the answer is most certainly no .. unless perhaps you sell other things, particularly upscale coffee in an upscale neighborhood, and then get really lucky. And then success is survival, not profit.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:12 AM on June 29, 2011


I just don't think the economics are there for B&M video rentals. I'd say you have to rent each DVD at least 20 times just to break even, at which point there is a fair chance you need to buy a new copy. A particularly nasty problem is that if you rent out too much of your inventory, your future rentals will go down due to lack of selection. (Netflix cleverly avoids this with their queue system.)
posted by smackfu at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2011


(Back of envelope calculation: $25 DVD rents for $5, other costs of running shop are equal to inventory cost, can only rent out max 1/2 of stock at any one time.)
posted by smackfu at 10:30 AM on June 29, 2011


NetFlix separates DVD and streaming plans. Higher price if you want to keep both.

Personally, I think I'll ditch streaming and try out Amazon Prime for my streaming needs.
posted by grouse at 4:33 PM on July 12, 2011


Here's what I don't get about the recent Netflix change: I have the 3-DVD plan with unlimited streaming. (I rarely stream, so I might ditch streaming.) I currently pay $20/month. After the price change, prices will be as follows:
- $16 for 3 DVDs at a time
- $8 for unlimited streaming
- $24 for both.
Now, I know $16 + $8 = $24. But I feel like DVDs and streaming together are not quite as valuable as the sum of how valuable they are individually, because there are some movies that are available in either format. $22 or $23 would seem a more reasonable price.

(But I suppose on the other hand the sort of people who want both DVDs and streaming are also the sort of people who watch a lot of movies, which would be an argument for charging them more. Perhaps even more than $24 except nobody would ever go for that.)
posted by madcaptenor at 4:51 PM on July 12, 2011


It's interesting that they just changed this all around last November, where they added a streaming only plan and bumped all the other DVD plan prices. I wonder what happened?
posted by smackfu at 4:55 PM on July 12, 2011


I wonder what happened?

smackfu: There was some clause in their agreement with Starz (where they get their Sony movies) that kicked in due to how much they'd streamed to customers. Apparently the same thing is about to happen with their Disney content. Either they renegotiate the deal or they don't get that content back until 2016. Hence, price increases.

I've seen some theorizing that Amazon is going to end up eating Netflix and this together with the Prime = free streaming movies may be the first step. As it happens, for various reasons I anticipate the DVD-watching time at my house going way down, so I may just kick back to DVD-only in September without a replacement for streaming.
posted by immlass at 5:06 PM on July 12, 2011


Hmm, too bad my TiVo can't stream from Amazon. (it can download the for-pay Amazon VOD titles, but not the free ones)
posted by wierdo at 5:28 PM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


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