Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Netflix changes the game - but doesn't blow the doors off

Somebody jumped all over the "video buffet" market created by Hulu Plus: Netflix will offer streaming-only service for $7.99. Basic (1 DVD) service goes up by $1, to $8.99. Everything else rises another $3-8. It all starts January 1.

You can read about it here, here, and here. See the email Netflix sent me below.

It could be a pretty big move, but I don't think it's controversial. For many, the financial change is so small that they'll barely notice. Also, Netflix has dramatically increased its streaming lineup through deals made with Fox and other studios. Even before this announcement, the rental giant provided an instant online dose of Archer, The Girl Who Played With Fire, Full Metal Jacket, Iron Man, 30 Rock, Buffy, Veronica Mars, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, The Jerk… The list goes on.

Hulu's move to offer full seasons of tv created this situation. Hulu's price is now $8, which is the same as Netflix will charge for streaming-only service. In fact, they have so many of the same shows, I feel silly having access to both (even free Hulu). Netflix offers every season of Futurama, for example, but only the first season of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. Hulu offers both seasons of the show, but won't give you Hackers, or Blue Velvet, or Delicatessen. I guess the choice comes down to whether you have constant internet access, and how much you're willing to pay to watch videos.

When all's said and done, if you're looking to ditch cable or satellite bills, $9 is pretty cheap for 20,000+ movies and tv shows. But I hope everyone tries the free route, at least for a week; today, most shows are on their network's website the day after they air... I'm happy with a deal that still gives me one DVD at a time. Aw, hell, this is probably why Netflix offered me 2 months' free service in exchange for a 45-minute q&a session...

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