Netflix No DVD Plan: What's Missing

We've just switched our Netflix plan from the "3 DVDs out at-a-time" plan to the "Watching instantly (no DVDs)" plan, thereby saving money ($19.99/month vs. $7.99/month). We don't watch enough movies on DVD to make the rental plan worthwhile.

If Netflix has disclosed how many movies and TV program episodes it has available for "instant watching" (its term for streaming content over the internet), I can't find it. The inventory looks considerable when you're browsing through the company's website. But the streaming content is a fraction of what's available via DVD, and anyone thinking about going disk-free needs to understand exactly what they're giving up.

In an admittedly dangerous precedent, I did some research yesterday evening in an attempt to better characterize the Netflix streaming inventory. I selected the Top 100 Grossing Movies (US market only) for 2008, 2009, and 2010 and correlated those lists to the content available for streaming via Netflix. Every one of the 300 movies was either available on DVD, or was coming to Netflix via DVD (many of the top 2010 movies are still in first-run status).

The availability of those movies for streaming was a starkly different picture. Only nine of the 2010 movies are available via streaming, which wasn't terribly surprising given the typical time lag between first runs and rental availability. 2009 fared better, but still only 33 movies on the list can be watched via streaming. The real shocker came when I cross-checked the 2008 list: only TWO of the Top 100 are available: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (the #20 movie that year), and Defiance, which was last on the Top 100 list. These findings seem to conflict with the company's statement that Netflix has streaming access to films that brought in about 49 percent of the 2010 box office revenues, although they may be including TV shows in that number. [Source]

We don't see a lot of movies at the theater anymore, and haven't felt deprived, so losing access for many of them isn't really a big deal for us. But any film fan who is contemplating a switch to the Netflix no-DVD plan should consider carefully what they're giving up. You may end up spending more on gasoline to drive back and forth to the nearest Red Box to get movie satisfaction if you halt the shipment of Netflix DVDs.

6 Comments

I too have been disappointed in the Netflix selection for streaming although I have found a few good documentaries there. There are several Rock & Bullwinkle shows available but my wife, apparently unable to appreciate the classics, doesn't rate Bullwinkle all that high.

I guess the limited selection should not be surprising from an all-you-can-eat offering but even from Amazon video-on-demand, where they get about $4 for the best titles, the selection is very limited. No wonder torrents are still hot. So to speak...

Same observation. Some Obvious movie choices we wanted were nowhere to be seen on my Apple TV Netflix. We found some on iTunes website, but i am finding a bit of a glitch in downloading movies for streaming via Apple TV.
I like DVD's anyway.

I think the problem as you go back a few years, is that it's non-trivial to export a title to streaming format, and there is a cost benefit to go back and re-encode content to the appropriate format.

People are more apt to watch more recent, so the attention to streaming newer (although a still paltry number) titles takes precedent for the CPU cycles to encode the content.

That said, the market will figure this out, Blockbuster stores are going down in number, RedBox seems to be filling the void for immediate (or within 28 days of DVD release) need for content.

There is no such thing as a free stream. :D

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on January 4, 2011 6:30 AM.

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