Netflix to disk customers: shoo!

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The wonders of streaming licensing… looks like Netflix has firmly decided to switch out from that old-style “DVDs by mail” business and right into “streaming everywhere/everything”. I don’t know how else to interpret their today’s announcement of streaming-only plan and price increases for old subscribers.

It’s great from the point of view of those who only want streaming. For me, personally, Netflix streaming selection is, well, cra not very good. It improved dramatically over the last year, and is now okay for somebody who wants to watch old stuff, with a new movie thrown in here and there (probably the same as what you can watch in Starz on-demand if you are a Comcast or Dish network subscriber). But selection pales in comparison of their physical DVD collection. Even taking into account mandatory “hold period” from most major movie studios.

And I guess now physical DVDs don’t bring Netflix nearly as much money as streaming, so once most-popular 3-at-a-time disks plan got the biggest boost in price. From January they’ll charge $3 more than before, $19.99+tax. Push to lower number of mailed DVD gets dressed as “helping them improve streaming selection” (and if you don’t use streaming they’ll raise the price until you do, ha-ha!).

While streaming-only plan has appeared, there are no “mail only” plans any more, even though the total penetration of Netflix among DVD-equipped households is about 15% (more than 95% of households have a DVD player). Will see how this little push will affect subscriber churn. Too bad Blockbuster is in such deep poop that they don’t have a chance to pick up DVD-by-mail business that Netflix rapidly wants to leave behind. Red Box will be the sole benefactor.

So, if you watch less than 20 disks and don’t care that much about streaming (or if you use Hulu premium for fresher selection of TV episodes) it’s time to switch to the Red Box dollar rentals.
For those who love streaming — pray that your ISP will hold out on charging more and introducing “over-usage” fees. Or, say, “Netflix premium bandwidth surcharge”, given that streaming traffic is already about 20% of all peak-time traffic…

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