A scant six months ago, we all wondered which camp would prevail in the
high-definition format war. But as fate (and the studios) would have
it, Sony's Blu-ray format emerged as the victor, leaving movie buffs
with yet another question: Where will we get our flicks from? The days
of renting movies in a brick and mortar store are slowly coming to an
end, and this new war for your movie-renting dollar is being waged
online. Both blockbuster and Netflix offer video rentals delivered
straight to your mailbox, and while Netflix seems poised to emerge as a
fan favorite, not all changes have subscribers jumping for joy.
Blockbuster Balances Online Rentals with Brick and Mortar Business
Before we get to what's brewing with Netflix, let's first look at its competition. Like Netflix, Blockbuster offers an online subscription movie service. But unlike Netflix, Blockbuster lets you return your movies to any of its participating retail outlets in exchange for a free in-store rental. This perk had the potential to be a key advantage, and it was, right up until Blockbuster realized it was hemorrhaging too much money. To stop the bleeding, Blockbuster raised prices across the board and now limits in-store exchanges to up to 5 per calendar month. Alternately, you can pay a hefty premium to maintain unlimited monthly exchanges. Boo!
Image Credit: Roku
Netflix Set-Top Player Struts Into Living Room
While Blockbuster continues to tweak its pricing structure, Netflix has been looking for ways to add value without adding to its bottom line. At the beginning of the year, Netflix began offering unlimited streaming videos to subscribers on select plans, which today includes anyone paying $8.99 and up. And as of last month, subscribers have the option of purchasing a $99 set-top player to watch streaming content on their living room television. Video quality leaves much to be desired and the catalog of streaming content remains limited, but aside from the player itself, there's no additional fee to kick back on your couch and have movies streamed to your TV. It's like getting a free Filet-O-Fish thrown in with your Quarter Pounder meal - not the tastiest item on the menu, but you'll probably eat it because it's there.
Netflix Nixes User Profiles
So what's the big change that has some subscribers ready to shun Netflix altogether? The soon to be absence of user profiles! Starting September 1, moms and dads will no longer be able to configure a separate profile with parental controls for little Johnny. And if you share an account with a roommate, you'll also have to share a queue, so you may want to quiz potential roomies on their movie preferences before renting out that spare bedroom.
With more and more customers abandoning Blockbuster over rising costs and reduced features, it's curious that Netflix would nuke an arbitrary feature and risk riling its customer base. On its blog, Netflix claims "too many members found the feature difficult to understand and cumbersome." It also hinted of a revamped profile feature sometime in the future, but made no mention of what or when. The blog has garnered over 700 reader comments so far, many of them voicing strong opposition to the change. If you find yourself among them, head over to SaveNetflixProfiles.com and sign the petition. In the meantime, start weaning family and friends off of your account.