Opinion Hub
A Sad Tale About The Slow Death Of Netflix DVD Rentals
July 6, 2011 03:07 PM

Once upon a time, there was a very popular service called Netflix. Magical and revolutionary at an unbelievable price, it allowed for unlimited movie rentals via Internet or DVD for a fixed monthly rate. Everyone cool was a member. But alas, I was not.

I decided to take stroll through my neighborhood one day. It was a bright, beautiful evening. The mailman was delivering all my neighbors’ daily mail. He stepped out of the vehicle, opened up a mailbox, and there it was — a Netflix DVD. The enchanting disc was sealed inside a vibrant red envelope. The man popped it in and closed the mailbox. It was then and only then that I realized I must get in on this life-altering experience.

I rushed back into the house and quickly launched Google Chrome. I typed in netflix.com. There, I found a large banner that read “Instantly watch as many movies as you want! For only $7.99 a month.” Just in case I did not find that clear enough, Netflix reiterated the statement below that: “Unlimited TV episodes & movies instantly over the Internet!” What? Where are the DVDs? I browsed frantically through the website and after several minutes of what seemed like endless searching, I found a tiny bit of information in the list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I get DVDs by mail from Netflix?

Yes. During sign up, you can add unlimited DVDs by mail for only $2.00 more a month. With DVDs by mail, you’ll get an even broader selection of movies & TV episodes. You can exchange each DVD as often as you want with no due dates or late fees — ever!

Okay fine. So maybe that story is, well, heavily exaggerated. I did sign up for Netflix recently though, albeit a little late to the game. And I noticed that on the website, there is nothing at all advertising DVD rentals except for that minuscule tidbit on the “How It Works” page. Bad move.

Most seem to believe that the company is aiding in the slow death of the DVD. This is probably right, and that goal is not the issue. Many manufacturers now omit optical disc drives in laptops with the hope that customers will begin going completely wireless. I do not have the slightest doubt in my mind that this is the future. In fact, I usually encourage the movement.

The problem with Netflix is they are killing off DVD rentals way too early. The website is just one factor. A few months ago they removed the ability to manage your DVD queue from the streaming apps. A lot of people are unhappy with this. The main reason is because there are far more movies and TV shows available to rent on DVD than for instant streaming. Looking at my own queue, I can tell you that out of the thirteen DVDs I have listed, only two are available to play instantly. That is roughly 15.4% — not good. And it is extremely hard to find any brand new releases to stream.

What happens if, in that fairy tale of mine, I did not find the small section under “How It Works” explaining rentals? I would have just thought it was not an option anymore and probably would have left the website. In reality, paying the extra $2 per month for DVDs is buried within the sign up process, which does no good if I never began signing up.

A big supporter of killing optical discs is Apple. The company removed the drive from the MacBook Air back in 2008 and recently launched the Mac App Store, which eliminates the need for any software install discs. The good part about Apple moving ahead is that there is already a plethora of software available for download on the Internet. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said at the D9 conference this year that Netflix can not offer all the content via instant streaming for the current price of only $7.99 per month. In addition, he confirmed the company is not willing to go up on the price to do so. This makes for a sticky situation.

I understand the addition of the streaming service contributes greatly to Netflix’s growth, but I firmly believe the true driving force is the combination of streaming and rentals. While the death of the DVD is not here yet, it is certainly heading that way. I can only hope Netflix does not get there too soon for its own good.

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