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NetFlix: It Might Be Time to Dump It

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NetFlixWhen I ditched expensive digital cable television and reverted to $16/month basic cable with less than 30 channels (many of which do not broadcast in English), I decided to sign up for NetFlix. The theory was the mail-order DVDs would fill in the entertainment void due to the lack of Comedy Central, Cartoon Network‘s Adult Swim (especially the black placards but also Futurama, naturally), Nick @ Nite, Discovery, TLC, and The History Channel.

The truth is when I have time for television, there’s more than enough entertainment in shows on the basic networks. Over the last year, House became one I can’t miss. Not only does the show take place in my backyard (the fictional Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital) but I’ve been a Hugh Laurie fan since seeing him in Blackadder.

I’ve also been hooked on Heroes, but I get the impression that the second half of the season won’t be nearly as good as the first.

The problem with what seems like a good number of decent network shows this year is I haven’t had time to watch much of what I’m queued up with Netflix. This is money I’m just throwing away, defeating the purpose of paying less for cable. The latest DVDs have been sitting near my television, unwatched, for a while. I don’t even remember what I have.

Additionally, when my girlfriend and I want to watch a movie that I don’t own, we usually just run to Blockbuster to pick something out.

I am not making the most of Netflix. I will most likely cancel before February’s charge unless I motivate myself to watch what I have.

Updated March 29, 2011 and originally published January 17, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Brett

I dumped Netflix a while back ago. My wife and I really weren’t making the most of it either. Realizing we were paying $10 a month for a service we didn’t use spurred the decision.

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avatar HC

I haven’t been making the use of it that I should (mainly because I held on to a movie that I felt I “should” watch, even though I didn’t really want to; I eventually returned it).

But since getting the first disc of The Wire, I’ve decided that I’m willing to drop down to the 1-at-a-time plan so that I can see the rest of the seasons. I figure I’m much more likely to find 3 1-hour blocks in my week than 1 2+-hour block. So I’m keeping it for now.

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avatar Poorer Than You

Usually, I tend my recommendation towards Netflix, because I have used both Netflix and Blockbuster online, and I prefer Netflix for a number of reasons.

However, in your case, it seems like you might benefit from a Blockbuster online account, possibly their “one-at-a-time” deal. Instead of sending the DVD back in the mail, you can bring it to your local Blockbuster and exchange it for a free rental – the store then also sends in the disc you turned in, and Blockbuster online sends the next disc in your Queue.

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avatar Golbguru

We tried Netflix and it didn’t work for us either. Partly because we found an alternative within walking distance here that charges just $1 per DVD and partly because it took about 3 days for the Netflix DVD to reach us from their nearest distribution. So “one at a time” stuff was out of question. …and then there is thing about the freedom to just hop to video store of your choice and pick what you want depending on the mood “at that instant of time”.

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avatar English Major

My boyfriend and I don’t have a TV (thus, no cable of any kind)–so for us, Netflix is a godsend, but if it doesn’t match your needs (and it sounds like it doesn’t), dump it!

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avatar Cujo

I hear you. Since NetFlix is so easy to start and stop, we tend to subscribe for the summer (when there’s no new TV) and then drop it each fall.

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avatar udandi

Broken record alert…

Find out what your library offers and if you can put holds on them (we don’t allow holds on feature films, but do on TV series). I know I am lucky to work for an awesome public library, but I also know from looking at other library OPACs that the goodness is out there!

You can probably get LL Cool J’s new weightlifting book for your new exercise plan ;)

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avatar Nagel

I think in the long run Blockbuster will win this war. Here is the latest between Blockbuster and Netflix:


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avatar Clever Dude

I’m surprised I’m the first to post this for you, but how about trying Blockbuster Total Access? It’s the regular 3-at-a-time deal as before, but they added a free feature called Total Access:


Any time you watch a movie, instead of mailing it back, you take it into Blockbuster and exchange it for a free in-store rental. Plus they scan your old movie and take it out of your queue and send the next one asap.

And you still get an in-store free rental coupon once a week.

With a Blockbuster across the street from us, Netflix will never come close to this deal, even if they’re offering movie downloads (which they are now).

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avatar Mr Credit Card

These things usually happen not just with Netflix, but with gym memberships, low teasers from cable companies, magazine subscriptions etc.

But I think the trick is only subscribe to something if you really need it. And you need some time to find out if you can live without it.

With regards to tv, I found that if I unsubscribe from cable, then I tend to watch less TV. So maybe the thing to have done is to see how you would have reacted when you dumped your cable. If you really miss watching your shows or movies, then netflix make sense. Same with gym memberships. Go running, do situps and push ups at home first. If you are still working out after 2 months and can do 100 situps and 100 pushups, then perhaps a gym membership is due. But joining a gym to fulfill your 2007 goals in January will most likely mean you no longer go to the gym in February!!

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avatar Svenson

The solution:
Download some DVD ripping software (I use “DVD Decrypter”, but there are other good ones as well).

The very day you receive a DVD from NetFlix, rip it to your hard drive. Put it in the outgoing mail the very next day. Use this strategy to maximize your NetFlix throughput (although they will eventually slow down the throughput on your account).

Now you have effectively decoupled your ability to watch from your ability to rent. You maximize the return on your rental dollars, and “time shift” your viewing to whatever time works for you.

If and when you think you have six-months or year worth of viewing stored on your hard drive, cancel your NetFlix account.

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avatar Golbguru

@ Svenson’s comment above “The very day you receive a DVD from NetFlix, rip it to your hard drive”

Svenson sounds like a student :). In our school students do it all the time. They use “DVD Shrink” software.

Problem with this is I am not sure it’s legal :). Also, I don’t think that works on SONY releases…the process always ends up with some kind of read error.

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avatar Svenson

Nope, not a student, just a regular guy who reads personal finance blogs.

“DVD Shrink” is good too. That is my preferred program when I want to shrink a movie down to 4.7GB in order to make a backup copy.

A problem with both DVD Shrink and DVD Decrypter is that they haven’t been updated in awhile. Like Golbguru mentions, some vendors (like Sony) have found ways to abuse the DVD standard and make their disks harder to read. The older programs just can’t handle this corruption gracefully, but the newer ones don’t have any problem.

If you have newer disks like this, I’d try DVDFab or AnyDVD. I just didn’t bring this up in my first post since I wanted to keep it simple.

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avatar Hazzard

I have basic cable (expanded) and have a Tivo that I pay 6.95 per month for. I just make sure that Tivo is always recording different programs I might find interesting, or that I want to watch. We NEVER find ourselves with nothing to watch in the evening. (We don’t watch a ton of TV but when we do watch some, we don’t want it to be a waste of time).

I had contemplated Netflix but decided I probably wouldn’t watch enough movies to make it worthwhile.

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avatar Nate

Have you thought about dumping cable too and turning your computer into a PVR using a digital card? Seems silly to be paying for cable when you could get the broadcast stuff for free depending on where you live. I just bought a cheap USB tuner with full PVR capabilites and can watch HDTV off my monitor, which is pretty sweet. Plus, if you have an HDTV set you could just plug the computer into that. Digital broadcast is much, much better then the analog stuff and may be worth giving up basic cable.

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avatar tolak

Svenson, word for word, I was going to post this. Decoupling viewing from queue maintenance is the key. It’s outrageous that one may not make a personal backup of a commercial DVD they legally posses, and this is a crucial factor in Netflix’s profitable interaction with users.

I am convinced that most users don’t realize a discount because it’s impossible to fit their viewing schedule to the vagaries of the mail service and Netflix’s processing. And who would want to be tied down to a movie just whenever it arrives? Video rental is there to fill up free time.

There was a recent interview with Netflix’s founder, where he smugly alludes to the preference of users for a fixed cost regardless of return. Netflix is not your friend.

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avatar Global Investor

I agree with Clever Dude. Blockbuster is the much better option because you can return the video straight to the stoer OR send it back for free.

The power is placed in the consumer’s hands.

I never tried Netflix because it seems quite experience for the limited control you have. Only 1 video at a time unless you want to pay the big bucks for a monthly subscription.

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avatar Matt

I tried both, but went back to Netflix. Blockbuster just doesn’t have the selection they do. And I also do the rip-and-return thing…if the mail here weren’t delivered so late, I’d be able to return them the same day I receive them. (Unfortunately, my mail doesn’t get delivered until 4:30, so I have to drop the DVDs off at the post office on my way to work at night, and then they go out in the next day’s mail.)

It can certainly be a waste of money if you keep the DVDs for a long time, but that’s pretty easy to avoid.

TiVO is great, but it’s limited to things that are airing on TV somewhere now. For older stuff, it’s often impossible to find what one wants anywhere in the schedule. Unless, of course, one isn’t picky about what one wants.

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avatar juggler314

re: tolak

dude, I totally support the right to make personal backup copies of any media I’ve purchased. This however, in no way, shape or form, even with the most liberal lawyer on the planet, extends to renting DVD’s from netflix.

That said, I’m not opposed to the practice, I just don’t think anyone here should even remotely think it’s legal.

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avatar captain351

I have been using Netflix for a few years now but in the past 12 months with massive loss of titles and this most recent dump on New years day, has left me to re-consider staying with them. I would not mind so much if they sent subscribers an email of impending title removal so we could at least watch something pending in our queues. But they can’t even give subscribers the simple courtesy of that. Yes the streaming service cost is reasonable and for some titles we would expect they do not stay available for long. However there is not any real value in the new titles being offered now in my opinion. Its a great service if you like older TV shows and movies but for the infrequency of new movies and the loss of popular titles I am going to look at alternatives now. Fancy dropping ovies in the Holiday period. Poor form Netflix!

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