Below is a post I just wrote for my own personal blog. Being an active Verge user I thought you all might enjoy the chance to read it then subsequently destroy it ;) Enjoy
Recently I have been involved in a serious debate with myself. It has bothered me for quite sometime, oftentimes I find myself reanalyzing my own thoughts. I am trying to work it out and I think I have my answer tonight. To clarify just what has been giving me such trouble I want to step back to this afternoon, around 1pm.
I was on my PNC virtual bank account seeing the overview of just what has been paid off for this month. Comcast Internet (26mbs Internet only), my iPhone4S bill, the money I had to take out to pay for rent, Hulu Plus, my food so I don't starve, various other things that you have no business knowing about and last but not least my Netflix account. Nearly all those bills I am okay with paying off but there was one in particular which finally caused me to say "no more". That bill was for Netflix.
I have been a subscriber for about three years now over that time I have seen a profound decrease in quality and content. When I first got it I thought it was amazing. A disc-less service that worked universally across multiple platforms with the added ability to mail you disks of movies that weren't available to stream. All it required was an internet connection, and it was so damn cheap. At the time it had all the content I wanted and seemed to be expanding weekly. But times have changed.
Part of my disaffection with Netflix started about a year and a half ago. It was right when Netflix was at its peak of content and pricing. The shows I watched were getting refreshed and the mail service was still included in the incredibly cheap plan. To be clear that was when it was still $10 for the unlimited streaming and the 1 DVD at a time. I remember the joy of running Netflix through my roommates Xbox 360 when I moved to college, realizing that it could function as an alternative to cable. Which is what it came to be for me. But then when I finally watched up all the shows I loved what was I left? Netflix recommended shows for me, but I really have a finite choice in what I want to watch. There are at least five shows I go out of my way to see. So I waited, assuming the new seasons would be added to Netflix. They never were.
It was around that time where cable companies and media empires realized the threat of Netflix. After all, they had seen what Apple's iTunes did to the music industry, and that was the last thing they wanted: Cheap content streamlined under one unifying service setting the definitive prices of content. So they moved in to kill Netflix by cutting or killing contracts (See Starz), increasing the minimum price they wanted for the content Netflix needed to fuel its growth, halting new content (such as new season's like American Dad) for Netflix through there own individual distribution systems (Comcast's Xfinity on Demand), giving different content to competitors to foster competition (Hulu/ Hulu Plus) or just working to make current contracts with Netflix harder. All of this at first didn't have a noticeable impact on the quality of content. What really drove me over the edge was the poor mismanagement of Netflix by its CEO Reed Hastings.
Ever hear of the name "Qwikster?" If you have there is a good chance it probably isn't looked upon in a positive manner. Quite the opposite actually, as this was the first of many fiascos which caused me to view Netflix differently. But more so than anything that has come after it this was the tip of the iceberg in what was to become a very rough year of mismanagement of Netflix by Reed Hastings. If I recall correctly it was in the spring of 2011 in which Reed Hastings, in order to afford the increasing prices of content, proposed spinning off Netflix's DVD by Mail division into an entirely different company operating under the umbrella of Netflix. That service being named "Qwikster".
His changes included dividing the Netflix website to only include streaming only options. Whereas Qwikster and its DVD's would move to a different website altogether. It would've decentralized the entire company and ruined a system so many users like myself came to love. If this wasn't enough the price hikes were more disappointing. The unlimited streaming and one DVD option was being killed off at $10/month. Instead it would be internet streaming only for $8 but the DVD/Streaming Combo was moved up to $18/month. Bogus.
The publicity surrounding this event was rather uncalled for considering that for the longest time Netflix had seemed so stable. It had managed to run its brick-and-mortar competitors to their graves. It had killed the mom and pop movies stores found in so many small American towns. It centralized and streamlined DVD's in a cheap reliable fashion and at a time when gas prices were rising the convince of mail service saved money. It possibly provided a boost the UPS seeing as they must've had an increase in traffic due to the sheer volume of content they were shipping to an ever increasing user base. But Qwikster killed that.
We saw the future of Netflix with that struggle and although Qwikster never came to fruit its ghost still haunts the company. DVD and Internet streaming have been formally divided, I don't know many people who even use Netflix for DVD's anymore. But that would've been acceptable seeing as I was actually saving $2 a month. But what Reed Hastings never expected was that so many people bailed, even with the launch of Netflix internationally to help absorb the numbers.
What I, as a consumer, expected was that the streaming service of Netflix would improve. What I can confirm is that it really hasn't. Besides from a newer season of Futurama nothing really has caught my eye as new or exciting. The quality of the movies and shows when streaming is still laughable even though my internet is more than able to handle 1080p quality video streaming over my wireless network. The only time Netflix really looks good now is on the 3.5in retina display of my iPhone4S. But to be completely honest: Why would I watch a movie on my iPhone when I have a 27in external screen literally three inches away from it? C'mon, it is now 2012 and you expect me to be happy with the same quality content you were pushing two years ago? But what more or less surprised me was how dependent I became on another service rivaling Netflix. That service was Hulu Plus.
Initially Hulu really sucked. I mean it was probably one of the worst things I had used. At one point it was up for sale, considering its options to stay profitable. Its turnaround can be attributed to the desire of other content providers to find a counterbalance to the giant Netflix was becoming. Hulu around last spring began seeing an influx of new content. Not new in the sense that it didn't have it before. But new in the sense that the stuff it was getting was literally aired a day or two prior. One of the luxuries Netflix didn't have.
They introduced a new model, $8 per month for streaming new content with commercials or a scaled back free version which lacked most of the modern stuff. I hesitantly signed up for the free trial and within two weeks I found myself using it as my primary source of shows I enjoyed watching. Why? I mean, why after using Netflix which was commercial free would I voluntarily pay for a service which would give me awful commercials? As I found out having modern content was the biggest win. Whereas Netflix has a waiting period between 6months-never, depending on who owns the content.
Within three months Netflix took a backseat, only being used if I wanted to watch some obscure documentary or the occasional George Carlin standup. But along with my newfound usage of Hulu came my renewed dependence on Youtube to find obscure clips instead of watching an entire episode for 30seconds of laughs. Facebook integration became critical seeing as most of my friends live in a different city as me along with my desire to stay connected with those friends. Netflix, lacking Facebook integration due to an obscure law within the American legal system, was left further sidelined.
What has kept me paying my Netflix bill was primarily for my parent's, who use it for there Apple TV I also bought them. The only problem is that even they think Netflix has terrible movies to stream. They never use the Apple TV due to there busy lifestyles. So, there really is no point in me keeping it.
The content has decreased for various reasons within the past year and a half. I look at it as if I am ending a relationship. Wishing things had worked out differently. Wishing that Netflix had done more to prevent my disaffection with it. Wondering if Netflix will ever change into the company I once loved to use but now look on with pity. It is with these final words that I must say goodbye to Netflix. It was a great service, but now it has run its course in my life.
$8 well saved for other fun things like tacos.