About a year ago I wrote an entry to complain about Netflix, and their practice of “throttling”. Essentially throttling is Netflix’s misguided practice of dealing with their best customers. The premise of membership in Netflix is to be able to watch as many movies as you want. But what Netflix does not tell you is that if you rent too many movies, they will make it difficult or impossible to obtain the newest releases. Members that flip some internal “rented too many movies” switch all of a sudden don’t get to rent the newest releases in a timely fashion. When they check their queue it shows “long wait” – which means you don’t get to rent the movie until it is no longer in demand. Case in point…. I tried to rent Wall-E since the day it was released, and two months later it is still not available to me. So depending on your movie watching habits this becomes a huge issue. If you like old classics or simply belong to Netflix to rent Ed Begely Jr. movies you will never be throttled. If you want to watch new movies when they come out, your Netflix membership could be worthless. I have been a Netflix customer since they started, and I find this a very strange and dishonest way to deal with your customers. And worst of all, when I called Netflix to complain a very flippant employee told me I could quit if I don’t like it.
So of course I vote with my wallet and work with a competitor. I have been forced to open a Blockbuster online account. The good news…. The newest releases are available from Blockbuster. The bad news….. aside from the throttling issue, Netflix is a better service. Much better website to navigate, and much faster to ship and return when they do ship. In fact, in terms of functionality and ease of use, there are not many better sites on the web than Netflix.
And Netflix is also way ahead of the curve when it comes to future technologies. Now you can buy Netflix enabled Tivos, video boxes, televisions, and Blu-Ray DVD players that eliminate the need for discs and allow you to download directly to view. Ultimately we will move to a download model, which will eliminate the need to throttle.
So I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix. I think they are an incredibly smart company that will be a leading force in streaming home entertainment to consumers. They are making all the right moves by integrating their technologies into existing devices, as opposed to building a business model based on selling us extra hardware. Their site is superlative. It’s just a shame that their current business model abuses their best customers.