Netflix

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This is a mini-rant, a short essay refuting a common misconception among users of an Internet forum. If you think this essay is FUD, feel free to explain why on the essay's talk page.

In a nutshell: Netflix streaming isn't ready to replace discs and pay TV entirely.

Contents

Netflix vs. discs

Some people post comments to web forums in defense of Apple's decision not to include BD-ROM drives in any Mac computers and to remove the DVD drive from the base configuration of the 2011 Mac mini. They claim that Netflix Instant Watch or another Internet video-on-demand service can substitute for the vast majority of home uses of a BD-ROM drive in a computer. But video disc formats, such as DVD and Blu-ray Disc (BD), still have some advantages over Internet VOD:

  • Discs are available in more markets. As of 2011, Netflix is available only in the United States and Canada, and LoveFilm operates only in Great Britain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.
  • Discs work while away from Internet access, such as in an airplane or other vehicle.
  • Discs are far cheaper in areas where the best available residential Internet access has a single digit GB per month transfer cap, such as areas that depend on wireless broadband using satellite or cellular technology. In fact, there are still parts of the developed world where average Internet speeds are well below 0.5 Mbps.[1]
  • Disc rental from premium outlets such as Blockbuster is available 28 days before Netflix begins to offer a disc and often even longer before it offers a stream.[1]
  • Buying a disc can be cheaper for discs that get watched repeatedly, such as a single-digit-year-old child's favorite animated film. One reason why children rewatch movies is because they're still learning their native language, and they pick up more words each time through.[2]

Advantages of DVD only:

  • A lot of people have either an SDTV or an HDTV produced before Netflix began licensing its client software to TV makers, and they aren't interested in playing console games or in connecting the family PC to a TV. For these, upscaling DVD players are still cheaper than Netflix boxes as of 2011.

Advantages of BD only:

  • BD has 1080p video. Netflix over DSL connections is often limited to 480p.

These are part of why as of October 2011, Netflix still plans to rent discs by mail[3] and has even abandoned its plan to separate disc rentals into a separate brand.[4]

Netflix vs. pay television

Some people post comments to web forums claiming that a combination of pay Internet VOD, disc rentals, and over-the-air television can completely substitute for pay television such as cable or satellite. But there are still people willing to pay five to ten times the monthly price of Netflix for TV for several reasons:

News

Netflix doesn't have live breaking news. Sure, local TV has evening and nightly newscasts. But some people don't want to wait for 6 PM or 11 PM for news, and they aren't willing to buy a digital video recorder and subscribe to its required monthly service to time-shift the regular newscast. Others like the specific kind of news found on cable TV, such as the progressive-slanted political opinion of MSNBC or the conservative-slanted political opinion of FOX News Channel. Some specific news outlets' web sites offer a video stream to the public over the Internet, and others offer clips, but a lot of people don't like to sit at a computer desk to watch TV,[5] nor are they willing to buy a PC to hook up to their TV.[6] Besides, a lot of the (legal) web sites that do offer video streams require "authentication", which in online video lingo means the use of a username and password issued by a cable TV system operator to its subscribers (source: c-span.org). Nor are some people willing to sit down and read the news in a web browser on a PC or tablet when they can just turn on TV news and crank up the volume while doing household chores.

Sports

Netflix doesn't have sports. Sure, local TV shows some sports, but the U.S. networks show very little beyond professional baseball, basketball, and gridiron football. A lot of baseball and basketball games are shown only on the regional cable sports networks, not OTA. And in the 2010s, ESPN has the TV rights to the bowl games, the championship of U.S. college football, and NBCSN has half of the NHL's Stanley Cup finals. Nor do they often show out-of-market games during the regular season, which hurts fans who moved away from their favorite team, fans of the team associated with the university that a family member attends, and fans whose favorite player got traded to another team. An article in Ars Technica claims that American football and basketball are the two biggest things keeping survey respondents from dropping cable television.[7] As of 2014, The Big Bang Theory is "the highest rated [television] program that isn't a live sports broadcast,"[8] but the fact that the columnist has to qualify that just shows how important sports are to a large segment of television viewers, which keeps them from being able to just drop cable TV to make room in the budget for Netflix.

In some cases, you might have a sports fan with cable among your neighbors, but other people in their household might not always appreciate regular invitations to watch the game,[9] nor are regular trips to Buffalo Wild Wings always an option. Some recommend buying a season ticket to watch a local junior,[2] college, or minor league pro team's games in person, but that ends up costing more than a year of cable TV especially with more than one sports fan or more than one sport, and you miss away games and the post-season. Besides, no one likes watching ice hockey in person anyway.[10]

On the other hand, the habit of many to care about the outcome of a professional sport match has led to a "festering pile of social ills." Professional and intercollegiate sports encourage people to just accept racist nicknames, compromise of universities' academic standards, squandering of taxpayers' money in teams' host cities, spikes in domestic violence, and player disloyalty.[11]

Spoilers

Even for scripted series, the showings on Netflix tend to be delayed by several months. People who rely on Netflix become vulnerable to spoilers from people discussing plot developments at work[12] or on Twitter.

Equipment

Unlike cable boxes, Netflix boxes aren't rented. Those wanting to watch Netflix VOD on a TV monitor will first have to set up a wireless network, and for some, this involves buying a wireless access point for $40 to $80, roughly the same price as one month of cable TV. Then anyone who doesn't already have a BD player with Netflix or a seventh-generation video game console will need a dedicated Netflix player for each TV, such as the Roku or WD TV. These cost $50 to $100, or another month of cable TV for each TV set in the home. Even though switching to Netflix costs less than a few months of cable TV, some people can't budget more than a month ahead.

Discounts

Several cable Internet providers give a deep discount to people who subscribe to both Internet and TV from the same company, to the point where Internet + basic TV is only $5 per month more than Internet alone. Some have been seen to charge less for Internet and TV than for Internet alone.[3][4]

Availability

Satellite is where cable isn't. People living outside a cable company's service area rely on either dial-up Internet or wireless broadband, both of which are unsuitable for VOD, though they can still use Netflix DVDs by mail. And some countries simply lack a counterpart to Netflix.

References

  1. Stewart Mitchell. "48 hours to download a film - welcome to Suffolk in 2011". PC Pro. 2011-09-20. Accessed 2011-09-23.
  2. Jlovegren. "Answer to Can I learn a new language just by listening or watching videos?". Linguistics Stack Exchange, 2012-07-04. Accessed 2014-02-02.
  3. Erick Schonfeld. "Breaking: Netflix Splits DVD And Streaming Businesses; Creates Qwikster For DVDs". TechCrunch. 2011-09-19. Accessed 2011-09-19.
  4. Ryan Lawler. "Netflix kills Qwikster plans, backtracks on DVD separation". GigaOM. 2011-10-10. Accessed 2011-10-10.
  5. Chris Foresman. "Despite rise in streaming, 99% of all video watched on a TV". Ars Technica. May 21, 2009.
  6. Jacqui Cheng. "Report: 95% of Internet video stuck looking longingly at TV". Ars Technica. March 21, 2008
  7. Jacqui Cheng. "Live sports keep people from cutting cable cord". Ars Technica. September 29, 2010.
  8. Luis Prada. "The 4 Most Overused Jokes It's Time to Stop Making". Cracked, 2014-08-14. Accessed 2014-08-14.
  9. "A Double-Edged Flat Screen". Not Always Right. Accessed 2011-11-12.
  10. Adam Tod Brown. "5 Supposedly Fun Activities Nobody Actually Enjoys". Cracked, 2012-05-09. Accessed 2012-11-26.
  11. J. F. Sargent. "5 Reasons You Should Hate Professional Sports". Cracked, 2014-08-19. Accessed 2014-08-19.
  12. OffTopicRanter et al. "32 Things Awful People Secretly Suspect About the World" #16. Cracked, 2014-09-26. Accessed 2014-09-26.
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