10.23.18: a rebel alliance of quality content
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a year without netflix
i really just hope she's happy
by joe procopio (@jproco)
pop culture

It was almost exactly one year ago that I gave Netflix the heave-ho, the 86, the Heisman. Having been told my $9.99-a-month deal was going to soar to $15.98 and include a reported massive cut in streaming selection, I really didn't hesitate.

My belief, and this holds true today, is that Netflix is a luxury service, even for an entertainment junkie like me (and my wife) with three kids who, through no fault of my own, can sing every Fresh Beat Band song there is.

God save us all.

And I was also right about this: The price increase and the public relations dumpster-fire that followed couldn't have come at a worse time for Netflix.

We're still on the bleeding edge of streaming and on-demand, and the options and competition are only going to expand. Netflix will not become the all-inclusive a-la-carte entertainment option that everyone wants anytime soon. Those two terms will remain mutually exclusive for a long time.

So Netflix, in an attempt to grab more of the a-la-carte pie, that is, being your one-stop-shop for all your video entertainment, abandoned their hold on the all-inclusive -- the place you turn to for your movie fix. In fact, they didn't just abandon it, they lied to it, stabbed it in the back, then took its money and spent it on cocaine.

Don't get me wrong, this makes sense for Netflix -- eventually. They're just doing it wrong. They overestimated where the average subscriber came down on streaming, and how much they would pay for what content is available and when.

If I want to see something right now, I'll go get it (or wait 24 hours for the DVD to arrive at my door). If I don't care too much about what I'm cramming into my brainhole, I'll watch American Greed on CNBC or screen a Family Guy episode for the 12th time on TBS. I don't necessarily need to find a riveting documentary or that one movie with that guy before he was famous but now that he's famous the old movie didn't get any better.

You get me. Think Bradley Cooper.

My theory also still holds true, for me anyway, that the piecemeal entertainment offerings for must-see viewing, the ones left in the wake of a curbed Netflix (Redbox, Blockbuster, Hulu, YouTube, Apple, Amazon, cable), will do. It takes some getting used to, especially on those nights when I having nothing to watch, but I think I might even be a little healthier for it. Especially in the brain area.

Netflix was also not served well by what I'm calling a little trickeration by its support structure. Time Warner has gone to a two-tier Internet offering, with their "turbo" Internet offered at a $10 premium to their "regular" Internet.

In other words, there's now a $10 no-throttling fee.

Guess how well streaming works on the regular Internet? They've even gone so far as to pitch the term "say good bye to buffering" in their ads, because the general public, thanks to their regular Internet, now fully understands what buffering means.

And unless you have a PC or laptop dedicated to your big-screen, which is where the vast majority of home entertainment is still consumed, you'll need a console, a box like Apple TV, or a new and more expensive TV with the app built in.

So in giving up Netflix, I also as able to give up XBox Live. So now I'm saving around $20 a month. That's at least 12 DVDs at the Redbox (plus gas money) or four at the Blockbuster which, shockingly, is still an option for me.

Thus, unless you're willing to give up a lot or spend a bunch, and bless you if you're willing, you're a better person than me, Netflix is just not at the point where it makes sense as a replacement. If I have to choose between cable and Netflix, and I had to, I choose cable. Do I like myself more for it? No.

It's the entertainment equivalent of a solar-powered water heater, which I had on my former home. Awesome, but let's quit dicking around because I need a hot shower and germ-free dishes.

Netflix's problem wasn't the outrage of tens of thousands of people who violently left the service when they Qwikstered. It was the hundreds of thousands who made a financial decision and tossed a luxury item they didn't need. Sirius XM, for better or for worse, understood this, and they bent over backwards to retain customers. Netflix, most aggressively, did not.

But again, like me, most people aren't angry at Netflix and might filter back once the economy improves. And while I'm nowhere near ready to spend ten bucks for their streaming catalog, I might be willing to try it free for a month which I understand I can do now after being happily unNetflixed for a year. And there are a few million more people who broke up with Netflix at the same time I did.

This might be their saving grace, the chance to start over. If, by some awesome miracle, the economy improves and disposable cash becomes a little more disposable, all those people who cut down to the necessities will start picking up a luxury service or two. And maybe, just maybe, Netflix will sucker me back in with a free month.

Nah. A free month won't cut it. Quite honestly, that's not even enough to make me go through the trouble.

Maybe six.

OK, three. Come on baby, meet me halfway.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

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matt kelley
9.7.12 @ 7:29a

It amuses me that as I read your column, there is a lime green ad to the side, urging me to try huluPlus.



joe procopio
9.7.12 @ 7:38a

I would expect that and especially Netflix. Marketing, baby. They';re spending zillions to get new subscribers.

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