The expected death of Blockbuster marks an important shift in the video rental industry. It’s not about DVDs and Blu-Ray discs anymore—the battlefield is online streaming media. And I have a feeling that Netflix, despite several shortcomings, will come out on top.
Netflix’s biggest artery clog is its crappy selection of “Watch Instantly” movies and TV shows. Sure, you can currently stream Troll 2, the best worst horror flick ever made, but when it comes to new releases, most of the time you’re out of luck. That’s where Netflix’s competition comes in.
Steve Jobs recently unveiled a revamp of Apple TV, and with it, Apple’s plans to rent TV shows for 99cents a pop. That price point sounds good on paper, but when you consider the plethora of free options—including Hulu and individual networks’ websites—it doesn’t sound so appealing. In fact, major networks are scoffing Apple’s rental model, claiming the price devalues its programming. Fox and ABC have signed up, but NBC and CBS said no (and without “30 Rock”, what’s the point?).
Realizing there’s money to be made, other websites have launched or announced for-pay iterations. One is Hulu Plus, which, when placed side-by-side with other, cheaper options, isn’t great. Another is a pay-per-view rehash of YouTube—another hard sell. Then, of course, there’s TiVo, which, with a good cable package, delivers everything you need.
For as little as $7.99 per month, Netflix offers unlimited access to over 20,000 streaming programs, and after the company announced a streaming-only subscription plan in Canada, it hinted at doing the same in the U.S. Netflix also just expanded its agreement with NBC and will soon offer even more of the network’s content on “Watch Instantly.” It’s apparent that Netflix offers sweet deals for content access.
I could be wrong, but it’s my feeling that soon we’ll wise up and realize 99 cents per show is ridiculous, another money-grubbing-stick-with-iTunes-or-die scheme devised by Apple, and that Hulu Plus and pay-per-view YouTube pales in comparison to the cheaper or free options available. And in the meantime, I believe we’ll stick with Netflix, shoulder-shruggingly content with its current “meh” selection, but expectant of more lucrative network contracts that’ll flood “Watch Instantly” with quality programming.
So while you wait: watch Troll 2. Oh, and Black Dynamite. You won’t be sorry.