Monday, March 17, 2008

Nitpicking On NetFlix

I recently received the 1st DVD of season 1 of the much buzzed about HBO show Flight Of The Conchords from NetFlix. The 6 episodes on the disc were very funny with crazily catchy songs by the kooky kiwi folk/rap duo, but trouble was that I had waited for it for 3 months! 

That's right, since it was released on December 17th, 2007 it had been at "very long wait" in my queue. I enjoyed it but can't quite say it was completely worth the wait.

During this "very long wait" I had composed a rough draft list of 10 complaints about NetFlix but abandoned it because it wasn't really thought out and also the next day my next DVD came broken in half - so I thought karma was against me. And I hadn't even posted it! 

So being newly frustrated with the DVD mailing program I decided to refine the list of pet peeves and pair it down to 5 complaints. Now, don't get me wrong - I really like NetFlix and think overall they provide an excellent service. 

I do think some other high volume users and film buff geeks like me will find something to relate to in this persnickety list which I call: 5 Snivelling Bitchy Beefs About NetFlix 

1. Lack Of New Release Special Editions Of Undeniable Classics - I noticed that the 50th Anniversary Edition of 12 ANGRY MEN - the 1957 Sidney Lumet Best Picture winning cinematic standard - has just been released on March 4th and contains 2 hours of bonus material. There's a new transfer of the best available print, a commentary by historian Drew Casper, and two "making of" featurettes. Sounds pretty sweet, huh? Well, NetFlix doesn't carry it. 

They only have the 2001 non-anamorphic Vintage Classics release that has only the trailer as bonus material available. Wha? Also, NetFlix doesn't carry The 40th Anniversary Edition of THE GRADUATE, The WALL STREET (20th Anniversary Edition), and even the 26th Anniversary of THE JERK is nowhere to be found! Okay, so maybe they have something against anniversary editions but Criterion re-releases are often dissed too - THE ICE STORM - Criterion Collection, set to be released tomorrow (March 18th), is nowhere on their schedule. 

The idea that NetFlix doesn't upgrade from the old original releases to the new enhanced editions with better transfers doesn't give the impression that they are catering to the real film fan. Seems like these titles would get more action if their definitive new models were available. To their credit they did have BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT available right off the bat. 

2. The Removal Of Their Upcoming New Releases page - What gives? When I previously went browsing under the tab that says "New Releases" I used to have the option to see upcoming releases on a page that wasn't flashy, just informative about all the releases coming out the next week. 

Now that page is gone with just a basic showcase, movable by arrows, that shows 4 titles at a time - none of which are either brand new or upcoming just labeled as "Popular New Releases". It seems like they don't want us to know what to put in our queue in advance - the lack of a release date on say, GRACE IS GONE (Availability - Unknown) when Amazon lists it as May 27, 2008 seems a bit suspicious. Just sayin'. 

3. No Saturday Service - Yes, they specify this on their website that they process "rental returns Monday through Friday, except holidays, via the United States Postal Service."

Okay, but dammit for the "world's largest online movie rental service, providing more than seven million subscribers access to more than 90,000 DVD titles plus a growing library of more than 5,000 choices" - shouldn't Saturday be added to the workweek? 

I mean I hate that if I mail a disc on Friday (or sometimes Thursday) they won't get it until Monday and I won't get my next movie til Tuesday or Wednesday possibly! I mean, I just hate that. 4. Odd Inventory Practices - Sometimes as a heavy user a transaction can be a bit baffling. 

I had FACTORY GIRL, a movie that was not a hit or critical success in my queue at "very long wait" last year and it's status kept changing - availability: "short wait" then "now" then back to "very long wait". I got many releases in the meantime that were much more popular and sometimes sent to me on the Monday before their release while FACTORY GIRL kept hanging back. When it finally came the actual disc had printed on it: “Sale copy – not for rental”! Uh, NetFlix - is that even legal? I mean, I'm just wondering. 

5. They Turned My Site Down To Be A NetFlix Affiliate - Yep, sour grapes. Okay! So that about sums up my issues with the San Francisco based corporation that is successfully annihilating Blockbuster as well as Ma and Pa videostores across the map. 

And I'm all for that - videostores are pretty anachronistic and irrelevant these days and will soon be extinct for a lot of technological advances they can't adapt to. From the point of view that to truly love something one can see its flaws all the more and shouldn't be afraid to point out what could be improved I hope this isn't taken the wrong way. Otherwise I just may have to get used to an empty mailbox. 

More later...


Anonymous said...

Two of your problems are probably directly related to the Weinstein company. They have an "exclusive" rental contract with Blockbuster, which is why the discs say "for sale". However, the First Sale doctrine states that anyone who buys a physical product can rent or resell it however they wish. So Netflix isn't breaking the law, just angering the Weinsteins. And as you can see, they're a big enough customer that the Weinsteins haven't stopped selling to them.

But since the Weinsteins are so unfriendly to non-blockbuster retailers, Netflix probably underbought the product. "Factory Girl" and "Grace Is Gone" are two of the titles under their umbrella. They also have a ridiculously short prebooking period... we at TLA Video aren't allowed to put Grace Is Gone up for sale until April 29th. Maybe Netflix is honoring that agreement.

Finally, Amazon's database is linked to their distributor directly. Since the "preorder" date for Grace Is Gone is April 15th (that's the date that us retailers have to order the product before), the distributor has to put the product up on their database. So it automatically went up on Amazon's. I'm sure if someone at Weinstein complains, they'll take it down.

Anyway, that's a nice little look into our FUBAR industry, and the headaches I deal with every day myself.

Evan Derrick said...

Mmmmm... it's business time.

Anonymous said...

My problem with Netflix is that in my queue of 71 items, eight are marked "availability unknown." They have no explanation on their web site, so I called. They explained that this means they don't have any copies, but maybe they are trying to buy one ... but there is no way to tell what they are sdoing. I watch these Japanese things that run on 4 to 12 disks. I watched one series without disk 2 of the 5, which has been "unknown" for three months. That series is available overnight from Amazon. The eight "unknowns" mean that two-thirds of my queue is affected. this shows real contempt for customers. I wonder if Blockbuster is better.

liam said...

I now have 107 unknown availability in my Instant watching queue that were not unknown when I placed them in the queue. Did their server crash???

Anonymous said...

I think I can address your 2nd issue. They still have the "Upcoming Releases" page, there's just no link to it anywhere. Here's the direct URL -