Columns

2011.09.28 Netflix and I are changing

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

“Dear Reader,

I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many readers felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of news and photographs and the price changes.”

Oh wait, did I forget to mention that starting in October the Observer will be printed in two formats—one will carry the news and the other will have the photographs?

If this drivel isn’t making any sense to you, you’re obviously not a user of Netflix.

No, there is no change in the Observer. There won’t really be one version called the Observer and another called the Disturber. You’ll still get your news and photos in one package, at one price, from the same source.

It’s Netflix that’s changing and all subscribers learned about in a letter from the owner. The company’s streaming business—watching movies instantly on your television—will retain the Netflix name. The old DVD rental—those red envelopes that appear in your mailbox—will have the new name Qwikster, which some people point out rhymes with trickster and is a terrible name for a company.

Customers who choose a combination of DVDs and streaming will now be billed for the two services separately and have the honor of paying more for the service. 

I heard it explained this way: In the past you could buy a pair of shoes for $11.99. Now you can buy the right shoe for $7.99 and the left shoe for another $7.99. What a deal.

I received my first Netflix rental on Dec. 21, 2001 when “The Matrix” arrived in my mailbox. It was an amazing experience. I didn’t need to get it back to the store right away. I kept it around for a few days so I could watch it when I had the time. In 2001, that was revolutionary.

I hate to think how many movies I’ve watched since that first night. No, that’s not true at all. I’m delighted to think about the movies I’ve watched. Netflix has served as a great source of pleasure. I was one of those least-likely-to-return-home kids, but here I am living in Morenci and able to watch just about any movie I want to see. Netflix helps get me through the week— when I’m able to find the time to watch.

I just noticed the other day that “My Dinner with Andre” is now available for rental. That’s been on my Save list but unavailable for a decade. It just keeps getting better and the streaming options open the possibility even more. I started watching a Bob Dylan documentary sometime over the summer, then watched more of it a couple of weeks ago. Netflix knew just where I left off in July.

With its recent changes, Netflix has angered tens of thousands of its once-loyal customers. They’re going to start using some other service—maybe drive to Keifer’s Korner Video in Fayette—or perhaps just start reading books.

I’ve read explanations about the Netflix change and it makes me feel a little outdated. Supposedly, Netflix looked toward the days of streaming right from the start—before technological changes made it possible—and that’s the company’s main interest. Netflix knows that DVDs will soon become a thing of the past. When was the last time you rented a video cassette? Let the DVD rental business have the stupid Qwikster name; it will be gone in a few years anyway.

The problem for Netflix is that the companies owning the movies are demanding more and more for the streaming rights and Netflix needs the cash to improve.

Newspaper people can’t help but notice the changes Netflix is going through—the conversion from a physical product to a digital product and the reliance on the financially troubled U.S. Postal Service. It makes us wonder what’s in our future.

Maybe we can learn from each other. Look, Netfix, we place a caption under every photograph. You can add subtitles to your streamed movies to help us through those unintelligible British films.

I’ll look into newspaper rental. Perhaps I’ll just print a hundred papers or so and everybody can take turns.

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