We've been Netflix subscribers for years in our household, and I have to say that we came close to cancelling a few times because we'd get in DVDs and forget about them which meant our $20-ish/month plan was sometimes costing us $20 per DVD on average. But we held on and a few years ago Netflix started offering online viewing of some old movies and TV shows for no additional charge, which was kind of cool but we still didn't use it that much because we aren't the kind of people who will watch "TV" on our computer. We considered buying something like a Roku to enable us to watch Netflix on TV but we never got around to it. Then we hit some kind of tipping point and we're now uber-users of the service because we:
- Have teenagers who will use their laptop to watch shows and movies all the time.
- Put an Xbox 360 with a Live subscription in our family room at Christmas so we're watching all kinds of stuff there.
- Have an 18 year old son who bought his own Xbox 360 with Live and uses it to watch all kinds of stuff in between hours spent playing various war games.
- Have kids who no longer ask to have their movies added to the DVD queue so that mom and dad can watch what they want to watch. Currently we're having our own "The Pacific" marathon (okay, okay that's really just me but I do make sacrifices like suffering through Mama Mia!).
What's been interesting has been seeing what happens to the streaming quality at different times of day. Some weekends when I get up early and stream a movie I'll have an HD quality picture because no one else in the neighborhood or in the house is using the high speed internet service (Time Warner Cable), but later in the day the quality degrades dramatically once the bandwidth has to be shared. And my wife, who does bookkeeping from home, often has to kick our kids off of whatever they're doing, whether it's playing Live or watching a movie, so that she can access her clients' VPNs. All of that leads me to share this interesting tidbit from an article about Netflix's 4Q10 report:
One more interesting tidbit: Netfix says it will publish on Thursday “which ISPs provide the best, most-consistent high speed internet for streaming Netflix.” In other words, if any cable broadband services under-perform, Netflix will let the world know.
I love this idea because it would be nice to know how different ISPs do in comparison to their competition. Of course that's assuming that there's good ISP competition where you live and that you can do something about it if your ISP stinks, and that's often a bad assumption.
There's also the not-so-insignificant issue that's been brewing for years regarding the impact that Netflix and its ilk are having on the available bandwidth, and the use of this impact by the ISPs to argue for capping bandwidth for their subscribers. (BTW, a couple of years back Greensboro's tech crowd was at the forefront of fighting successfully against Time Warner's proposed bandwidth caps.) I truly hope nothing like this comes to pass because I'm really liking the evolution of this service. If it keeps going in this direction I can see the ISPs becoming a utility, there to provide the pipe, and the Netflix's and Hulu's of the world being the content providers. Not that this is really much of a prognostication since Netflix says it already has more than 20 million subscribers, which is more than Showtime or Starz and isn't far behind HBO. I'm thinking we'll see Netflix pass HBO in pretty short order since Netflix lets people choose what they want to watch, when they want to watch it. Yep, my and my 20 million Netflix compatriots' future couch potato-ing is going to be very interesting.