Netflix Review: Sign Up For An Online Movie Rental Service

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-03-0842

How much does unlimited TV and movie streaming cost? To us, it’s $22.98 a month (with Blu-Ray) or $275.76 a year.

I’ve been a long-time Netflix subscriber since 2005, and there was a time when I’d spend some of my downtime just sifting through the Netflix movie lists and constructing my Netflix queue with great care. It’s a fun pastime and a nice way to relax. On occasion, I also enjoy reading people’s comments about some of the movies I’m eyeing to rent.

So do you have Netflix? If not, and you happen to be a movie buff like most of my family and several friends are, then this movie rental service is something to strongly consider.

Netflix Review: How It Works

Admittedly, we’re pure couch potatoes here, so when we heard about Netflix in the early 2000’s, we thought about trying it out someday. Well actually, my spouse wanted to sign up while I wondered if it was worth the bucks. After all, back then it cost $18.00 a month (more on the charges later) to be a member. We eventually went ahead and tried it, and here we are, so many years later, still managing our movie queues.

How does Netflix work? The quick and basic description is this: you set up a movie queue or list of movies you want to watch. You can either receive the DVDs via mail or via instant streaming. If you’re opting for the DVD plan or channel, then each time you return a DVD, you’ll get a new one sent out. So you can watch DVDs as much as you want each month for the flat fee. What’s cool is that you can hold on to a movie as long as you want (there are no due dates) and you are not charged anything more than the monthly subscription fee. So you’re in full control of how you want to peruse the service. Now if you’re using streaming (which is where on-demand viewing is headed), then you can put your shows on your Instant Queue. If you’ve got this set up, you can then view your Instant Queue immediately.

Netflix Browse Feature

If you’ve got an unlimited plan at higher price points, you’ll get a whole lot more out of the service. You can pretty much watch shows instantly (you no longer need to wait for anything via snail mail) as much as you want, as often as you want for the flat fee you are charged monthly. You can stream it to your computer or to your television — the latter works if you purchase a Netflix supported device.

Want to sign up with Netflix? Here’s where to start.
Sign Up For A Netflix Subscription

Netflix Features

Here are some of the basic features of the Netflix site and service.

1. Queue Management

You can prioritize your movie queue pretty easily. I dump all my favorite movies into this list, then I order them according to priority (the ones on top will be sent out next).

Netflix Queue Feature

2. Browse Movies and Recommendations

I really like how Netflix has organized their movies — you can search for titles through many avenues, such as by Genre (my favorite is suspense/thriller), by New Releases, Netflix Top 100 (based on rental activity), picks by well-known critics (e.g. Roger Ebert) including movie reviews by Rotten Tomatoes, and by Award Winners. They also have an area in their site where you can watch previews.

3. Movie Suggestions Based On Your Past Preferences

Netflix also provides you suggestions for your movie queue by learning about your taste in movies and preferences. If you fill out a taste preference questionnaire and also rate the movies you’ve already watched, it uses an algorithm that offers you suggestions about which titles that you might love.

4. Watch Instantly: Stream To Your TV or Computer

What I really appreciate about this service is that over time, Netflix has provided more options for members. We’re getting more services such as this ability to stream shows onto our TV without any limits whatsoever. All unlimited plans (those that charge $7.99 a month and above) allow you to watch movies without limits and without extra fees. You have many options for setting up streaming: for example, you can download plugin software or hook up your Apple TV, game console or Blu-Ray devices. Purchase a “Netflix ready device” like the Xbox 360, Blu-Ray DVD player or a Tivo and connect it to the Internet. It shouldn’t take long before you’re all set to click on any movie you so choose, which you’ll be able to watch on the spot. Just make sure you have a high speed connection. Note that the titles that are in the “Watch Instantly” section are limited to a subset of what’s available to you via your Netflix queue. This is just an extra bonus above the DVDs you will continue to receive right off your queue.

How Much Does Netflix Cost? Pricing Plans & Other Options

You can sign up for a free trial through this link. It’s good for 1 month and allows you to cancel anytime within the first 4 weeks without getting charged. If you don’t cancel, you’ll be billed accordingly after the month is up. There are 4 major plans you can choose from, with monthly rates specified below:

#1 The cheapest is the Limited Plan that allows one rented DVD out at a time for $4.99 a month, and limits you to 2 DVDs per month and very limited streaming capabilities.

#2 The Unlimited Streaming Plan with No DVDs is for $7.99 a month.

#3 The Unlimited DVD Plan with No Streaming has fees that range from $7.99 to $14.99, depending on how many DVDs that you rent out simultaneously or if you are using Blu-Ray.

#4 By the same token, the premier plan that includes Unlimited Streaming plus Unlimited DVDs ranges from $15.98 and goes up to $34.98. In our household, we chose the “2 DVDs out at a time” plan that costs $22.98 a month.

The fees to use Netflix have been a source of great controversy among current customers, since the company did away with a popular plan that offered $9.99/month for unlimited online movies plus one DVD out. Now, any plan that combines DVDs and streaming will cost a minimum of $15.98/month. A lot of customers balked at the change and subsequently canceled their subscription, which sent a strong message to management. Some folks felt that they would rather do without the service and walked. For those with the same sentiments, there may be other alternatives you can consider, such as Blockbuster On Demand, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon Prime Instant Video & Sony Entertainment Network. Which service you decide to use should be based on your viewing habits, need for flexibility and convenience, service costs and the type of devices you want to use for your entertainment needs. Some of these services have a smaller selection of shows, or may impose time limits on your viewing, as tradeoffs for a cheaper rate.

Why I Like Netflix As An Online Movie Rental Service

Netflix is a great service that you can run from an awesome website with a lot of cool features and tools to help you get the most out of this form of entertainment. For my particular needs, Netflix is a good value. The all-you-can-watch benefits and flexible features work for anyone who is looking for unlimited indoor entertainment for a song.

Created March 30, 2009. Updated March 8, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Silicon Valley Blogger March 9, 2009 at 12:00 pm

These comments show history, starting from March 2009. Over the last few years, Netflix has undergone a lot of changes. I’ve decided to preserve that history here to show how this service and customer sentiments have evolved through the years.

Sarah March 30, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I get my movies from my local library and can keep them for a week. They have new releases like Slumdog Millionaire and Marley and me. I just log on to their website and place a reserve. The only downside is the wait to actually get the dvd.

aa March 30, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Waste of $. There aren’t that many movies to watch.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 30, 2009 at 7:33 pm

@Sarah,

Great suggestion! Believe it or not, we actually also go to the library very often to pick up books and DVDs on a regular basis. We’re very active members of our local library. The only thing with the library is that it’s less convenient of course (well, who can beat direct delivery?), and not all the titles we want are there. Also, we have to drive there…..

But we definitely use the library on top of our Netflix use, especially when we have extended family visiting with us on vacation who love the selections of free stuff they get to use from there.

@aa,

Your mileage may vary. As I mentioned, we’re big movie buffs. If you’re not a big movie watcher, then yeah, it’s not worth it. But it’s one of my guilty pleasures, I guess! :) If you saw the movie collections that some people I know have, you’d think it crazy and a complete waste of money. But certain things make sense based on what floats your boat.

Manshu March 31, 2009 at 4:56 am

What about blockbuster? Is that any good?

Keith March 31, 2009 at 6:54 am

My girlfriend and I have been thinking of trying Netflix. We love to watch movies and it can get expensive going to the theater! It seems like a good idea. Thanks for the info on it!

Michael Harr March 31, 2009 at 7:57 am

We LOVE Netflix! We have a family of four and four computers to take advantage of the Netflix Now movies. The kids watch what they want, we watch what we want and the top titles come in the mail for us to watch together. We still go to the library and pickup movies on occassion for things like TV series which makes it easier than Netflix–just got caught up on 24…great show!

I’ve always been a major advocate for Netflix–particularly if you have youngsters at home. The dreaded trip to Blockbuster was eliminated from our lives about four years ago and we’re better for it. Some of our friends think Blockbuster’s service is better, but I’m a big loyalty guy and Netflix brought it home first in the mail and first on the computer for us so there’s no reason for us to change.

Diasdiem March 31, 2009 at 8:03 am

I love Netflix. I recently switched over from Blockbuster. I had originally been with Netflix (back before the instant online viewing), but switched to BB because I was getting throttled (a week to get my movies when I used to get them in 2 days, as advertised!) The last straw was when I got the same movie too damaged to watch twice in a row. The first time it was just too scratched, the second time the disc arrived broken in half! Add in the turnaround time I was getting and it just wasn’t worth it.

I switched to BB because I liked the idea of being able to trade in my movies in-store for free, and this actually came in handy when I received a damaged movie from them. I just went to the store, swapped it out for a working copy for the shelves, no waiting! There were problems though. Mainly because BB treats the queue as a suggestion, unless you’re watching a TV series. I received the Mad Max movies in reverse order. Still haven’t seen the first one. Sometimes it would skip down to a movie 5 places down from the top of my queue, even the top movie was listed as “available.” This really screwed with me. I’d be eagerly waiting for a movie, only to get an email saying they’d ship another movie. And if I wasn’t really in the mood to watch that movie, I wouldn’t, and it’d just sit there on my table, sometimes for almost a month, which meant I was wasting my money. I actually forced myself to watch a movie I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing, so I could send trade it back in. Watching movies became a chore! A few times I just traded it in unwatched. And several times when I couldn’t think of anything in particular I was interested in seeing in the BB store, I just dropped the movie off without getting a trade-in. I got a coupon for a free in-store rental that was good for video games too, but I only ever used them once or twice. I was completely wasting my money.

A few weeks ago I was visiting my parents. My sister and her son are living with them while her husband’s deployed, and she has a Netflix account. I had considered going back to Netflix because of the instant viewing, and especially when I learned that you got unlimited viewing with one of the unlimited plans. I tried it out on her computer and I loved it. I rejoined for the 1 movie unlimited plan and bought a Roku player. There are tons of instant movies I like. Between watching Netflix with my Roku and Hulu on my PS3 using PlayOn, I decided to cancel my cable subscription, saving me around $70 a month. And I also don’t waste as much time flipping channels looking for something to watch. I don’t leave movies lying around burning up my subscription value. The amount of instant viewing I’ve done has been more than worth $8.99 a month.

Diasdiem March 31, 2009 at 8:11 am

@Manshu

I’d steer clear of Blockbuster. I liked them originally because you got unlimited in-store trade-ins, but they’ve since limited the trade-ins. I still got them until I canceled because it was grandfathered in. But there’s the other problems of not always getting the movie you’re expecting, and being limited by what they have in the brick-and-mortar store locations. The free monthly rental coupon is pretty good, if you take advantage of it. Considering that it costs around $8 now to rent a video game, that makes up a decent portion of your subscription cost.

I like Netflix mainly for online viewing. The have a lot of classic movies available to watch (TCM was one of my favorite cable channels), as well as a few TV series. If you find a movie that you really like, you can keep it in your instant queue and watch it over and over again. It’s like owning it. Of course, to take advantage of it you have to have a good internet connection, as your connection speed dictates the quality of the movie stream. I have 8 mbs, and to get the best quality on my HDTV I have to have my Roku wired directly to the router (not wireless) and not have too much network traffic.

Miss M @ M is for Money March 31, 2009 at 12:16 pm

We’re happy netflix subscribers but we did go through a period where every disk we received had problems. We finally bought a new DVD player, which helped a lot. Often the disks are a bit scratched from all the travel in the mail and our cheap player couldn’t cope. Netflix customer service was very good though, they even upgraded us for free for a few months as an apology for all of the problems.

Michele March 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I used to have them, but cancelled because of throttling and unwatchable damaged disks. I rent from redbox, but I cant even call it renting because there are so many promo codes available for free rentals that I have never had to pay for a rental. I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, maybe 3 or 4 a month, so that suits me fine.

Craig March 31, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I love Netflix even though they just raised blu-ray rentals by $1. I use the service all the time and take advantage of the 1 month unlimited, so for me it is worth it. I can see how it’s not if you only plan on renting 1-2 movies a month. I have converted to Netflix about 4 months ago and love it.

Silicon Valley Blogger March 31, 2009 at 1:53 pm

That’s quite interesting how there are some of you who have received damaged disks from Netflix. We’ve had Netflix for so incredibly long and we’ve only had a couple of incidents along these lines (damaged or non-functioning DVDs).

The good thing though is that they have the new feature of allowing us to “instantly watch” shows via Tivo. Our unlimited plan allows us unlimited movies via the internet, so this is one way to circumvent the damaged DVD issue. We still have an old Tivo in place but when we upgrade, we’re going to capitalize on this cool feature!

sam March 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm

They just upped the Blu-ray prices yesterday, and it isn’t rubbing people very well. I don’t know how I feel about this. The $1 price increase for Blu-ray was great, but now the plans are expensive for Blu-ray.

I might look for other options. Or switch to a digital service like VUDU, Apple TV, or Amazon VOD.

Diasdiem March 31, 2009 at 2:25 pm

My disc problems with Netflix were a couple years ago. It was especially irritating because it was part of a series, so it’s not like I could just go on to the next movie. The ability to watch instantly on my computer or Roku is definitely worth the price.

I’m not on the Blu-Ray plan yet. Don’t know if I ever will. But it seems particularly harsh to people with the larger subscription plans. I don’t know about anyone else, but there are usually only a couple movies on Blu-Ray that I care to see. So at any given time I’d probably have maybe 1 or 2 BDs if I was on one of the larger plans. But Netflix is charging as though each of the movies in your unlimited plan is a BD, which I think is unrealistic for a lot of people. Or it would be for me, since I mostly watch older movies and not as many new releases. They should have a pricing option where you specify how many BDs you can have at a time as well, and charge accordingly.

nate March 31, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Use blockbuster video, you can exchange your videos for any other one in store or online. In addition to ordering online and watching online. You figure one month is half of what you would pay to see it in the theater so why not:) Great blog though. I will continue to check back for more useful tips!

Thanks / nate

Jim March 31, 2009 at 4:45 pm

I’ve been a Netflix member for about 5 years. Its a great service. It is convenient, they have a huge selection, watching movies online is a bonus and the price is OK. I’ve rented a few hundred DVDs and I can’t recall having problems with damaged DVDs. I don’t think over 1-2% of my DVDs had any problems.

JB April 1, 2009 at 12:04 am

I currently have Blockbuster online, over time they have incrementally raised the price and changed the way the movies are sent out. Before if you did an in store exchange they’d start the process of sending a movie in the mail right away, now they don’t start the process until the in store exchange is returned. I think eventually the store locations will close anyways, it’s like a ghostown in there.

Over the past few years BB has raised their prices while decreasing the service and bad customer service. I was a die hard believer but that’s the last straw for me, I’ll be going to Netflix. I think I can go with a cheaper plan too with online streaming.

Shadox April 3, 2009 at 3:59 am

I love Netflix and my wife and I have been members for years. However, recently I have noticed that the movies just seem to languish on our shelf for a long, long time. Time to cancel?

Also, the company’s movie engine recommendation is horrible. It is amazing how many bad movies they have recommended to me.

TB April 5, 2009 at 9:18 am

Great article, I needed a review of netflix and yours sums up everything I wanted to say. I find the online streaming is great, slightly wider variety would be good, but its still a cheap night in.

Joe April 14, 2009 at 8:15 am

I just got Netfilx last month, and I love it. It’s super easy to use, cheap and despite what some people above have said, they have a great selection.

Chris October 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I love Netflix!

Len Penzo October 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm

My family loves Netflix! It is an awesome service, although we have had a few occasions where we got bad DVDs that crapped out midway through the movie. That is very frustrating!

I wouldn’t let that scare anybody though. In all we’ve rented probably 500 videos so the “error rate” is less than 1%.

Best,

Len

Silicon Valley Blogger October 22, 2009 at 6:50 pm

We love Netflix too! It’s one of those things we haven’t given up even while we tightened our belts during the recession. It has saved us money in the entertainment category so it’s done its job. ;) It seems to me to be a hard habit to break — and if you’re big on indoor entertainment, it’s definitely a money saver.

Alan November 25, 2009 at 8:12 pm

With all of the Blu-ray players that are coming down in price and the ability to access Netflix with a lot of Blu-ray players, a lot of people will have access to the Netfix movie database pretty much on demand. I personally love the convenience of Netflix but i still enjoy going to the video store now and then and browse the movies section because sometimes you will spot a classic movie that you really want to watch that you otherwise might have forgotten about.

Seer December 14, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Great Product – Terrible Company — I really liked them at first, but now, I’m having some issues with their service.

N. Reeves December 18, 2009 at 4:21 am

This is not a complaint, but rather high regards to the Netflix Company. I’ve had the Roku Box (for streaming video) since it came out some years ago. In the beginning they only had a few movies – but after a month or two they really got busy and put a lot on there! When our grandkids are visiting – there is always something for everyone. Very good variety now. I’ve never been over billed or had a movie that I sent back get lost (although I’m sure it happens from time to time) Bottom line – Our family loves our Netflix!! Best 99 I’ve ever spent. And I think they cost less now too!

JennaJen February 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm

I would NEVER rent from Netflix. They protect identity thieves. Someone stole my identity and was ordering movies from Netflix. Netflix was honoring the stolen credit card and allowing this person to keep using my card over and over again. AND, they REFUSED to reveal the identity of the thief. They told me that by law, they had to protect the identity of the criminal. Since when should the criminal be protected while the victim continues to be victimized by the criminal?? A company that allows someone with a stolen credit card to keep using the card should be put out of business!

Watch The Last Airbender Movie May 6, 2010 at 6:56 am

I really am tempted to try Netflix now but I just don’t like the idea of shipping. I like the fact I can go instantly to get my movie. The streaming to your computer almost completely eliminates the need for that though. Then again, sitting at the TV with your family is where it’s at.

Sahir June 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Netflix is good, only if they make more good movies available on streaming; the movie collection in the streaming section is very limited.

jason heyward July 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm

“How tough will the upgrade be?”

Ozeeya July 26, 2010 at 7:12 am

I find the online streaming is great and error rates are also less.

Bob Lampert September 3, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Nx is quite good, but I suspect you’re overhyping them. Btw, they ship in order of your queue only if the videos are available, which they frequently are not; then you get them in any order whatsoever. Another thing, as of tonight, there will no longer be any customer reviews. They started making noises about removing “community features” a while ago, and I didn’t really care for things like “friends” etc., but review? Hell, I do read reviews. As of right now, they’re gonna keep the ones they’ve already got, but no more new ones. Go check it out: even the “review this film” link is no longer on the page. I can’t understand why this easy nonsense is so hard to maintain (I’m a computer programmer and have a very good idea of what’s involved: nothing really). There has to be some other reasons for them to remove reviewing.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 30, 2010 at 11:58 am

Netflix used to have a Friends & Community Feature but has since phased things out in September 2010. I thought it was fairly useful when it was around. Here’s what I said about it back then:

I’ll admit that I’m somewhat voyeuristic (in the tamest sense of the word) so this feature has turned out to be a lot of fun for me. It has allowed us to hook up our Netflix accounts to those of our friends’ via invitations, so that we could see each other’s movie rental activities. It’s a neat way to get movie ideas from others, to share suggestions and notes about the stuff we watch. It has also helped us organize our movie watching plans with our friends during social gatherings.

Netflix Friends Feature

The community feature is also very well supported here. I enjoy just reading the reviews from members, their top lists and ratings. They’ve even got a way of matching up your tastes in movies with others so you can see what these members have recommended and reviewed. On top of it all, I keep up with Netflix’s latest offerings through their blog.

Unfortunately, Netflix felt that it was no longer a feature worth supporting because not too many customers were using the functionality.

Direct TV Channel Lineup October 26, 2010 at 9:01 am

Thanks for this article. I just wonder what the quality is for streaming into TV.

Taylor May 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Netflix is absolutely my favorite. The thing about it is that the streaming collection is always changing and almost always becoming bigger and better! I started NetflixStreaming.blogspot.com, that gets the word out on hidden gems of streaming sites like Netflix — so that we’re able to enjoy these services to the fullest!

Spiritual Films May 30, 2011 at 9:22 pm

For movie buffs (my own term is movie addicts), the monthly subscription is really much cheaper than going and watching it at movie houses; plus, you can watch and enjoy your movies in the comfort of your home.

theCase December 9, 2011 at 7:43 am

I’m surprised that movie watching is so popular! For me there is no way I would spend $275/year to sit in front of a TV to watch movies. Seems like a very passive activity.

Then again I bought a used fishing boat for $1000 (plus $50/yr in various expenses) and that probably seems like a waste of money to most people…..

Anyway an eye opening review of NetFlix, thanks!

Silicon Valley Blogger December 9, 2011 at 11:40 am

@theCase,
It’s definitely a couch potato affair. I can’t live without the stuff, but I remedy the “passive” aspect by doing my gym activities in front of the telly. It’s a major form of relaxation for me!

jason December 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

Is this a recycled article? I don’t think the community feature has been around for over a year. The Tivo feature is not new (mentioned in the comments). other comments seem out of whack with current reality. i have been a customer for ten years. I can’t live without the streaming but dropped the disc plan since the price increase. My kid watches streaming 3 or 4 times a day.

Silicon Valley Blogger December 10, 2011 at 11:15 am

@Jason,
I appreciate the observations. I’ve made sure to update the piece to reflect the current service. A lot has happened to this service over the past few years but as a subscriber, I stuck through the changes as we were fairly satisfied with how things were developing for the company. The service is not without glitches, however. I watch via streaming every week, but I see quite a few bugs still — there are errors we get via the Apple TV. The thing gets buggy on occasion — giving us random error messages once in a while — but hopefully they get these inconveniences (and annoyances) squared away soon enough.

I’ve remained a Netflix subscriber despite the changes in the pricing plans and the controversies that were spurred by those changes.

Yes, the comments are historical. There is a note that this piece was created in March 2009 with an update on Dec. 2011. I strive to keep things as up to date as possible on this site.

Thanks so much for your remarks!

kimber April 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Does Netflix sell or lease any equipment or devices themselves to connect to my tv to stream netflix movies and tv shows through it?

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