Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Consumer Review: Netflix

Thumbs up! I have been thinking about signing up Neflix for half a year now and finally did it after wandering into my local Blockbuster and finding absolutely nothing to rent (never mind the fact that I pay $15 a month for HBO and except for the Sopranos, they never seem to have anything on).

For those of you not familiar with them, Netflix is a video rental company (DVD only) that operates through the internet and mail. You sign up over the internet for the movies you want to watch and they mail you the first three in your queue (you can also sign up for an 8 video package). You keep the movies as long as you want - a week, a month, whatever. When you are done with a movie, you send it back in the pre-paid envelope and they mail you the next movie on your queue.

You can watch any number of movies you want for a flat fee of $20 a month, so if you rent more than five movies a month from Blockbuster, you are in the money. In only my first week I have already received my sixth movie. The mail times are great (for me, at least). It took one day from the time I signed up until I received my first movies, and it is a two day turn from the time I return a movie until I get the next one in my queue (one day for them to get, one day for me to receive).

Another nice feature of Netflix is their browsing and recommendation software. Similar to Amazon, you rate the movies you have seen and they will suggest titles based on your selections. It's fun to sit down for a few minutes at a time and rate movies - I have done it for 500 titles so far, and I really don't consider myself a serious movie watcher.

The one unknown is the availability of "hot" new releases, but with my queue of over a dozen movies and growing, I won't mind if it takes a few extra days to get a new release versus dealing with Blockbuster. One nice feature I am looking forward to is getting a few movies to take with me for long business trips. With no late fee, I can take them with me and watch on the plane, hotel room, etc. on my DVD playing laptop and just mail them back when I get home.

Netflix's business model is being copied by several others, including Walmart, and there are indications that even Blockbuster will do something similar, so I think they hit on something here.

Update: I took a look into their stock since I liked their service, but with a PE of 341 and a business model that can be copied, I'll cheer from the sidelines.

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