Netflix Activity

The recent bout with myTV on DVD addiction necessitated an increase in Netflix usage, which made me curious. How well have I really taken advantage of the Netflix service, and is it worth the monthly expense?

If I were to rent a movie at a local video store like Blockbuster, each rental would cost somewhere around $4 (this is an extremely charitable estimate, as I’m sure it’s probably closer to $5 at this point), plus the expense in time and effort (I mean, come on, I’d have to drive about a mile out of my way to go to one of these places!) Netflix costs me $15.99 a month for the 3-disc-at-a-time plan (this plan was $17.99 when I signed up, but decreased in price two times during around two years of membership), so it takes about 4-5 Netflix rentals to recoup my costs and bring the price of an average rental down below $4. I’ve been a member for one year and ten months… how did I do (click for a larger version)?

My Netflix Activity Chart

A few notes on the data:

  • The chart shows both DVD rentals and movies or shows watched online through Netflix’s “Watch Instant” service. There are certain distinctions that should be made here, namely that DVD rentals are measured by the date the DVD was returned, while Watch Instant rentals are measured when you watch them. Also, when watching a TV series on Watch Instant, each episode counts as a separate rental (if I were watching on DVD, there’s usually 3-4 episodes on one disc, but since I’m watching on the Watch Instant service, each episode counts as a separate rental).
  • As you can see, my initial usage was a little erratic, though I apparently tend to fall into a 4-5 month pattern (and you can see two nearly identical curves in 2007) where DVD rentals range from 6-13 per month. 13 appears to be my ceiling for a month, though I’ve hit that several times.
  • I’ve only fallen below the 4 disc per month ratio needed to bring the average rental down below $4 once (twice if you count July 2006, but that was my first month of service and does not constitute a full month’s worth of data). To be honest, I don’t remember why I only returned 2 movies in January 2007, but that was the first and only time I fell below the necessary 4 rentals.
  • My Watch Instantly service usage started off with a bang in July 2007 but quickly trailed off until 2008, when usage skyrocketed. This is when I discovered the TV show Dexter and quickly worked my way through all of the first season episodes (13 in all). Following Dexter, I started in on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and I just finished that today (expect a review later this week), so that means I watched 26 episodes online. Expect this to drop sharply next month (though I still plan on using it significantly, as I’ll be following along with Filmspotting’s 70’s SF marathon, which features several movies in the Watch Instantly catalog). All in all, it’s a reasonable service, though I have to admit that watching it on my computer just isn’t the same – I bought that 50″ widescreen HDTV for a reason, you know…
  • You’ll also notice that both March and April of 2008 have me hitting the ceiling of 13 movies per month. This is the first time I’ve done that in consecutive months and is largely due to watching BSG season 3 and my discovery and addiction to The Wire.
  • As of April 2008, I’m averaging 9 movies a month (I’ve rented 198 DVDs). Even if I were to use my original price of $17.99 a month, that works out to around $2 a DVD rental. When you factor in the price drops and the Watch Instantly viewing (I’ve watched 51 things, though again, in some cases what I’m watching is a single episode of a TV show), I’m betting it would come out around $1.50-$1.75.

So it seems that the service is definitely worth the money and is indeed saving me a lot. Plus, Netflix has a far greater selection than any local video store (with the potential exception of TLA Video, but they’re too far from my home to count), thus allowing me to indulge in various genres that you don’t see much of in a typical video store. The only potential downside to Netflix is that you can’t really rent something on impulse (unless it’s on the Watch Instantly service). There are also times when new or popular movies take some time before they’re actually available to you, but you have to contend with that from video rental stores as well. Indeed, I can only think of 3-4 times I’ve had to wait for a movie (this is mostly due to the fact that I tend to rent more obscure fare where people aren’t exactly lining up to see it…) For the most part, Netflix has been reliable as well, almost always turning around my returns in short order (I mail it one day, and get the next films two days later). There have been a few mixups and I do remember one movie that wasn’t available on the east coast and had to be shipped from California, so it came after a wait of 3-4 days, but for the most part, I’m very happy with the service.

This has been an interesting exercise, because I feel like I’m a little more consistent than the data actually shows. I’m really surprised that there are several months where my rentals went down to 6… I could have sworn I watched at least 2-3 discs a week, with the occasional exception. Still, an average of 9 movies a month is nothing to sneeze about, I guess. I’ve heard horror stories of where Netflix will start throttling you and take longer to deliver discs if you go above a certain amount of rentals per month (at a certain point, the cost of processing your rentals becomes more than you’re paying, which I guess is what prompts Netflix to start throttling you), but I haven’t had a problem yet. If I keep up my recent viewing habits though, this could change…

2 thoughts on “Netflix Activity”

  1. I’m probably not getting as much out of it financially as I should. I’ve been traveling to much and haven’t been watching as frequently. And to make matters worse, my boyfriend needs to get his own. It’s difficult for two people to really share a netflix. He’ll ask me to get something for him and his movie can literally sit here for months without him getting around to watching it. I’ve stopped asking him altogether if he’s interested in something I’ve gotten or even if I get around to watching it, I won’t be able to send it back unless he wants to see.

    I’m trying to watch more instantly to help make it worth the cost, too. But, it’s just not as comfortable to watch movies on the computer. If my couch was in the same room as the computer, it would be fine. That is not the case at present.

  2. Not ever having to share an account, I’ve never experienced that problem, though they do have the ability to split your rentals into multiple queues. So if you’re on the 3-at-a-time plan, you can create a queue for 1 of them that your boyfriend would use. This would only leave you with 2 at a time though (and if you had a 2 at a time plan, it would only leave you with 1 at a time).

    Watch Instantly is mildy annoying because I spent a bunch of money on a nice 50″ widescreen HDTV, and meanwhile I’m watching stuff on my crappy (well, decent) 19″ LCD computer monitor. What’s more is that Windows Media Player doesn’t like to play in full screen for me in a consistent manner, so I can’t even do that. I suppose I could move my lazyboy style chair closer to the monitor (or vice versa), but still.

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