Although I wasn’t one of the 800,000 subscribers who cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, I did cancel their DVD-by-mail part of my subscription and kept the video streaming since I use that more anyway. Two days ago Netflix charged me for the new billing period, which includes only the streaming service, and today I received what should be my last DVD-by-mail from Netflix, at least for now.
This marks the end of an era for me. I joined Netflix in 1998 when my first DVD player, a Toshiba branded deck, came with a card that offered a free trial for an unlimited DVD by mail service. At the time, the service cost $15 a month and you could have 4 disks at a time. I remember wondering, when I first signed up, how are they going to send me a DVD by mail, considering that I was used to getting DVDs encased in those jewel boxes. Little did I know that they had designed those now ubiquitous red-and-white sleeves.
I held on to the service for a few years until I moved to New York, mostly because I thought that the DVDs had to come from California, where the company was based. Little did I know that the service had gone national.
I re-upped in 2004, partly in an effort to get the airline-mile bonus that Netflix offered to new customers. At the time, the subscription offered only three disks for almost $20 per month, and over the years, I scaled back to two disks, then to one disk, and, after this week, to none.
The streaming service proved to be the “disk killer” for me. The convenience of watching a movie or television series, even if it’s not my first choice, is much better than waiting two-to-three days to watch a movie on DVD. I was a bit late the streaming service when it was first offered. I had a Powerbook G4 as my only computer from 2004 until 2009, and the PowerPC chip wasn’t good enough to run the streaming service. I didn’t do Netflix streaming until I bought a Roku in 2009 to watch Netflix Instant through a TV. Since then I have linked my Blu-Ray player, iPad, and iPhone to my Netflix accounts. It’s now possible to see Netflix just about anywhere I can get a 2 megabit Internet connection.
Will I miss the disks? Not really. DVD was always a problematic medium, given its rather short life.
I know that Neflix gets blamed for killing the local video store, and that studios are withholding streaming content from Netflix because they fear that Netflix is going to kill the DVD format and then the multichannel video distributor. I have theories behind the decline of each of these institutions, and I don’t think Netflix has had a substantial role. I’ll save that discussion for another day, but for now, I know that my mailbox will be a little emptier for the time being.