Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Why no advertising on the Red Envelope

Fool.com recently suggested several ways Netflix could enhance their business. One of those ways is exploiting the red mailer as an advertising vehicle, which reminded me of this old article in which Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, addresses (pardon the pun) that very issue:

By David Gardner and Tom Gardner
October 29, 2003
David and Tom Gardner recently interviewed Netflix http://quote.fool.com/uberdata.asp?symbols=YHOO(Nasdaq: NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings on The Motley Fool Radio Show on NPR. This is the second of four parts.

TMF: Reed, about your company's red envelope. They are an increasingly recognizable package to U.S. postal workers. Hundreds of thousands of customers open these up each month with delight. Our question for you then, on behalf of some shareholders who may think you are leaving money on the table, when will you sell space on those red envelopes to outside advertisers?
Hastings: Well, if you look at some of the great brands that have been created, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) is an example. A lot of people would like to advertise in the Starbucks store, but they have been very strong about creating a unique space and a unique brand. That is our philosophy also. We have got a very clean brand. We have got a brand that really represents something special and we don't intend to expand into advertising, no matter what the associated revenues, and it is really focused on, again, creating this pureness and this great brand. We think that is the right strategy to build the most valuable company.

Join the Netflix Tribe

Tribe is "A place to meet and interact with friends and others who share your interests." There's a Netflix Queue tribe! Share and discuss your queue with other Netflix members.

Disclaimer: it's still Beta, which means it could still have bugs in it, I guess.

Monday, August 30, 2004

They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

I don't agree with all their choices (I think Bill Georgaris is a fool--in the Biblical sense--for recommending Fahrenheit 9/11) but I think They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? is an excellent site nonetheless. Here, you can find many lists of great movies. It is "an excellent starting tool for aspiring movie buffs to begin (and also plan) their 'serious' film-viewing experiences". If you're looking for suggestions for your queue, they have thousands. I love lists. They have several lists of the 1000-best and 100-best type.

I also recommend Filmsite, which has lists coming out the wazoo, but beware of pop-ups.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Cancel Blockbuster, get a deal!

From the Netflix_operations_discuss Yahoo! group, one user states that if you cancel your Blockbuster Online subscription, they [Blockbuster] will offer you a deal of six months for $16.99 per month.

Netflix new search results layout

I don't know how long it's been there, because I haven't been searching for new titles to add to my queue (479 already), but there's a new layout to Netflix's search results. If you look for a term like silent, it returns the results on tabs. There is a tab each for Popular Matches, Movie Matches, People Matches, and Genre Matches. They make it easy and fast to switch between lists, especially where there are enough results to fill a page, because you don't have to scroll down as much.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I finally saw Breakfast at Tiffany's which all my friends say is a great movie, and if I loved Gone With The Wind I should love it, too. But, I'm prejudiced against Audrey Hepburn. She's too skinny, and I've never forgiven her for stealing the singing role of Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady from Julie Andrews. However, I tried to keep an open mind. It has some very cute love-story moments, and a few funny scenes. Patricia Neal is great, as the older woman who keeps George Peppard in high cotton. I think the movie is fascinating on another level: underneath the veneer of sixties-style prudery, sophistication and urbanity, what it boils down to is, a prostitute (Audrey Hepburn) falls in love with a gigolo (George Peppard) and decides to keep her cat. If you like classic romantic comedies, you'll love it, but you've probably already seen it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Are DVD Sales Really behind the Decline in Video Rentals?

Lyra Research, Inc. has a new report, released August 23, 2004, based on survey results which question the assumptions of the DVD rental industry, which believes that cheaper DVDs available for sale at discount retailers is responsible for the decline in rentals. On the contrary, the survey shows that the more DVDs you own, the more you like to rent them, too. Many DVD buyers say they like movies period, and renting them helps them decide which ones to buy. The survey included users of

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

48 Hour Film Project

This past weekend, I attended a showing of the ten best films of the Greensboro, NC 48 Hour Film Project. It was hosted by a local independent theatre, the Carousel Luxury Cinema. I enjoyed nearly every film. I was amazed by the local talent and resources represented by the films.

Each film has to be made entirely within a 48 hour time period, from concept to execution. The films have to be four to eight minutes long, and the filmmakers pick their genre out of a hat, like horror, action/adventure, superhero, or comedy. They are given a line of dialogue, a certain prop, and a character, which they have to incorporate into the movie, somehow. The results are fun to watch. Imagine a four-minute horror movie! The one I saw, was about a woman getting her hand caught in the garbage disposal.

I think it would be neat if Netflix distributed the national or international winners on a compilation DVD, or sponsored it, or something. If the DVD comes available, I recommend you check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Facets Multimedia online rental option

I'm excited about Facets Multimedia, a new-to-me online movie rental option. They've been around for over a decade, but I'm just now discovering them. From their Web page:
Rent in person or by mail from over 25,000 rare and out-of-print films - virtually impossible to find anywhere else! Early rare silents, the darkest noir, today's lightest French comedies...we also carry an extensive line of fine arts videos - hundreds of programs on art, dance, theater, photography, opera, and jazz.

Formats available are VHS or DVD, PAL or NTSC, Laser, or CD-ROM, even books. Their Facets Freedom ValuePass , similar to Netflix, is unlimited rentals by mail. Postage is free for DVDs, but
renting VHS tapes over the mail will entail an outgoing surcharge (because they weigh more): $5.00 for one tape, $8.00 for two and $10.00 for three. You are responsible the return postage.
There’s a special kids’ only membership and special options available for Chicago area members, including a brick-and-mortar store and theatre showings.

They offer many more titles for sale, too.

Facets.org is
called the "No. 1 Resource and public movie library in the entire United States" by Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune and "A temple of great cinema" by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times. Voted "Best Video Store in the Country" by New City three years running!

Netflix Nielsens

According to InternetRetailer, if you feel like you've been seeing nothing but Netflix ad banners lately, you have. They're the number one retail goods and services advertiser on the Web. Of course, Blockbuster is moving in on them.

The top 10 cited by AdRelevance and their number of online ad impressions, in millions:
Netflix, 405.3
Classmates Online Inc., 154.4
True, 142.9
Amazon.com Inc., 110.9
Target Corp., 76.2
EBay Inc., 65.3
Best Buy Co. Inc., 62.7
SmartBargains, 49.7
Date.com Inc., 49.4
AllPosters.com, 45.9

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Netflix Freak 1.2.5 update available

Netflix Freak is a little shareware application that lets you view and edit your Netflix queue on your Mac, rather than using the slow Netflix Web site. Using Netflix Freak, in Mac OS X, I can rearrange the order of titles by dragging and dropping them. I can move groups of them all at once. I can order them by columns (for Mac OS 10.3 and above). I can make individual notes regarding the movies (like the date I received it or returned it, so I can keep track of turnaround times) in Netflix Freak. I can see at a glance all the details of the movie. I can keep all my history (unlike the 90 days Netflix limits you to), so I can tell what all I've seen. Here's the official list of features:

- 6 ways to rearrange your rental queue (drag & drop, swap, shuffle, move to top/bottom, renumber, and cut & paste)
- Fast searching of the Netflix DVD catalog
- Print your rental queue (with and without DVD images)
- Import your entire rental history (not just the last 90 days)
- Add multiple movies to your queue in one action
- Add new movies to the beginning of your queue, the end, or shuffle afterwards
- View and assign star ratings to movies directly from any queue
- Keep track of who rented which movie in your household
- Assign custom categories to your movies
- Simple, one window access to all your queues
- Applescript access to all your movie data
- Jot down notes about individual movies and search them later
- Unlimited undo of queue rearrangements

Friday, August 20, 2004

UPDATE: One month trial promo is GONE

Sadness. The one-month-free-trial promo button is gone from my Netflix.com home page. It didn't last long at all. I gave away exactly one trial. You snooze, you lose. Besides, I ain't makin' squat off this thing. You can still get a two-week-free-trial anytime. You don't have to know me.

This is not where you go to change your address!

Another blogger has been mistaken for Netflix. She had a reader try to submit an address correction to her. This is a tragic abuse of Google-power.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

One Month Free! New Netflix promotion

I just noticed on my Netflix.com homepage today, that they've upped the trial period to ONE MONTH, by invitation only, apparently. If you want an invitation, comment on this post with your email address, or email me (see my profile for email address).


Attention: stalkers. I will be totally geeked-out on Labor Day weekend at Dragon*Con. It's the only convention I attend each year. Here's a press-release containing more info.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The future of Netflix

I like the service. I have found nothing suitable to replace it, yet. It is a good value.

Will cheap DVDs threaten Netflix? Netflix saves me from having to buy any DVDs. I see no point in buying, no matter how cheap they are, because I seldom watch a movie more than once or twice. I have hundreds of VHS tapes I never watch.

Will pay-per-view replace Netflix? That is unlikely for someone like me. I am unwilling to pay the extra money for digital cable or a special tuner in order to get pay-per-view, even if they had all the movies in the world. I hear the quality isn't very good yet, either. (Sidebar: I hate being a slave to the cable industry. Years ago, they promised us a plethora of a la carte channels with the advent of digital cable. The greedy muggers lied. I hate being forced to accept twenty channels filled with foul-mouthed prostitutes, just so I can watch Farscape or Animal Cops.)

Will I ever download movies? I don't have a big enough hard drive, video card, bandwidth or computer screen for downloading and watching movies. so it wouldn't work for me unless they made a cheap appliance, like Tivo, that I could attach to my TV. Why should I pay a thousand dollars for a new computer, just so I can watch movies?

I am considered by some to be an "early adopter", so Netflix is no problem for me. However, I have many friends and co-workers who hardly ever turn on their PC at home (or don't even have one), seldom go on the Internet or check email, but they watch two or three DVDs or movies on premium cable per week. These people are great potential Netflix customers, because they can understand and use the rent-by-mail model without having to learn any new technology.

Whatever movie-download or cable pay-per-view service moves in, in order to replace brick-and-mortar stores or rent-by-mail, will have to have technology that's really intuitive and invisible to the consumer.

Until they solve the hardware, technology, and bandwidth problems, Netflix's rent-by-mail service is the best way for me and my friends to get a wide selection of movies really cheaply and easily, without having to be slaves to Tivo, Bellsouth, or Time-Warner cable.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Friday, August 13, 2004

Unholy alliance

Hackingnetflix reports that Blockbuster has teamed up with Microsoft's MSN to promote their new online DVD subscription service. It makes sense to me that those two would get together. Birds of a feather....

Blockbuster distribution centers **corrected

Manda has posted a list of Blockbuster distribution center locations. Here they are:

Minnesota (city unknown)
Flushing, NY
Santa Ana, CA
Seattle, WA

**Correction: I thought her name was Jen. It's Manda.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

About Blockbuster

I have to admit, I am prejudiced against Blockbuster 's new online DVD subscription service. However, as a service to my curious readers, I am giving you some information about it. For background, Blockbuster began this service yesterday, Wednesday, August 11. It is very similar to Netflix. Here are some bits of news about it from the AP news wire. I have put interesting items in bold and my comments in brackets:

The roots of the new offering go back two years, to when Dallas-based Blockbuster bought Film Caddy, which charged $19.95 a month and shipped movies from Arizona. Blockbuster studied Film Caddy for a year - learning, for example, that 40 percent of its customers still visited video stores - then began testing online ordering among employees and consumers.

Blockbuster said it will offer a catalog of 25,000 titles, far more than any one of its stores. Blockbuster stores are stocked from a warehouse in McKinney, Tex. but the company built 10 regional centers to fill online orders and hopes to also tap store stock by next year. [Compared to Netflix's 25 centers--B]

With the new distribution centers, Blockbuster officials said they will fill about half of all orders on a next-day basis, with the rest arriving after two days. [compared to 80% of Netflix discs arriving within one day.--B]

Some analysts think the online-subscription model is just a placeholder until movies are widely rented by downloading them from the Internet.

"We believe video on demand is a very nice upgrade from pay-per-view," said Travis, the Blockbuster president, "but we think video-on-demand being a huge business like rentals is still a long ways off."

I'm trying to keep an open mind. If Blockbuster proves to be the better value, I would convert. I am still a Capitalist.

Netflix: FAQ du Jour Damaged or unplayable

I have found that I can make an unplayable disc play just by cleaning the disc, most of the time. Fingerprints on the disc cause more problems than scratches.

Question: I received a scratched, damaged, or unplayable DVD. What do I do?
Answer: If you have received a DVD title that is unplayable, try cleaning the disc first. (Windex on a paper towel works well.)
If the disc is cracked, damaged, or still won't play, you can report it at the Rental Activity page in Your Account.
On this page you also have the option to request that a replacement disc be sent to you immediately.
Please return the damaged disc, as many damaged discs can be repaired with our polishing machine. Also, for many titles, Netflix must account for, or pay the movie studio for lost discs; your return of the damaged disc is appreciated, and helps keep costs low for all our customers.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Not that Red Envelope

In case you're wondering, I adopted the tagline for this blog, "Red Envelope Madness", even after I realized there was another Red Envelope out there. However, I intend to retain that tagline, since it is true. Netflix DVDs come in a big, beautiful, red envelope, like this one. No trademark infringement intended. I'm not making a cent, not one unit of legal tender, off this endeavor. But this blog is worth 8 Billion in fantasy-dollars on Blogshares! Ha!

This is NOT where you go to cancel your Netflix subscription!

This poor blogger wrote a post about cancelling his Netflix subscription. According to the comments attached to his post, several readers thought he was Netflix and could cancel their Netflix subscriptions, too!

I have discovered, having a blog named Netflixfan, that some visitors to my blog think I'm the offical Netflix Web site. No, I'm not. I'm just a fan of the business. Click here for the official site.

I chose the blue color scheme so I wouldn't be confused with an "official" blog, but it still happens.

I rarely do movie reviews or movie lists. If you're looking for those, check my sidebar for links.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em **UPDATED

UK company Alteraxion partners with Netflix for its UK invasion this Autumn. Why? Netflix is the best at what it does. See their blog for a very good analysis of the reasons for Netflix's success.

**Update: From Andrew P. Carton, Managing Director at alteraxion, "although we have had regular discussion with Netflix we do not currently work for or with them in their efforts to enter the UK market."

Monday, August 09, 2004

Greencine vs. Netflix review

Here's a very long, detailed review of Greencine, by a user who lives in Kansas. I'm a member of Greencine as well as Netflix. I use them for different things. Greencine shipped me a DVD on Friday, Aug 6, which I received today, Monday, Aug 9, so turnaround hasn't been too bad. Greencine is an alternative to Netflix. Emphasis on alternative.

Queue trivia

Inspired by Megan at jumpingmonkeys.com:

My Netflix Queue Stats
474--Number of movies in main queue
1--Number of movies in "DVDs Awaiting Release" queue
35--Number of movies I've rented in the last 3 months
2-Number of movies labeled "Very Long Wait and Out of Print”
1--Number of movies labeled "Very Long Wait"
0--Number of movies abeled "Long Wait"
3--Number of movies labeled "Short Wait"
30--Number of movies in the queue that are actually television shows on DVD
12--Number of movies in the queue that I've already seen
0--Number of movies I feel are categorized wrongly
7--Average number of times I check the queue per week

Friday, August 06, 2004

IMDB history

This was brought to my attention via Listology: a fascinating look at the story behind the creation of IMDB (the Internet Movie Database), THE essential movie resource on the Web. I didn't know this, but it's been on the Web since 1993. I first visited it in 1995. It's now owned by Amazon, but it was started by a British movie fan-geek.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Over 2,600 DVDs to Rent!

See Netflix the way it was in 1999 via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about how much times have changed since then.

It's not wacky

Motley Fool's POST OF THE DAY "It's Still About the Cost" By Newsman August 4, 2004 says how Blockbuster is helping to grow Netflix's business:

Marketing Blockbuster's subscription plans validates and raises awareness of this business model, meaning Netflix spends less of its marketing time convincing customers that it's not a wacky way of renting movies.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Why the long wait for new releases?

They're more expensive to Netflix, therefore it's not as profitable for them to have alot of copies of new releases (defined as less than a year old).

From the San Jose Mercury News via Siliconvalley.com
By Mary Anne Ostrom

Netflix is a hit with consumers, but as its subscriber base grows, the most common complaint is the wait for the hottest movies.

Under revenue-sharing agreements with most of the top studios, Netflix pays on average $1.40 to the studios each time a new release is mailed to a Netflix user. But those deals typically expire after a year, which means Netflix enjoys a much higher profit margin when users request older films or those released through independent studios with less expensive sharing arrangements. Netflix said new releases are seldom recommended for fear of disappointing users if there is a wait. Hastings says, ``Creating the demand gets a better margin. This is integral to the formula.''

Netflix Chief Stresses Service

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Aug. 04, 2004
By Paul Bond

THR: You have suggested that your business model is having an impact on the movie distribution business.

Hastings: The smaller the film, the bigger impact we have. Look at "Whale Rider," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "The Hulk." They all came out together, and we got "Whale Rider" to do as much as the other two. Talk to Miramax about what we did for "Capturing the Friedmans." According to VidTrack, we doubled the rental business.

THR: Are movies becoming DVDs now that might not have been without Netflix?

Hastings. I'll give you an example. The Oscar-nominated documentary "Daughter From Danang" wasn't going to get on DVD. We said, "that's nuts. This is a good film. We'll commit to a high buy level." So the studio put it on DVD.

A Better Explanation

Henry Farrell inquires into why he and his wife might pay more for a Netflix movie rental on average than a rental from a brick and mortar video store. He concludes that he is irrational.
However, Jonathan Wilde has A Better Explanation

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Talk amongst yourselves

If you like discussing what's in your Netflix queue, or movie ideas for your queue, or how Netflix operates, etc, here are some options. I know there are gazillions of other forums for discussing movies in general. These recommendations are specifically for finding other Netflix users:

Tribe is "A place to meet and interact with friends and others who share your interests." There's a Netflix Queue tribe! Share and discuss your queue with other Netflix members.

Disclaimer: it's still Beta, which means it could still have bugs in it, I guess.

Google is experimenting with Usenet-type discussion groups. It's also in Beta. I've already found and joined the Netflix Users group. You'll need to have a free Google account to sign in, or you can use your Gmail account, which you can sign up for if you're a Blogger user.

There's my favorite: the Yahoo! Netflix Operations discussion group. To join, you need a Yahoo! user id.

Movie lists galore!

If you want to see what's in my Netflix queue, or lists of movies I've seen, I have a profile at listology.com. I go by the name RosieCotton. You can use Listology.com to make your own lists. It's free, very easy, and you can interact with a fun community of fellow movie fans.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Harvard Study Finds "Ratings Creep"

I knew there was a creep in there somewhere.

Study Finds “Ratings Creep”: Movie Ratings Categories Contain More Violence, Sex, Profanity than Decade Ago
Kimberly Thompson, Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at HSPH and Director of the Kids Risk Project said, “The findings demonstrate that ratings creep has occurred over the last decade and that today’s movies contain significantly more violence, sex, and profanity on average than movies of the same rating a decade ago.”

Blockbuster is revamping its late-fee policy to lure back customers

By Bruce Mohl, Boston Globe Staff | August 1, 2004

It's the late fees, stupid.
In Boston the company has cut late fees dramatically and is running an amnesty for customers with late-fee balances. Nationally, the Dallas chain has launched a monthly movie pass program that eliminates the fees and it is getting ready to roll out an Internet-based subscription service that does the same.

More gone from my queue

I rented more Hollywood Videos Saturday. I got State and Main, Elephant, Bus 174 and Evil Dead, just so I could use the coupons. They all were on my Netflix queue at one time or another. I went into the store looking for entirely different movies, but had to settle for those.

Just so you'll know I have a life outside of movies: Took a walk in the Arboretum with my dog and a friend Friday night. Saturday, I went to Hanging Rock State Park with friends for a hike. Sunday, went to church and lunch afterwards with friends and did a little shopping.