Friday, December 31, 2004

Netflix: The Year in Review

Congratulations, Netflix!! You have done an incredible job! It has been an amazing, exciting year, for movie lovers and Netflix fans. Here are some of Netflix's accomplishments that I've noted over the past year. Please be sure to comment if I've missed anything.

The number of subscribers has grown from 1,487,000 in December 2003 to more than two million now.

We are the beneficiaries of a price war. The price for the 3-out service has gone up, to a high of $21.99, and down, to the current low of $17.99.

Their collection of titles is up to 30,000 now, from 15,000 a year ago. They ship 3 million discs each week. Over 85% of subscribers, including me, receive their discs the next day, most of the time. I would imagine the other 15% write snarky blogs :).

I've recorded 38 shipping center locations, but the official count is 29, which means they must have closed a few. The only ones officially announced in 2004 were Lakeland, FL, Kansas City (MO or KS?), Louisville, KY, Las Vegas, NV, Pittsburgh, PA; Baton Rouge, LA; and Columbia, SC. They haven't announced any closings, of course.

Netflix has added the Friends service, RSS, and an "official" blog. They've repeatedly redesigned their Web site to make it more interactive and user-friendly, adding little details like the "in queue" and "move to top" buttons.

In the last year, via the 3-out and 5-out plans, I have managed to rent over 180 titles. That's an average of 15 per month, at an average cost between one and two dollars each. I've experienced a couple of lost discs, a couple of damaged, and two wrong discs. A 3% error rate is very good, if it ain't brain surgery.

Because of Netflix, I have bought two more DVD players, a large-screen HDTV, and a sound system.

I have become a movie geek and started writing my own blog. I think Netflix is better than color TV :). Thank you, Netflix, for providing so much good material for my blog!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Marla Jo Fisher compares Netflix with Blockbuster Online and Walmart DVD in 4-month experiment

Via San Jose Mercury News

BY MARLA JO FISHER
The Orange County Register

"But was Netflix, which pioneered the movies-by-mail business five years ago, the best among the numerous competitors that had sprung up? Especially since Blockbuster, the video-rental chain with 40 percent of the video-store market, has now entered the Internet game?
I decided to find out. I signed up for Netflix, Wal-Mart and Blockbuster and used all three from August until November."
Read the rest

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Cin-o-matic

Cin-o-matic is an interactive, free, online movie database, which allows you to track upcoming theatrical and DVD releases. Each movie is assigned a rating by a panel of 19 critics from major publications. You can rate movies yourself, also.

You can personalize it with your own list of movies to watch out for, called a "watchlist". If a movie on your watchlist is released to a theatre near you, or on DVD, you will be alerted by email. There's even a button to add each movie to your Netflix queue.

They provide a very simple cut-and-paste javascript so that you can publish your watchlist to your Web site or blog. I've posted mine on Listology.com.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

AFI AWARDS 2004

via AFI.com:

AFI MOVIES OF THE YEAR-OFFICIAL SELECTIONS:

THE AVIATOR
COLLATERAL
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
THE INCREDIBLES
KINSEY
MARIA FULL OF GRACE
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
SIDEWAYS
SPIDER-MAN 2

Read more

Monday, December 27, 2004

Walmart's DVD service rules

via Je ne sais Oz:: "It's very early in the game to give Walmart.com's DVD rentals an A distinction, but they do have some awesome features that no one else does. " Read the rest of her review of Walmart vs. Netflix. Manda has tried nearly all the online DVD services, and switches from one to the other frequently. She's recently rejoined Netflix.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Change of policy?

MarthaHair wrote this comment on my blog:

Last week I returned a movie, and was irked when they didn't acknowlege it the next morning. That afternoon I received a very polite email saying I had "inadvertently returned a disc from my personal collection." Ack! The asked me to check for their movie, and that my DVD would of course be returned.

I sent the right one back the next day, and I received my OutKast CD a day later in a nice cardboard mailer.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Last-minute gift idea

I'll give you one guess...
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
A one- or two-month gift subscription to Netflix.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Blockbuster & NetFlix Will Merge

Phillip Swann has three reasons for Blockbuster to buy Netflix next year:
1. NetFlix's current subscriber base of two million plus.
Despite churn issues, that's a sizable audience. Plus, NetFlix has a large database of former subscribers who could be re-targeted.

2. Name brand.
Blockbuster would benefit from the NetFlix brand name, which has a strong
association with online DVD rentals. By using NetFlix, Blockbuster could distinguish its online service from its retail operation. If you don't think that's important, ask Borders and Barnes & Noble.

3. Preventive medicine
By acquiring NetFlix, Blockbuster would ensure that its rival was not gobbled up
by a larger company, such as Amazon, which would give Blockbuster an even more
formidable foe in the future.


Do you think it's hogwash? Or will it happen?

Blockbuster Cuts Price

via Reuters.com: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blockbuster Inc. (BBI.N: Quote, Profile, Research) , the largest U.S. video rental chain, on Wednesday cut the price for its online rental service, undercutting its rivals in an escalating battle for online customers.
Blockbuster said it was cutting the subscription price for its online rental service by $2.50 to $14.99 a month plus tax effective immediately, guaranteed through January 2006. " READ MORE

Things that make you feel stupid

A friend of mine, whose identity I'm protecting, accidentally returned her own personal copy of a movie to Netflix, by mistake. She removed it from the DVD player, put it in the Netflix sleeve, then into the Netflix envelope, sealed it, and put it in the mail, before she realized it was her own movie. She discovered the one she had rented from Netflix still sitting on the TV.

She contacted me in a panic, but I told her I doubted anything could be done. I described to her the process each disc goes through at each Netflix distribution center. They are not shelved. They are not catalogued. They are scanned once, which is when you get credit for the return, and thrown in a bin before lunch. After lunch, they are scanned again, relabelled with their new destination address, and thrown in another bin. From there, they go into the custody of the United States Postal Service. There is no way anyone at Netflix can put their fingers on a specific disc without looking at the contents of every sleeve. They process tens of thousands of discs per day.

This is from their FAQ:
Q: I sent back a personal CD or DVD accidentally. How do I get it back?
A: Unfortunately there is no way for us to save it aside and return it to you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Netflix Drop Boxes

I knew that a post that started with "Netflix drop boxes" would get your attention, but I'm being a smarty-pants. I ran across a discussion in a newsgroup in which a Netflix subscriber asked if there is a Netflix drop box where he could return his videos in order to speed delivery of his movies. Yes, there is. It's called a "customer mail recepticle", otherwise known as a MAILBOX. There's usually one at the end of YOUR DRIVEWAY

or parking lot

or on the side of the road, if you live in America. I've enclosed a couple of photos to help you recognize them.

The only thing I can think of that might speed delivery would be if you dropped your disc in a curbside box at a Post Office within the same zip code as the Netflix distribution center's PO box. That might help. But why? If you're going to do that, you might as well go to Blockbuster instead.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Movie Criticism for the Retarded

Noel at Movie Criticism for the Retardedwrites:

I finally joined the rest of the 21st century and joined Netflix at the end of September. I had balked on joining previously because I get so busy sometimes that I'll go a month or more without renting a movie, and didn't figure I'd get my money's worth. But when I was doing the Troma tribute for Halloween, I needed quick access to a decent number of Troma DVDs, not readily available at the local video holes. Also, the price dropped to 17.95 a month, so I figured it was as good a time as any.


Read the rest

Netflix's Corporate Blog?

Not quite. However, James Rocchi, the Netflix staff movie reviewer, has launched an official Netflix blog, where he's posted his top ten worst and best films of 2004, which is worth a look.

It appears he's going to restrict himself to commenting on movies and the movie business only, without addressing Netflix corporate affairs. I wish their blog would provide "Insight into the news, technology, and culture of" Netflix, the way Google's does.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

DVD Service Standoff

Before they cancelled their subscription on June 17, 2004, this person did their own comparison of Netflix and Walmart, comparing DVD availability and shipping times.

Every day this page is updated by a script that grabs my Netflix queue and compares the availability of the movies on it to the availability of those movies from other services. Note that nothing from Netflix will ever be not carried, as it would be very difficult for me to have queued an unavailable DVD.


Read the rest.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Quote of the Day

via slantmagazine.com:

"Movies, perhaps more than any art, can cast profound, epiphanic illumination on our personal histories."

Blockbuster Web site gets more visitors than Netflix in November

via Always-on network:

Blockbuster's Web site saw 9.3 million unique visitors in November, surpassing Netflix's visitors of 8.2 million in the same period, according to comScore Networks....

While November was a good month of traffic at Blockbuster.com, the question is whether the video-rental chain can sustain it....

Additionally, it's unclear whether all the news-generated traffic resulted in customers. It may have just been an audience full of media and Wall Street investors conducting due diligence....

Dallas-based Blockbuster's increasing popularity on the Web coincides with its entry into the online DVD rental business, and subsequent series of hard-to-pass-up offers to customers.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Reed Hastings reacts to Blockbuster "eliminating late fees"

via News-Leader.com: "Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix, said Tuesday in response to Blockbuster's move that 'I'm not sure that customers will consider it an improvement if they are charged a purchase price for the entire product.'"

Ha!

Jeff Jarvis on bloggers like me

via Buzz Machine

I sometimes get the reaction from people that blogging about Netflix exclusively is somehow weird or eccentric, so I'm encouraged to discover that Jeff Jarvis talks about people like me and MikeK (HackingNetflix.com), who blog about a brand name or company, in this "PowerPoint Presentation on citizens’ media and marketing" he did in July 2004. He's encouraging companies to have a relationship with bloggers. Be nice to us bloggers, and you'll get free publicity, good word of mouth (which is priceless), and find out what people are really thinking about your business. You'll know what works and what doesn't, if you'd just pay attention to the comments and complaints on this blog, Mike's, Manuel's, and Raven's.

In this excerpt, Jeff Jarvis is referring to the post Mike wrote back in June, about his effort to reach Netflix's public relations department:

This isn’t all about blogs and all about advertising. It’s also about relating to consumers in a new way and listening to them. Repeat: listening to them.

There’s a blogger who writes about nothing but Netflix. You’d think that would make the company deliriously happy. But some company bureacrat didn’t like it when the guy tried to get press releases out of Netflix. Get that: He was begging for puffery and they wouldn’t give it to him. So he did what any red-blooded blogger would do: He blogged about it. Other bloggers linked to it and protested. Netflix quickly gave in and now sends him PR. Smart.

Just so you'll know, they aren't sending me PR.

In addition to blogs, I suggest you look at the newsgroups and discussion boards, too, if you want the customer's take on Netflix. Google and Yahoo each have a couple of Netflix groups, as well as alt.video.dvd.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

“Friends” social networking feature helps boost Netflix`s subscriber tally

via InternetRetailer.com

Although it pioneered online DVD rentals, Netflix Inc. has had to keep the innovation flowing to deal with growing competition. Its latest venture: the “Friends” social networking feature to build its number of subscribers. “The response has been extraordinary,” CEO Reed Hastings tells Internet Retailer.

Netflix launched the Friends feature last month as a way to build on its base of more than 2 million subscribers and fend off mounting competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Walmart.com, Blockbuster Entertainment Inc. and others, Hastings says.

Although Netflix has long posted film reviews written by customers, its Friends feature organizes reviews and other personal information related to individual subscribers, allowing other subscribers to choose movie reviews and recommendations from people with common interests, Hastings says.

“We started with a couple hundred Friends users, and it’s been growing as much as 15% per day,” Hastings says. “As subscribers start using Friends and invite others into their personal network, including some who are already Friends members and some who aren’t, more people are becoming Netflix subscribers.”

Monday, December 13, 2004

Netflix all over the Web

per Nielsen//NetRatings: Netflix is still the top advertiser on the Web, with 1,893,655
impressions in September 2004.

Best of 2004 Lists have begun

Fimoculous.com has posted a list of lists. The year's best of this and that. Here's a sample from their DVD bests lists:

Best DVD Sets from Village Voice.
The Year's Best DVDs from Rolling Stone.
Top 100 Customers' Favorites from Amazon.com.
Most Overlooked DVDs from MastersOfCinema.com.
Best DVDs from BarnesAndNoble.com.
Best DVDs from Borders.


Click here for more links. More added all the time.

Traffic to Netflix's Web site declines 6% in October

via Comscore

Blockbuster, which recently launched its Blockbuster Online DVD subscription service in direct competition to Netflix, saw traffic increase by 52 percent between September and October. The online movie rental space has become increasingly competitive as Netflix, Wal-Mart and Blockbuster have all recently announced price reductions. Netflix saw its audience decline by approximately 6 percent in October, although the site still holds the lead in the Retail-Movies category, with 8.2 million visitors compared to Blockbuster’s 6.4 million.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Netflix auctions on eBay

Several people on eBay are auctioning Netflix certificates good for "two free months" on the 3-out plan. Read the fine print (see below). You have to use your American Express card to pay your Netflix bill. If you plan to do that anyway, be sure your final bid is substantially less than $34.98. Can be applied by new subscriber or existing subscriber.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS :

By redeeming this Certificate, you agree to remain a Netflix subscriber for no less than six months. You will not be billed for the first two months. Netflix will begin to bill your American Express Card for standard monthly subscription fees (currently, $17.99 plus applicable taxes) at the completion of the first two months and will continue until you cancel. No refunds or credits for partial periods. Offer must be redeemed by December 24. 2004. May not be divided and is redeemable only for a consecutive two-month membership under the Netflix Standard Program - three DVDs out at a time. Cannot be combined with any other special Or free offers. Valid in the U.S. only. Not redeemable or refundable for cash. Netflix is not responsible for lost or stolen offer subscriptions. Use of the Netflix service and Web site constitute your acceptance of Netflix's Terms of Use.

Do it

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Amazon.co.uk enters DVD rental market in UK

via Reuters.co.uk:

"LONDON (Reuters) - The Amazon.co.uk is launching a DVD rental service, the online retailer's first foray into a market that was pioneered by U.S.-based Netflix.

The service will be integrated into the website's popular DVD store, and rental customers will receive 10 percent off DVD purchases.

'Amazon is determined to be the best place to rent DVDs -- online or off,' Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said on Thursday.

DVD rental services allow customers to keep a set number of DVDs at one time for a monthly fee, with no late charges. They are managed online, but customers receive and return their movies through the post.

Unlike most other services, Amazon imposes a limit on the number of DVDs customers can rent per month. Its lower-priced plan costs 7.99 pounds per month for two DVDs at a time, with a limit of four per month. The more expensive package is 9.99 pounds per month for three DVDs at a time, with a limit of six per month. Postage is free."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Netflix Opens Shipping Center in Hawaii

Hacking NetFlix readers Canoe Ride, Dave, and Cyanatus, alerted Mike to the news of the new Netflix distribution center in Honolulu. They say that turnaround has shrunk from 8-10 days to 2-4 days, which we on the mainland experience regularly.

Read the rest

The best films you've never seen

If you're looking for suggestions for your Netflix queue, I recommend Never Coming to a Theater Near You by Kenneth Turan, a book which I purchased and read last week. It contains reviews of about 150 movies you might have heard of when they were in the theatre, and meant to see, but they went away before you had the chance. This book will remind you of those, and introduce you to some you might have missed.
From the book review on CNN.com:
Never Coming to a Theater Near You serves as a handbook for curious film lovers who, in looking for a good film, need a way to tunnel through heaps of dreck in order to find worthy films that just didn't get much attention the first time around.

'I envision this book to be a guide for the perplexed -- to be like a video store in your mind,' he says. 'People are so hungry for the kind of films this book represents, entertaining works that don't talk down to them.'

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Will the studios release content?

via PHOSITA ::: an intellectual property weblawg:
The recent TiVo/ Netflix Partnership Presents Security and Licensing Issues

Studios will be reluctant to release content to be distributed through the Netflix/Tivo partnership, because of fears of piracy and loss of control of content. It's not the vehicle of distribution that's the trick; it's the value of the content. That's why you hear about movie libraries being bought and sold for billions of dollars.

"It seems that technology is not the hold-up in the TiVo/ Netflix partnership. The details regarding licensing agreements and anti-piracy security systems will be a hurdle that will take a lot of time to overcome."

MGM Chief: Content's still king

via Yahoo! News:
"In a wide-ranging talk, Yemenidjian[Alex Yemenidjian, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer at
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.] argued there's plenty of growth left in the DVD revolution, that high-capacity DVRs will hobble the TV syndication business and that Hollywood's film download service MovieLink is failing -- but that's a good thing. "

"The high-capacity DVR, however, is a huge threat to the film and TV biz. As disk storage becomes cheaper, with drives able to store 500 movies or TV episodes, consumers will use them as home media servers, decimating the DVD and TV syndication business."


Read more

Friday, December 03, 2004

Blockbuster is hiring

via VarietyCareers

Director of Product(DVD)-Online Subscriptions

"Develop and maintain studio and wholesale vendor relationships. Identify and procure titles based on customer demand. Manage the supply chain timeline and recommend changes accordingly. Manage the financial aspects of the online subscription model. Ensure customer satisfaction with product availability. Hire and manage a team to support the online subscription business.

Qualifications
This position will maintain studio and wholesale vendor relationships making it possible to identify and procure over 20,000 titles. Oversee the financial aspects of the online subscription model. Measurements include gross margin as a percentage of TNR, title level profitability via average product turns, and all associated supply chain expenses within gross margin. Ensure customer satisfaction for product availability. Measurements include the average position within a queue from which a customer receives a product and that both high and low demanded titles are available for consumption. Hire, train, and manage a team to set up and run the online subscription business. Ensure employee development and succession planning."

Blockbuster is also hiring Warehouse staff for the following distribution center locations:

Atlanta, GA
Cleveland, OH
Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
Jersey City, NJ
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Queens, NY
Sacramento, CA
San Jose, CA
Santa Ana, CA
St. Louis, MO
Stamford, CT
Tampa, FL
Worcester, MA

Visit VarietyCareers for more info.

Amazon.com has job opening for a DVD Buyer

Things that make you go hmmmm.....via VarietyCareers: "The Amazon.com Video/DVD Team is looking to hire an exceptionally motivated and talented individual who has good negotiation and communication skills. This person will be expected to build vendor relationships, negotiate terms, manage inventory (by handling the forecasting, purchasing, and returns of both New Release and Catalog product), monitor and ensure vendor operational efficiencies and potentially help manage other Buyers. This individual will also work closely with our merchandising department to develop and support promotional initiatives. The ideal candidate will have prior buying and vendor management experience, particularly with media products. This candidate should also have experience in planning/forecasting, be comfortable performing detailed data analysis, and a background in retail or e-commerce. Strengths in problem solving, issue-resolution skills, ability to work in an extremely deadline-driven work environment, attention to detail, and ability to multitask are essential. Please be flexible and both action- and results-oriented, self-starting, and comfortable with varying computer systems. Intermediate knowledge of MS Office (particularly Excel and Access) is preferred, as well as an agility with UNIX- and web-based software applications. A bachelor's degree is required, MBA preferred. "

Indiangeek's Netflix Search [Beta]

Samya at Indiangeek.com has made a Web site that allows you to search the Netflix database by date range (year to year). I think it's great, since I organize my queue chronologically. It's not finished yet, but I've used it to find movies released between 1910 and 1920, since Netflix doesn't have a specific category for that decade.

Thanks to HackingNetflix.

Suggestion for Netflix

Alt Text, a Netflix subscriber, has a suggestion for another Netflix feature which would allow you to share the love of movies with your friends, but I think it has flaws. On the surface, it looks good. What if you could have Netflix send a movie to a friend on your behalf? It wouldn't count against the movies you have out. It would be a useful referral tool, so that your friend could see the advantage of receiving a movie in the mail without having to sign up first. The friend would be able to keep the movie as long as they like and return it directly to Netflix. If they want more, they have to subscribe. This would work if you were confident you understood your friend's taste in movies/tv.

However, it wouldn't work if you used it as a way to steal movies or spam people. What if your friend proved untrustworthy? Without payment details, who would hold them accountable? Do you want to pay for it if the disc goes missing? Would your friend mind if you gave Netflix their address? This method is too risky for you and Netflix.

Still, I think it speaks well of the Netflix service, that it fires our imaginations, gets us thinking about it. Fans all over the Web are working on ways to interact with Netflix. I think that's cool.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Netflix Launches "Friends List" Feature

Mike at HackingNetflix.com was kind enough to send me an invite :). The big news is that Netflix has added a new Friends List feature, which allows you to form a community with other Netflix subscribers, sharing reviews and movie lists with them. I have invited a few friends, too. It looks pretty nifty, so far. The site says this feature is available only as a "sneak preview":
"We're letting a handful of customers give the Netflix Friends feature a try before everyone else. We do this to get feedback from these special, early customers so that we can make the right improvements to Netflix Friends before we make it available to all customers."
Check to see if you can see it now. If not, you'll need to wait for a friend to invite you.

Netflix, Warner partner to push movie

Via Yahoo and Reuters:
"LOS ANGELES, Nov 30 (Reuters) - In a new take on targeted marketing, online DVD renter Netflix Inc. is helping lure audiences for the movie, 'A Very Long Engagement,' by recommending it to subscribers who loved 'Amelie,' a 2001 film featuring the same director and star."

"Before the film's release, Netflix sent e-mails to 4,000 subscribers who gave high marks to the former movie pairing of actress Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet on the rental service's personal ratings system, called "Cinematch."

"Although Warner Independent did not pay for the Cinematch data this time, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the service could be a future source of revenue for Netflix."

Netfix has identified a total of 300,000 people who said they liked the movie and are potential ticket buyers.

By cross-referencing the ratings against addresses and preferences for 2 million subscribers, Netflix created audience profiles for each of the 25,000 titles in its library.

"We can do audience matching to 100 people in a community that might like a film -- we can find that customer," Sarandos said. "If that movie would only appeal to three people in a city and there are 10,000 cities, that's pretty exciting."




Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Netflix Fee Calculator

Frog Circus has made a Netflix Fee calculator that takes into account your turnaround time and your plan to figure how much it actually costs per day, per disc, to use Netflix, regardless of where you live or what kind of plan you have.

Where Netflix gets its disc-polishing machines

Here's where Netflix has bought disc-polishing machines in the past. I can't be sure they are still using this same company. Of course, this info is of interest to you only if you are either a corporate spy, or an obsessive stalker.