Monday, January 31, 2005

free TiVo...

...with rebate and another purchase, at CompUSA and The Good Guys stores. Tivo and Netflix are working together to bring us movie downloads, which they say will roll out this year, maybe this Summer. Read the fine print Via Tech News on ZDNet

How does Netflix get inside your head?

Sunday's Denver Post has a great article from staff writer Michael Booth on movie recommendation Web sites and how they work. They cover Netflix, What to Rent, Movie Lens, and Film Affinity.

""These systems don't really care who you are," Heckerman said. "They just compare your choices to other people's choices. A reputable system will throw out any personal information."

"The best way to get better picks, he said, is to crunch huge volumes of information. The more people that use a site and rate movies, the more accurate it gets for everyone." Read it

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Friday, January 28, 2005

Netflix Customer Support Says One Movie Per Mailer

From Hacking NetFlix This is what Netflix customer service reps told a subscriber: "we strongly recommend only placing one DVD in a return mailer at a time, unless it is an extreme situation and you must place two in a mailer. Our mailers are designed to hold only one DVD and having multiple DVDs inside the envelope may cause the envelope to become damaged and possibly result in a lost disc."

Monday is Netflix's busiest day

According to the data collected by Listology's Netflix Tracker, most returns in one day are on Monday, so I used to think Tuesday would be the busiest processing day at the Netflix distribution centers. However, since they don't process mail on Saturdays, anything you return on Friday or Saturday will get processed on Monday, which makes Monday their busiest day instead (if your distribution center is nearby). Listology has tracked over 4000 Netflix rentals, but they have complete data on about a fourth of those. You can examine it yourself.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Another Netflix Job in Los Gatos

Job listing on Yahoo HotJobs A company called Modis is hiring a senior user interface designer to work on "conceptualization, design, and development of Netflix products." Posted January 26 on Yahoo HotJobs.

Netflix in Los Gatos is hiring

Via CareerBuilder.com In addition to the jobs listed on the official Web site, Netflix is also hiring an executive assistant for vice presidents over marketing and communications. Eight positions were posted January 24, so these are pretty fresh.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Analyst predicts Netflix will cave in to pressure from Amazon

Per this article in CBS Marketwatch, William Lennan at W.R. Hambrecht is saying that will have to cut prices again, due to pressure from Amazon.com. "In Lennan's view, Amazon is likely to enter the U.S. market this year with an online DVD rental service priced as low as $13 for up to six DVDs a month."

Greencine Online Film Festival

GreenCine and DivXNetworks Announce Online Film Festival; First Festival to Offer Feature-Length, High-Quality Independent Features and Documentaries for Secure Digital Distribution:
"The GreenCine Online Film Festival will target high-quality, feature-length films screened by a distinguished jury including production executives, film journalists, talent agents and video technologists. To be held June 1st to June 26th on GreenCine.com, the new festival presents an opportunity for serious filmmakers to present their work to a much larger audience than a traditional film festival. Winning films will be available for download in their entirety in secure, DVD-quality DivX video to a global audience. Viewers will be able to watch the winning films on any PC or on televisions through one of 20 million DivX Certified consumer electronics devices available from most major manufacturers. "

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Amazon Light 4.0 links to Netflix

Amazon Light 4.0 is an alternative interface for Amazon.com. It retains the functionality of the Amazon site, while streamlining and simplifying. You can search Amazon for any product without being bombarded by page-cluttering advertisements and suggestions. Best of all, there's a direct link with Netflix, so you can easily search Netflix for any DVD you find on Amazon with only one click.

With Amazon Light 4.0, you can also do the following things:

Buy the item from Amazon.com
Add the item to an Amazon.com Wishlist
Send URL to a friend with GMail
Set up a DropCash Campaign
Send URL and Title to your Blog on Blogger
Send URL and Title to your Del.Icio.Us Account
Lookup a book at your Local Library
Find the same item at Netflix (DVD/Video)
Look up an Artist on iTunes (Music)

If you want to add to the Netflixfan unemployment insurance fund (for if I get fired for blogging), click on "settings" and enter netflixfan-20 as the affiliate id.

First seen on Openstacks.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Netflix's 4th Quarter Earnings Report

Netflix announced their Q4 results (download PDF) today. I managed to glean a few interesting details from it:

Revenue of $144 million
GAAP Net Income of $4.8 million
Lowest churn ever in 4th Quarter: 4.4%
2,610,000 subscribers
Marketing expenditures increased by nearly 100%
Over 30,000 titles

Dell Computer Heaviest Q4 Web Advertiser

MediaDailyNews 01-21-05: ", with 5.47 billion impressions, was fourth"

Netflix queue filler: 100 Essential Films

What Slant // magazine has to say regarding their list of 100 Essential Films: "While you will find many popular classics and critical favorites on our list of 100 Essential Films, our goal was to mix things up a bit. This list should not be construed as a definitive 'greatest films' package, but as an alternative compiled by a group of kinky film-lovers wanting to give serious critical thought to neglected, forgotten and misunderstood gems."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Netflix can make you a winner

Wondering what else you can do with a subscription? Well, you can use Netflix to watch all the movies you need to become your neighborhood Scene It?(r) champion. It's a DVD-integrated board game which tests your knowledge of all the movies you've ever seen, using clips, quotes, trivia, and other puzzles.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Be aware, when watching series discs via Netflix

Mike Harris, a Netflix member, writes on his blog about an exchange he had with Netflix recently, in which he complained about them shipping his TV series discs out of order. This is a big problem when you get season two discs before season one, for example.

Netflix's reply is that they will consider his suggestion to ship series discs in order. Meanwhile, "we suggest adding one season at a time to avoid getting them out of order." Read the rest

P.S. Greencine fixes this problem by giving you the option to lock your queue, so that no matter how long a wait you have, you will get your discs in the specified order. This leaves you discless for a while.

Netflix's Cinematch crashed

"Recommendations Unavailable" and "Friends Unavailable"

It looks like Cinematch, the proprietary recommendations software that Netflix uses, is broken again.

My Blogging Agenda

I, Becky, author of the Netflix Fan blog, have a policy of full disclosure regarding my agenda for this blog.

I have never accepted money or in kind payments from any person or commercial entity in return for writing positive things about them at Netflix Fan, or in return for writing negative things about any other person or commercial entity.

Netflix shuttle driver

I did a job search using keyword "Netflix" on Monster.com, and read the job descriptions. I found out that Netflix uses a shuttle driver to pick up and deliver their shipments to the "Postal Distribution Center".

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Netflix Friends producing strange results?

Do you do this? Now that you're using the Friends feature, do you rate your movies differently, because you're aware your friends will be seeing your ratings? Cory Doctorow describes it in his article on "Metacrap" , how our self-consciousness affects how we rate things. The result is useless data.

I'm guilty. Because I am conscious of the influence I have when I rate a movie, I am very cautious about giving anything a five unless I unreservedly love and recommend it to everyone. I have very few movies I "hate" as well, because I'm conscious that I could be keeping people from watching it. Nearly every movie I rate falls somewhere in the middle between "watchable, but ordinary" and "very good, but not great"

Bitter over Blockbuster

This commentary, from BostonHerald.com, is a very amusing account of how one person is still bitter over paying late fees at Blockbuster: "years of abuse can't be erased with a quick kiss and a little gift, especially when they're only bestowed as a last-ditch attempt to fend off other suitors, such as Netflix and Wal-Mart. " Read the rest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tivo+Netflix partnership update

I gleaned the following insights from this Forbes article.

Tivo is all about the device, the digital video recorder, that you can use to obtain content, TV, movies, photos, from just about anywhere. Netflix is all about providing content, regardless of method of delivery. Nothing's happening with content right now, because Hollywood is still holding tight to it, reluctant to broadcast it in such a way that they lose possession of it.

Once Hollywood gets comfortable with the idea, Tivo will use Netflix as a content provider, and Netflix will use Tivo as a content delivery method.

In the future, content and delivery will be divorced. It won't matter what device you use (phone, computer, TV, DVR, mailbox), you'll be able to get the same content from anywhere (broadcast, satellite, cable, Internet, mail). Both Netflix and Tivo are in the process of building a brand, so when you think devices, you'll think Tivo, and when you think content, you'll think Netflix. Like Apple is now selling more iPods than computers, it doesn't matter what product they sell, as long as it has the Apple brand.

What is Apple like?:
-good at making things simple to use (Netflix, Tivo)
-innovative (Netflix, Tivo)
-makes killer products (Tivo)
-has loyal fans willing to pay a premium (Netflix, Tivo)
-uses proprietary software (Netflix, Tivo)
-is in competition with Microsoft (Tivo)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Blockbuster: still open to Hollywood Entertainment deal

via CBS Marketwatch
John Antioco, Blockbuster's chief executive, said in a statement his company is "disappointed" that Hollywood entered into a deal with Movie Gallery "without giving Blockbuster a fair opportunity to participate in the auction process."

Nonetheless, Blockbuster is evaluating what price it might be willing to pay to top Movie Gallery, including the termination fee -- as much as $27 million -- it would have to hand over if it breaks up a Movie Gallery-Hollywood transaction.
Read more.

Netflix Unveils Profiles(TM)

I especially like the family-friendly feature. You can make a separate profile for your children, which allows them to control their own queues, within limits you set for them.
via prnewswire.com:
Parents can use Profiles to control their children's queues by setting limits on the MPAA rating of movies that their children can browse and add to their individual queues. Parents can determine if their children's queues should allow G, PG, PG-13 or R movies. To assist parents, Netflix also launched its Select-by-Age categories, making browsing and selecting movies easier and more time efficient. Parents can search by age across 30,000 titles to select suitable entertainment for their children. Netflix offers five Select-by-Age categories: Ages 0-2, Ages2-4, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-10 and Ages 11-12. All kid-friendly movies, cartoons, educational programs and television shows available on Netflix are classified within these age-specific categories.
Read more

"Unlimited" rentals

When you sign up for an unlimited service or product, you expect to get exactly that. Is Netflix deceptively or falsely advertising a promise of "unlimited rentals" while knowingly and deliberately placing limits? I have reason to believe not. After researching and writing this blog for the past 10 months, I have not seen data or evidence of any systematic slowdown of service that cannot be explained by other factors, by understanding the nature of the online DVD business, the USPS, the laws of supply and demand, and the nature of information available on the Web. I do not rely on the unverifiable, anecdotal complaints by individuals on newsgroups or blogs, when it is not backed up by data.

Although there is plenty of information on my blog about how Netflix operates, here is a brief overview of the process: when you return a movie, Netflix scans it in as soon as they receive it. If your local distribution center has the next movie in your queue, you get a message that it is "shipping today". If they don't have it, the system will search for the disc at the next closest DC until it finds one in stock.

After the length of time it takes for all DCs around the country to scan in their discs, report this data to Netflix headquarters in San Jose, CA and process your request, your disc is prioritized according to factors such as these: is the disc number one in your queue? How long has it been in the number one position? How many other people have it in their number one slot? Is your number two disc available? How many "number ones" have you received lately?

It is conceivable that they occasionally receive more discs than they can possibly scan in one day, due to machine problems, unexpected fluctuations in usage, or staffing shortages. Tuesday is their busiest day, because most people return their discs on Monday, after the weekend. Seasonal or regional fluctuations in the number of subscribers cause each DC to experience delays as they adjust.

Netflix is not responsible for delays caused by the US Postal Service. The distance of the DC will determine shipping times. There's also employee or mail negligence or theft. If you experience this, you should report the loss to your Postmaster.

Netflix has more than 30,000 titles and more than 16 million DVDs total. On average, Netflix ships more than 3 million DVDs per week. When you're dealing with that volume, it is inevitable that some customers will be unhappy. Customer "churn", that is the number of customers who join, versus the number who leave, is less than 5% most of the time.

They estimate that 85% of us receive our discs the next day. That means 300,000 people are getting their discs two, three, or four days later.

I believe it is an unavoidable result of Netflix being a Web-based business, and the viral nature of the Web, such that one complaint can reach 100,000 people in one day, that problems seem much larger and more widespread, than they really are. Netflix is providing such a good service to so many people, that the vociferous minority is not as big as it seems.

If you continue to believe that you are being singled out for extraordinarily bad service, or that Netflix is deceptive in their practices, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or your State's Attorney General. However, if you keep it all in perspective--the nature of the business, the factors outside anyone's control, and the nature of information on the Web--you will conclude that Netflix is not deliberately placing limits on your rentals, and is the best, most reliable, and most economical online DVD delivery service.

Monday, January 17, 2005

We listen, so you don't have to

If you've ever listened to the optional commentary track on a DVD, one of the special features occasionally available, you know that it can sometimes be boring and stupid, and other times, brilliant and entertaining. Well, now there's a site, CommentaryDVD.com, that reviews the commentaries for you, telling you which DVD editions and movies contain the best commentary, and by whom. You can search for commentaries by who is doing it, whether director, actor, historian, critic, whatever, or by movie title. Everyone should listen to a few commentaries, because it really helps you enjoy the movie all over again, like watching it with a friend who knows stuff. My favorite feature of the commentarydvd.com site is the list of commentary innovations.

Hat tip to Listology.com.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Bowen blocks Schwarzenegger nominee with abstention

Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, has lost his position on the Board of Education of California.

via Daily Breeze: "By Michael Gardner
Copley News Service

SACRAMENTO -- South Bay Sen. Debra Bowen on Thursday defended her decision not to confirm the popular chairman of the state Board of Education, who had bipartisan support but had come under fire from Latinos for his positions on bilingual education.
Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, wound up the swing vote in blocking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's nomination of Reed Hastings from advancing to the full Senate."
Read more.

Reed Hastings has politics

Journalist-blogger Chris Nolan says Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is a "big Democrat", in case anyone didn't know.

Blockbuster posts sharpest holiday traffic gains among online retailers

via InternetRetailer.com
Following its launch last July of an online DVD rental service, Blockbuster Inc. posted the sharpest year-to-year gain in online holiday season 2004 average weekly traffic—to 2.89 million unique visitors from 593,000, up 387%—among online retailers, comScore Networks Inc. reports. Walmart.com still led in total weekly traffic, with 10.55 million, up 68% from 6.28 million.
Read more.

Netflix isn't even on the list.

UGO's Top 50 DVDs of All Time

Underground Online's list of the Top 50 DVDs of All Time I believe this list was made by a committee of teenage boys.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Lexington, KY Area Blockbusters keep late fees

via the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Eric Walz, the owner of Lexington's 10 Blockbuster stores, is ignoring his parent company's nationwide advertising blitz and continues to charge customers a $2-per-day late fee. Don Whitaker, the owner of five other Central Kentucky Blockbuster stores, has taken a similar tack.
Read more.

cin-o-matic adds RSS

Cin-o-matic has added the option to syndicate your watchlist using RSS. If you're not using Cin-o-matic, I recommend you check it out. It's a useful tool for keeping an eye on when recent movies come out in theatres or on DVD, by making a watchlist. From your watchlist, you can add them directly to your Netflix queue.

Featured Competitor: Mentura.com

Mentura.com is a strictly family-friendly alternative to Netflix. They offer a 30-day free trial. Mentura features titles from the Discovery Channel, Disney, Imax, History Channel, A&E, PBS, Animal Planet, BBC, etc., comprising an inventory of about 12,000 titles. Membership plans are monthly or annual, 3-out (for $19.97 per month) or 6-out ($29.97/month). Also known as christiandvds.com. Sample categories include: Biblical, Children's, Christian Drama, Creationism, as well as genres like action-adventure, comedy, drama, etc.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

100 Great Documentaries & Factuals

Kevin Kelly, of Cool Tools, has published a list, in booklet form, of his 100 favorite documentaries, what he calls "true films". You might question the truth of some of these, but you can get his complete list for free, online, or

buy his book.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Arthouse in your home

via CTNow.com: "Recently, with the well-publicized success of Netflix, there's been a proliferation of online rental services trying to create niche markets out of gaps in Netflix's catalog. Greencine.com claims a bigger selection of 'esoteric fare' than anyone else, while Cinflix.com, Nicheflix.com and eHit.com all specialize in foreign films, especially Asian horror movies and thrillers."

The rise of the DVD and online rental services has made it possible for anyone to be a serious film buff. It has revolutionized my own viewing of movies. Via Netflix and others, I have seen hundreds of significant films I would otherwise have never seen. You no longer have to live in Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago to see critically-acclaimed movies. You can have a film festival in your own home.

I've used Greencine and Nicheflix. They do have a good alternative selection to Netflix, but you have to be willing to wait. They each have only one distribution center, and only a handful of copies of each title.

If you don't mind buying them, Film Movement "will send you DVDs of films that are still playing, or have yet to open, in art houses."

Hollywood Video agrees to merge with Movie Gallery

Hollywood Video has agreed to be taken over by Movie Gallery. I think this is a good move. They are making money off the deal. They will avoid any appearance of a monopoly. Movie Gallery serves rural and suburban areas, mostly, and stocks alot of independent titles, so they will continue to provide a competitive alternative to Blockbuster. I have a Hollywood Video about .10 mile from my home and a Blockbuster 2 miles away. I was afraid I'd have two Blockbusters. Now I'll still have a choice.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Nashville Blockbuster franchise lets 'em suffer late fees

Rex Hammock, of rexblog.com, makes the switch: "The Blockbuster franchisee in Nashville (31 locations) has just created a new Netflix subscriber, me. They are one of the fine print exceptions to the 'only at participating locations' disclaimer on the 'no more late fees' Blockbuster advertising campaign." Read more.

Friday, January 07, 2005

New Profile Feature Launched!

When you visit the Netflix site, you'll have a new option to split your queue among your household members, by creating a separate profile for each person. They can have control over their own allocation of movies, so no more losing track of who rented which movie, and no more arguing.

"Assign Profile" Feature in development

Astute observer and blogger Mike Geary pointed me to this new feature which Netflix is apparently developing. If you move fast, you can find it yourself. Go to your account (you'll need to sign in), and click on "change shipping address". You might see the following FAQ's in the margin:


Mike describes it on his blog. This feature would allow a household or group of friends to share a membership. What do you think of this idea?

Update on Amazon

Found this quote today, from Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon.com, via Wired.com:

Q:"What about videos? Netflix says it believes you're going to enter their rental-by-mail business."

A:"Our policy is not to preannounce what we might do. But that is a business we know something about. One of the big costs here is that an extremely large fraction of those monthly subscription fees are used to acquire new customers. Amazon is well positioned to offer a low-priced service of high quality, and we wouldn't have to pay heavy marketing fees."

He's basically saying, We're poised on the brink of doing something, but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Status report on Amazon.com

A reader recently asked the question of me, what's up with Amazon.com? When will they enter the online DVD rental market? Here's my reply. Amazon has never confirmed its intentions to enter the American market, but their UK division has a very limited online DVD rental plan available to UK residents only. That plan allows subscribers to have only two or three at a time, but with monthly limits of four or six per month. They have no late fees or due dates, and postage is free. Based on that plan, I'd say they are using the UK market to experiment with re-designing their business model from the ground up, rather than cloning Netflix's. There's alot of speculation going around, especially on investment sites like Motley Fool, regarding what Amazon will do, but no one knows anything right now. I'll post it for sure, as soon as I have anything.

Reed Hastings and the Board of Education

I've known for quite a while that Reed Hastings is on the California state Board of Education. This editorial, from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, outlines what's going on there:

"Apparently, Reed Hastings has ruffled enough feathers in Sacramento that his tenure on the state Board of Education could soon end. Hastings, who heads up Netflix, which has revolutionized the way DVDs are rented, is a Santa Cruz resident and outspoken advocate of educational reforms." Read more

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

5 million online DVD subscribers

This article["Video policy: Better late than never"] from the Boston Herald online, is about how the abolition of late fees at Blockbuster could cause them inventory problems. Not anything we didn't guess before, but for one little tidbit buried near the end: "according to Adams Media Research... nearly 5 million subscribed to a mail-order DVD service last year - such as Netflix, Blockbuster's own service or WalMart's". That's a figure I've never heard before. We know that Netflix claims only 2.5 million. Blockbuster has bragged they gained .5 million in six months. That's only 3 million. Does that mean Blockbuster has more, or is the remainder all Walmart's? Perhaps that figure is comprised of all online DVD renters combined. Quite a number.

iFlicks from Helixent Technologies

iFlicks is a Mac-only iMovie-integrated application that organizes and plays your movie files on your Mac. It contains a built-in RSS-reader to let you browse and view not only your own Netflix queue, but that of anyone else who gives you the RSS feed to their queue. Demo is free. Full-featured version is $29.95.

If you have a Mac, you could be using Netflix Freak also.

Laptop Magazine reviews Netflix--Five Stars!

by Thomas Scott McKenzie
From December 2004 issue of LAPTOP magazine
They've also made it an Editor's Choice. You know the rest.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Who wins if Amazon offers online DVD rentals?

via InternetRetailer.com
If Amazon.com Inc. decides to enter the American online DVD and video rental market, Netflix Inc. may feel the impact more than Blockbuster Inc. At least that’s the way events unfold in a scenario described by Michael Pachter, analyst in the Los Angeles office of Wedbush Morgan Securities Inc. who follows the video rental market.

He sees Amazon teaming up with Blockbuster. Why? Read the rest

New Oklahoma City shipping center

According to a recent discussion in the Netflix_complaints group on Yahoo!, there's a new Netflix distribution center in Oklahoma. If you look on the label of your Netflix return envelope, you will see a three-letter code which indicates the shipping center for that disc. Some of you who had DFW might now have OKC.
Image is from Listology's Netflix tracker (which needs your codes, by the way. Please send them in).