Thursday, March 31, 2005

Flap over DVD rental

Pardon the pun, but on Wednesday, 3/30/05, I received a flap from Blockbuster. Instead of a DVD in a rental envelope, I received nothing but the flap with my address on it. I was looking forward to seeing if I received the movie, and what condition it would be in, but today, Blockbuster Online checked it back in as having been returned. I never got the movie. I used to think, because they are so easy to open, that I liked their envelopes better than Netflix's. Now, I can see the downside to that.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Truth in blogging

I want to encourage you to view with skepticism everything you read on the Web, including this blog. When you read about customers' experiences with Netflix, or Blockbuster, or Walmart, or Greencine, etc, please examine each claim with a critical eye. Keep in mind that the free market capitalist system requires each of us to be an educated consumer. We can use our power of choice to reward those businesses that serve us well and punish, by witholding our custom from, those businesses that do not provide good value.

Having been a Netflix subscriber for over a year, and for over 230 movies, I feel well-qualified to say that Netflix is the best online DVD rental service ever. I am a Netflix fan because I am a movie fan, and Netflix is my supplier. I am also a capitalist, and if Netflix does not continue to provide good value, I will drop them like a hot potato.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The On-Demand Media Consumer reports on a new study of the On-Demand Media Consumer (that's you):

Americans are changing the way they access video programming. Video programming is no longer the exclusive domain of broadcast television, and network schedules no longer completely dictate what content is watched and when. Significant numbers of consumers are:

Watching movies on-demand through their cable box or rent them online.
Watching movies and TV programs on DVD as an alternative to syndication.
Accessing news and sports clips online.
Recording and time-shifting regular TV programming.

We asked what you'd like on DVD and you fired back

Mark Rahner at The Seattle Times asked his readers to tell him which movies or TV shows they most eagerly awaited to be released on DVD. "The Rockford Files" was the top vote-getter for TV shows, and King Kong is the most-wanted movie. He offers official explanations for why each is being delayed. See the rest of the list.

According to this article, "there are more than 44,000 titles on DVD as of this month", which means Netflix has 90% of them. One reason he gives for studios holding back titles is competition for store shelves; there isn't space for all the titles in release. I'd say studios should release more titles to Netflix, and not worry about the stores.

Netflix now has 40,000 titles

I have rented .58% of the titles available at Netflix.

Aron pointed Hacking Netflix to where Netflix has 40,000 titles (16 million DVDs) in their library. Netflix's members rent approximately 98 percent of all titles in the Netflix library each quarter.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I lied, or Netflix did

Netflix still has my #1 "shipping today". It's been "shipping today" since Tuesday. Today is Thursday.

**UPDATE** It has shipped, for real this time!

Sparkline your Netflix data

From what I can gather, a "sparkline", is a small, word-sized graph, which is useful for visually charting data within the text of your analysis, rather than as a separate figure. uses a sparkline "depicting a recent 12-month window of my Netflix rental history, where red lines indicate months in which my average rental cost was higher than $2.00, and black less than $2.00. (Netflix's monthly rate shifted twice over the last year, explaining the small discrepancy you may notice in the last line.)".

Don't ask me how to make a sparkline. I have no idea.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Return three, receive three

I have been a Netflix subscriber continuously for 15 months. In that time, I have rented about 230 movies, so that's an average of 15 per month. I returned three titles on Monday, so that they were checked in by Netflix on Tuesday. You would expect my next three movies to come from the top three slots in my queue. They did. However, #2 and #3 shipped Tuesday, and #1 is shipping today (Wednesday). My #1 was not a new release, nor did it have a wait status. My guess is that it's because I got my #1 the last few times in a row. I'm still getting my #1, just a day later.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Why King Kong (1933) isn't on DVD

From an interview The Onion did with George Feltenstein, who is in charge of Warner Home Video's classic catalog:
"You know it took us literally until just a couple of months ago to get a proper element on King Kong, which is like one of the ultimate, perfect DVD releases. Everybody thinks we held off because Peter Jackson is remaking the movie, but that's just a coincidence. There was an element in Europe that we wanted to get our hands on, and it took a lot of negotiation with the archive that had it. We finally got it, and the restoration is under way. People always think there's some kind of conspiracy. [Laughs.]"

This problem exists with alot of classic films. I guess I just have to be patient. Read about film preservation and restoration (and learn what a film element is) on

ZDAG - Consortium

From what I can figure, the ZDAG Consortium follows the business model patented by Netflix, of providing DVD rentals by mail by subscription. However, it appears to be made up of a consortium of several different video stores located around the country who act as individual stand-alone distribution centers. Each store distributes titles from their own inventory. Although they are not pooling inventory, they are cooperating by sharing a Web site and marketing expenses. When you join, you pick the store nearest you to be your distribution center. Right now, they have locations in Northern and Southern California, New York, New Jersey, and Ohio. I suppose, if you already operate a video store and you want to add an online rental service, this is one option for you.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Netflix Mini-Review Error Message

Hacking NetFlix and Netflix Fan reader Mike H. received an error message when he tried to put his "two cents" review on a movie, using the word "thought-provoking", and learned the hard way that you are limited to sixteen-letter words when writing such reviews. Article with screencap.

Not labeled

I received a movie from Netflix this weekend in an unusually labeled envelope. Instead of where the address sticker usually is, they had printed my name and address directly on the outside flap. On the inside, instead of a sticker with the address of my local distribution center, it was a pre-printed envelope which said "Nearest Netflix Hub, PO Box 49021, San Jose, CA 95161-9959." Have you ever seen such a thing? It took only two days to get to me, so I doubt it really came from San Jose.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Nicheflix again

I've rejoined Nicheflix on the two-out plan, so now I'm a member of four different online DVD/VHS rental services. I had to go with them, because they're the only one to rent King Kong (1933) on DVD. Nicheflix specializes in multi-region DVD rental.

I still have over 300 movies in my Netflix queue, on the 5-out plan, mainly from the book, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

I use Blockbuster Online's 3-out plan for mainstream hits, because it seems that's all they have available. Out of 30 in my queue, only six are "available now".

I use Facets Multimedia for VHS movies that are rare or out of print.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What if "shipping tomorrow"...

means burning today? I often wonder why my local distribution center will make a movie ship tomorrow, even when it's coming from nearby. Probably the main reason is that of volume. They run out of time to process everything in one day. However, what if Netflix sometimes makes your stuff "shipping tomorrow", because they have to make more copies? Let's say that they have a deal with the movie studios that Netflix can burn their own discs instead of passing that expense onto the studios. Let's say that Netflix can burn more discs in response to greater demand. Let's also say that the only place this happens is at Netflix headquarters, in San Jose, CA. If you request one of those titles from your local distribution center, and they don't have enough copies, they request more from San Jose, which burns them, and sends them to your DC by Fed Ex, which arrives the next day. What do you think of that theory?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

price per rental calculator

Manuel has made a new calculator for helping you determine how much you pay per disc using all the various rental plans.

N is for Netflix, which brings New viewing habits

via of Tacoma, WA
But Netflix isn’t just changing the way people rent movies. It’s changing the way they watch them, too.

“If it’s (a movie) we don’t get to finish and it’s not holding us, we have no qualms about putting it in the envelope and sending it back,” said Rob Jorgensen, 39, of Tacoma.

Because Netflix’s monthly fee doesn’t depend on how many movies subscribers watch, they’re both more willing to try something that might be bad and less patient with movies that don’t grab them from the get-go.

“We definitely give movies more of a chance as far as putting them in our queue,” Merydith said. “Once they go into the DVD player, they get about 30 minutes to entertain or else.”

Said 31-year-old Seattle resident Mike Standish, “Now that the guilt of wasting money is gone, I don’t feel so bad about turning off a bad movie.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

GameZnFlix, Inc. Opens Distribution Centers in California and Kentucky, and Customer Service Center

GameZnFlix, Inc. Opens Distribution Centers in California and Kentucky, and Customer Service Center: "John Fleming, CEO of GameZnFlix, Inc., stated: 'We are pleased to
announce that we have opened the new distribution center located in Holtville,
California and a distribution/customer service center in Franklin, Kentucky.
These facilities are replacing the similar services previously provided by
National Fulfillment, Inc. The company continues to work towards its 2005
milestones by opening these centers and looks forward to its next distribution
center to be located in the Northeast.'"

Monday, March 14, 2005

Comedians of Comedy debuts on Netflix

Netflix is getting into the movie financing and distribution business.
via The Daily Texan:

"'The Comedians of Comedy' shows what life is like for these four comics on and off stage. Oswalt not only came up with the concept but successfully pitched it to Netflix, which financed the film and will release it on DVD - the first such project from a company better known for DVD rentals." Save it to your queue.

Membership Plans

Netflix plans are listed under "your account-->change plans" if you are a subscriber:

"8-at-a-time for $47.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 8 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $47.99.

7-at-a-time for $41.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 7 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $41.99.

6-at-a-time for $35.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 6 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $35.99.

5-at-a-time for $29.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 5 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $29.99.

4-at-a-time for $23.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 4 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $23.99.

3-at-a-time for $17.99
Unlimited rentals - up to 3 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $17.99.

2-at-a-time (4 rentals a month) for $11.99
Up to 4 rentals a month - up to 2 movies out at a time for a flat monthly fee of $11.99."

I think the 11.99 plan would be a great alternative if I ever wanted to sort of suspend my account for a few months without giving it up completely. Why on earth would I want to do that, you might ask? Well, occasionally, I might want to try out this "real life" that I hear so much about.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Using Movies for Healing and Growth

I do this already. Aristotle called it "catharsis", when you use art to purge your emotions. is an entire Web site, inspired by a psychotherapist, devoted to (besides selling her book) showing you how to use movies to trigger or challenge yourself emotionally, as a therapeutic tool in addressing issues. It provides a handy list of films, categorized according to with which group of issues you want to deal, and then sub-categories of specific issues. At the very least, watching these movies could stimulate a lot of helpful conversations with your friends, family, or spiritual advisor. I'm sure you could make a great list of movies that have helped you in this way.

Friday, March 11, 2005

One Month Free Netflix Trial

Offer expires March 23, 2005. E-mail me if you have never subscribed to Netflix before and want a one month free trial (instead of the usual two-week trial). Netflix warned me that it is a limited offer, so let's help them reach their limit!

A Bloggers' Code of Ethics

I adhere to the Blogger's Code of Ethics. via

A cross between Netflix and Napster ... It's Peerflix

The San Jose MercuryNews has a story on blogger Michael Shanafelt's experience with Peerflix, the DVD online trading service, with a quote from Mike K. of Hacking Netflix.

My trick to getting my #1 choice every time

There are several not-yet-released movies in my queue that Netflix has given a release date. I keep one in my #1 slot almost continuously. Because it hasn't been released, it gets passed over every time. Meanwhile, Netflix is fooled into thinking I never get my first choice. Since they allocate discs based on who has been getting their first choice most often, then they always give me my "second choice", which is my real first choice. By having my first queue position filled with unreleased movies, my second, third, and fourth queue positions always ship in order. The trick is remembering to remove the #1 movie from my queue (if I really don't want to see it), before it gets shipped. Try this, and let me know if it works for you, especially if you are experiencing "throttling".

Image hosted by

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Free Month of Netflix for Micropersuasion readers

Hacking Netflix is reporting that Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion blog is offering a "Free Month of Netflix for My Readers". It expires March 23, 2005. This is a free one month trial offer only for new subscribers. Click through to his blog for the link.

Audio Book Rental by mail

For the times when you can't keep your eyes glued to a screen, you can keep your ears glued to Simply Audiobooks , which uses the Netflix-patented business model to rent audiobooks on CD. They cover the U.S. and Canada. They have 3000 titles. They say they process over 10,000 per day, which makes them the #1 audio book rental service. Their two-out plan is $24.95. They're located in Buffalo, NY and Oakville, ON.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How to read a film

I paid way too much money for this book at Barnes & Noble (it was an impulse purchase). I should have checked Amazon first. It is a fantastic book. I should warn you, it is not fluffy. It is dense, like a college textbook.

From the description:
Richard Gilman referred to How to Read a Film as simply "the best single work of its kind." Richard Roud, Director of the New York Film Festival stated, "Anyone who writes about film, who is interested in film seriously, just has to have it." Since its original publication in 1977, this hugely popular book has become the definitive source on film and media. Looking at film from many vantage points, Monaco discusses the elements necessary to understand how a film conveys its meaning, and, more importantly, how the audience can best discern all that a film is attempting to communicate. He begins by setting movies in the context of the more traditional arts such as the novel, painting, photography, theater--even music--demonstrating that film as a narrative technique is directly comparable to these older mediums. He points out that much of what we see and experience in film can be traced directly back to other art forms. Accordingly, as film is a technology as well as an art, he examines the intriguing science of cinema and follows the development of the electronic media and its parallel growth with film during this century. A new chapter on multimedia brings media criticism into the late 1990s with a thorough discussion of such topics as virtual reality and cyberspace and their relationship to film. Monaco goes on to show how film operates as a language, describing the various techniques and concepts responsible for the often visceral reactions that only film can elicit.
Lavishly illustrated with over 350 halftones and seventy-four original diagrams, as well as discussions on the development of the art of movies and the major theoretical developments of the last seventy-five years, How to Read a Film is an exciting and definitive behind the scenes look at the complex world of film.

My mail is always delayed (not delivered the day I expect it), who should I notify of this problem?

I'm not blaming the United States Postal Service for any delays that may be attributed to Netflix, but if you have complained to Netflix and were told it is the mail service which is causing the delay, then you should contact your local Postmaster. The following is taken from the official frequently asked questions Web site of the USPS:
It would be helpful if we could examine any delayed mail you may have. Often there are identifying marks on an envelope that pinpoint the cause of a delay. Record the delivery date on the envelope and present to your local Post Office™ for examination.

In the event that your mail was lost or rifled through, Form 1510 is available at your local Post Office.

If you are experiencing a delay in receiving magazines or periodicals first contact the publisher of the magazine to ensure that they have your correct address and that the subscription has not expired.

If the issue is recurring and you have already contacted the magazine publisher please call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) to have customer service research the problem.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

DVD Service Rivalry Heats Up

NPR's Morning Edition had a segment about online DVD rental services on March 7. You can listen here.

Legal video download services abound

"'It might be a good assumption to assume that's what it's going to be.' "

What's that you say? That's Netflix spokesperson Shernaz Daver answering with a non-answer when asked whether the deal between Netflix and Tivo will include Internet movie distribution. I can't imagine them doing it any other way (satellite? cable?).

That comes at the end of an article about various Internet video download services which have their own peculiar content, like sports or news channels (Dave Networks or Akimbo), which go to a set-top box (Dave, Tivo or Akimbo), and contain content (cable TV, Dave, or Akimbo), for a flat monthly fee (Akimbo), or movies (CinemaNow, MovieLink, Dave or Akimbo).

This is from a reprint of an article by Hiawatha Bray in the BOSTON GLOBE on Inside the Bay Area.
Read about your options here.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Now he says he didn't mean it.

When Reuters quoted Reed Hastings as saying he will forgo profits in exchange for market share for the next 5 years, he didn't mean it that way.
via Tech Biz:

Eric Hellweg, CNN/Money contributing columnist "caught up with Hastings on Friday morning. "I fell for the oldest trick in the book," he says, claiming he was misquoted. "They asked if it was possible, and I said, in my analytic best, 'Anything is possible.'" Read more.

Blockbuster is eating into Netflix's Market share

via Video Business Online:
"MARCH 3 | As consumers continue to embrace online rentals, Blockbuster Video is chomping into Netflix's share of the market segment.

Netflix, which held a 97% market share of online rentals in 2003, saw that share decline to 85%, due to new competition from, according to the NPD Group, which tracks DVD rentals and sales at retail through its VideoWatch service.

Blockbuster controlled 11% of online rentals in 2004. Wal-Mart and other online services such as GreenCine and CafeDVD made up the remaining 4%.

Still, online DVD rental subscription services grew to 15% of the entire rental market in 2004, nearly doubling their share rentals over the previous year, according to NPD. Blockbuster is now at around 500,000 subscribers and Netflix at 2.6 million."
Read more

Online Rentals No Longer Niche

I can breath easy now, free of the paranoia and insecurity I once felt as a member of a neglected minority. Video Business Online has declared "Online Rentals No Longer Niche". You can read why, here. I used to wax lyrical on the subject of being a niche market, during the crazy early days of this blog.

Aaron’s annual HDTV guide

TVBarn has some tips for what to watch and how to watch it:

Deciding which TV to get used to mean settling on a brand name and tube size. Now the consumer must choose from plasmas, LCDs, DLPs, CRTs and front- and rear-projection displays.

Read the rest

Expecting the Unexpected

Netflix Inc., the mail-order DVD rental company, knows a thing or two about direct competition, having seen its stock price tumble after it said online retail leader might enter the fray and retailer Blockbuster Inc. started a DVD-by-mail service.

But Chief Executive Reed Hastings said it's the threat you don't know about, not the obvious one sitting in your face, that poses the biggest risk.

"In the near-term, it's Blockbuster. It's direct competition," he said, when asked what he most worries about.

And over the long run? "You have to keep a really open mind about what could change, whether it's piracy, whether it's downloads, whether it's movies become short, movies become interactive," he said.

"What keeps me up is the unexpected. These are the ones that will kill you, not the ones that you thought."

via Economic Times

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hacking Netflix Blogger Interviewed interviewed Mike Kaltschnee, blogger of Here's their teaser:
By day, Mike Kaltschnee is a VP of business development for Index Stock, a provider of photographic images. But by early morning and late evening, he is the writer/editor of, a blog focused on the established DVD-by-mail and incipient movie-on-demand industries.
I'm sorry to say, the entire article is available to paid subscribers only. If you have a scan or transcript of the article, please send it in .

Netflix tag on Technorati

Check out the on Technorati, to see who else is blogging about their favorite online DVD rental service. Many of the folks are tagging reviews of movies they've received from .

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Netflix braced to forgo profit for up to 5 years if needed

"SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Online DVD rental leader Netflix Inc. is prepared to sacrifice profits for as long as five years in order to win up to 20 million U.S. subscribers and fend off major rivals such as Blockbuster and, its CEO said on Wednesday.

Chief Executive Reed Hastings said Netflix, the pioneer of online DVD rental, could capture as much as 20 percent of the U.S. market by extending the strategy it embarked on in October to run at breakeven while spending heavily on marketing.

'Correct,' Hastings said when asked if he was prepared to sacrifice profitability for as much as five years in order to reach 20 million customers, up from 2.6 million currently. 'That's true. We haven't given any guidance on it so therefore it's possible,' he said.

Hastings was speaking to a roomful of reporters at the Reuters Technology Summit in San Francisco."


I found Cinecopia on my Google ads. Interesting business model. In business since "early 2004". It is a Netflix alternative which requires you to contribute your own discs for trading with other subscribers. Charges $1.50 per trade. Provides the pre-paid disc mailers. No warehouses or distribution centers because members do all the work. They provide the searchable database, but you enter the movies into it. Similar to Peerflix, except Cinecopia doesn't require you to maintain a queue, and you're limited to 10 out. I like that they are located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where all the brainiacs live and work.

Netflix blogger: Rant and Rave

I'm cleaning out the attic, folks. Here's a guy, named Jim Schrempp, who rants and raves about Netflix and his encounter with their customer service (from December 2003).

Netflix ad competition

I can't display them here, because making them small enough also makes them hard to read. I Googled a couple of cute photos from an Netflix advertising competition.

Horror and


New Netflix Features

Netflix continues to improve their service and their Web site. Now, when they receive your discs, an expanded ratings box pops up, which conveniently gives you a chance to rate the movie, put in your two cents, and recommend to a friend, all in one space. They've also added a Friend Quiz question to the Friends page, in which you get to test your knowledge of your friends' taste in movies. Hacking NetFlix has pictures of the new features.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Need help filling your Netflix queue?

Roger Ebert has written a a couple of books about great movies you should watch. They make great queue-fillers.
Great Books
Great Books II

myFlixer - free software to track your NetFlix movie queue.

Paul emailed me to ask me to share his new freeware with you. It's called myFlixer, and it enables you to "keep track of your NetFlix movie Queue right from your computer's desktop". It stays in your taskbar and updates automatically at intervals you set.