The Netflix Streaming Price Trap

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Oh, Netflix, how far you have fallen. In a matter of months the Netflix name has plummeted in reputation, from a nearly ubiquitous provider of all things entertaining on virtually every device with a screen, to an "it-will-do-for-now-while-I-shop-for-something-better" service. Sigh.

With the recent shift in pricing--effectively doubling what I am paying to get the same service I had last month--combined with the loss of major content providers like Starz, Netflix is becoming less and less appealing with each passing hour.

I used to be a Netflix evangelist, but now I'm just a Netflix hostage...for now.
A post by Lance Ulanoff on his Techoti Tumblr blog pretty much sums up how most Netflix customers feel. "You are now no different to me than any other streaming, video-on-demand service. No more physical DVDs. No more marveling at your national shipping, mailing and receiving prowess," Ulanoff opines. "Early today, I switched from the one-DVD-at-a-time and Unlimited Streaming plan to just the Unlimited Streaming Plan. In doing so, I don't save any money. I simply ensure that my costs won't double."

As Ulanoff says, you're not so special anymore, Netflix. Apple TV has plenty of content available--and it lets me buy or rent new movies with a couple clicks of the remote as well. I am an Amazon Prime member, too, so I also have access to a huge and growing library of streaming entertainment from Amazon. If I need a physical DVD, I suppose I could actually try using one of those Redbox kiosks that seem to be everywhere.

I'd love to follow Ulanoff 's lead and cut back to just streaming instead of paying Netflix twice as much money--or even just drop the service altogether--but my hands are tied for now. The changes to Netflix streaming policy create a price trap that forces me not only to keep things the way they are and pay twice as much, but possibly to bump my monthly plan up and give Netflix even more money.

Let me explain. This is the Netflix support FAQ response to the question "Can I watch movies instantly on more than one PC or Netflix-ready device?":

"Some membership plans allow you to watch simultaneously on more than one personal computer or Netflix-ready device. If you are on the Unlimited Streaming plan, the Unlimited Streaming + 1 DVD out-at-a-time plan or a limited streaming plan, you may watch only one device at a time.

If you are on the Unlimited Streaming + 2 DVDs out-at-a-time plan, you may watch on up to two devices at a time. Members on the Unlimited Streaming + 3 DVDs out-at-a-time plan may watch on up to three devices at a time. The maximum is four devices at a time -- available for members on the Unlimited Streaming + 4-or greater DVDs out-at-a-time plan."

So, here is the crux of the problem: Six people live in my house. Two of them are teens who enjoy watching streaming content on Netflix. In fact, the two of them barely know what a TV is. They basically rely on Netflix for both movies and TV series content--and often they both watch things at the same time, or while my wife and I or the younger kids are watching a movie on Netflix. Apparently, though, not anymore.

Based on the stated Netflix policy, that will no longer be possible. We'll have to post a schedule on the refrigerator to arrange time slots so that we can all take turns using Netflix. If I want two people to be able to stream simultaneously, that will cost me an extra $4 per month, and if I want to be able to use the service the same way I have enjoyed it for the past few years, I have to pay $23.95 per month for the Unlimited Streaming + 3 DVDs plan.

That is a lot more than what I was paying just last month for the same service--about three times as much. Despite the stated policy, we are still able to stream Netflix on two devices simultaneously, so I will let it ride for now and just pay twice as much as I did last month.

I will end with a short message to Netflix: You still have me, and you are now getting twice as much of my money, so you win this round. But, just know that I was one of your greatest advocates and evangelists--a veritable one-man marketing team of word-of-mouth promotion who couldn't extol the virtues of your brilliant service enough. Now, I am simply a hostage of what you used to be while I bide my time waiting for a rival to swoop in and pick up the pieces of what you should have been.

I will leave. It is only a matter of time, Netflix.

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