Netflix tweaks access, irritates customers

The company makes it harder to add to the DVD queue from streaming devices, igniting a firestorm of controversy.

By Kim Peterson Jan 20, 2011 1:59PM
Credit: (© Paul Sakuma/AP)
Caption: Netflix DVDIs Netflix (NFLX) trying to phase out the DVD? That's what some customers are saying after the company sent out a short message this week on the company blog.

Netflix is removing the "Add to DVD queue" option for people who use Xbox 360s and other devices that stream Netflix videos. Those users must now go directly to Netflix's website to add movies to the DVD queue (you can still add to the "instant" queue from anywhere).

Talk about inconvenient. The move has ignited a firestorm of resentment among users, and the blog post has received 4,500 mostly negative comments. Why would Netflix do this? The explanation is, well, a little bit murky.

"We're doing this so we can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly," the company says on its blog. "Further, providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality." Okaaayyy.

Post continues after video:

Part of the problem is that Netflix users aren't clear about what exactly happened. I just added "Hot Tub Time Machine" to the DVD queue from an iPhone, but when I checked the queue from a laptop, the movie wasn't there. Other users report similar issues.

People are confused by what exactly Netflix did, reports paidContent. Some people thought Netflix was getting rid of DVDs altogether. A report on Yahoo didn't help, offering the headline "Netflix is abandoning DVDs, customers who prefer DVDs."

That's not true. Netflix isn't abandoning the DVD. But it's clearly making it more difficult for customers to order by-mail DVDs.

Why? Money is one consideration. It costs Netflix 3 cents to send a streaming movie to a customer, BusinessWeek reports (and 5 cents for a high-definition movie). Add to that the cost to license videos for streaming. But postage is incredibly expensive; Netflix estimated its postage costs would hit $600 million in 2010.

The most glaring problem is that all users will still be able to see Netflix's movie selection, but not everyone can add them to the DVD queue, writes Alexander Grundner at eHome Upgrade. "Now that seems confusing and justifiably frustrating," he added.

Users were clearly frustrated. "You're just killing off DVD subscriptions one step at a time," one commenter wrote on Netflix's blog. "First the price hike, Blu-Ray surcharge, and now this. When optical media goes, so do I."

Another user chimed in: "I use this function all the time when streaming from my PS3. Bad move, Netflix." But another user, clearly in the minority, seemed to like the new change, saying, "I appreciate less clutter."

Jan 20, 2011 3:51PM
Not all customers have the bandwidth nor the technology to watch movies online. Netflix may just kill their cash cow doing this with the DVD customers.
Jan 20, 2011 3:53PM
These complaining customers aren't exactly marketing majors are they?  It's been glaringly obvious for years that NF wants out of the DVD rental business.  Why else would they institute a streaming service that is in direct competition with the DVD rental business?  Unfortunately, they (NF) are infamous liars and I can only hope that the resources they claim to be freeing up are used to provide subtitles on their streaming content.  This is an area they have been intentionally ignoring since the first day they began streaming.  Their blog is overflowing with pleas to provide subs.  Nearly 2 years ago they made a press release claiming subs were about a year away.  That was nothing but a delaying tactic.  They have added subs to a few movies but so few that they don't even provide a list of them because people would then be able to quantify how little effort has actually been applied.  It's a shame really.  They have so much potential but are so callous to their customers.  It can only get worse as their market share increases.
Jan 20, 2011 5:13PM
I don't see the big issue.  If you are using xbox 360 or the wii to watch movies instantly all the movies you browse through are instant.  Why would you want a dvd of something you can watch streaming?  If/When netflix decides to get rid of dvd's all together they will use the money they save to buy the licenses and show all their movies on instant.  I'll never have to screw with sending dvd's back.  Also I don't understand how people say they are watching instant movies without internet or a computer.  You have to have internet to to watch a movie instantly.  The only way around that is if you are "stealing" wifi from your neighbor and if that's the case you need to man up, stop crying, and start paying for your own internet.  How long does it actually take to go to neflix website and put movies in your que?  A couple minutes considering there is a search bar that titles can be typed into?  Also you movie que will hold a couple hundred titles.  There is absolutely no excuse for being mad at netflix when laziness on the part of a few users and some bad reviews in the press by these same people are to blame.
Jan 20, 2011 5:06PM
@iamram16 - you are claiming to know about marketing while bashing the customers that are upset about NF slowing eliminating DVDs.  Then you go on to complain about NF not providing enough content with subtitles. LOL.  I would bet any money the demand for DVDs and the customer population that wants DVDs far exceeds the number of customers or potential customers clamoring for subtitles.

Here are the facts:  If you like mostly old movies that you have most likely already seen then the streaming content is alright.  If you are a person who wants to watch mostly new movies then you are out of luck with streaming.  You have to request a DVD......and many times wait.  I am a NF customer and have been for a few years now and I am most likely going to cancel my membership.  I bought Apple TV at the end of last year and I love it.  I can order and stream movies (specifically) new releases without having to order in advance and wait for delivery.  I also don't get frustrated on a Saturday night when I decide to watch a movie, only to browse though the streaming movies only to be disappointed by the selection of Back to the Future, Blade 2 or Blue Crush (which are new releases...LOL)  NF has become a total waste of money.  They better check out how Amazon and Apple do it or they will be left in the dust soon enough.

Jan 20, 2011 4:23PM

Wow!  Let's just totally alienate those that don't have internet but still want to watch movies via DVD.  I believe that NetFlix is, what is that old expression, "Cutting off your nose to spite your face"?

Need to think about it NetFlix.

Jan 20, 2011 4:28PM

i wish that if netflix is going to limit dvds that they make available more movies that are instant to download. it is a pain in the **** to have to get a dvd of a new release when you could just instantly play it.

hurray up and put the new movies on instant play.

Jan 20, 2011 8:48PM

"Why would you want a dvd of something you can watch streaming?"


Let's think about

1. Some people may require the use of closed captioning.

2. See deleted scenes

3. movie commentary in you liked the movie enough

4. depending if they send the real disc or a rental disc, pop it onto the PC for PC only features.

5. Sound Quality Options on DVD.

6. Language Options on DVD.

7. Don't have to drop $15 to buy disc to get 1 through 6.

Jan 20, 2011 5:11PM
Whoop de do.  What the heck is anyone complaining about.  Use your @#*& computer and quit crying about it.   These people would complain if someone handed them a $100 bill.  GOOD JOB NETFLIX!!!
Jan 20, 2011 5:17PM
Had NF and cancelled it because the selection of movies I could stream through my wii sucked.   I watched a few old movies but alot of the movies I wanted to see, I had to get the DVD.  No Adam!
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