You may be considering a free trial offer from www.Netflix.com, and whether or not you should become a member. You may be wondering about “streaming” and “Internet compatible devices” and what these have to do with Netflix and similar services. Or you may simply want to rent DVDs without having to leave the house.
Well, read on and discover the rapidly changing world of home entertainment.
A Brief History
Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, has been around since the late 1990s. Its flat-fee subscription DVD rental business model was implemented specifically as a way to rival brick-and-mortar DVD rental outlets that charge daily late fees, like Blockbuster. The company eventually supplemented its DVD rental services by offering an on-demand streaming feature for a limited number of hours that corresponded with the monthly fee a member paid. Netflix later simply began providing Internet streaming at no additional charge to its DVD-by-mail members.
However, in a highly publicized decision in 2011, the company advised its subscribers that the online streaming portion of its services would no longer be complimentary. In addition, Netflix ceased offering multiple DVDs per month (at higher subscription rates).
The company made this unpopular decision based on the home entertainment industry’s consensus that DVDs could soon be going the way of VHS.
DVDs are expensive to ship and maintain, and additional revenue sources were necessary. Netflix, in an effort to anticipate this format becoming obsolete, began trying to elminate the storage overhead.
What You’ll Find at www.Netflix.com
Most new members are introduced to Netflix with a one-month free trial, either directly or through a referral, usually from a friend or family member who is an existing subscriber. But all new members are offered the one-month free trial, which you can also take advantage of simply by going to www.Netflix.com.
When you get to the site, you can either set up an account right away, which will require a credit card, or you can just explore.
It’s probably a good idea to start by clicking on How It Works if you’re still on the fence. But basically, you get the first month of your subscription for free, then after that your membership will automatically renew (hence the need for a credit card) every month until you cancel.
It is a straight month-to-month agreement and you can cancel it at any time. The membership fee is $7.99 per month (plus tax), but you can also add the DVD-by-mail option for an additional $7.99 per month. You will receive unlimited DVDs, but only one at a time will come to your address. Every time you ship a DVD back to them, they’ll receive it, process it, and ship out the next available DVD that you have set up in your “queue.”
The company has several DVD distribution points across the country. If you mail your DVD out on Monday, it could get processed on Tuesday, with your next DVD getting shipped out that afternoon, and you could get your next DVD by Wednesday or Thursday.
Once you set up your account, you can begin adding movies and TV shows to your queue. If your membership includes DVDs, this is the order in which they will be mailed to you. However, you can change this order at any time. For the streaming only plan, the queue is really just a list of titles you have selected. They can be played in any order and will remain on your list as long as the titles are available for on-demand viewing.
Selecting programs and films to watch is easy. There is a horizontal-scrolling menu of cover art for each film. You can hover over the image with your mouse for a few seconds to see a pop-out balloon that will give you a brief overview of the film, which includes: Year released, director, writer, MPAA rating, and, of course, who stars in it.
If you are interested, simply click on the “add to” link (the red box at the bottom of the balloon) or you can begin watching right away. If you want more detailed information, click on the “more info” link inside the balloon and that will take you to the film’s page. There you can read other members’ reviews and even check for the “Common Sense Media Rating.” This includes everything parents might want to know about the content of a film despite its given rating, including what product placement might appear.
Netflix has a ton of TV shows available to stream, including several excellent TV series that were cancelled too early.
There is no limit to the number of titles in your queue, whether for streaming or DVD-by-mail.
Streaming: The Future Is Now
While Netflix still allows DVD-by-mail, what it and other subscription services are primariliy offering is video on demand — in a word, streaming. What this means is that you no longer have to wait to receive DVDs in the mail (though this wait isn’t usually more than a day or two) and can watch TV shows and or movies from any Internet capable device. There are several ways you can improve your Netflix streaming, as well.
So, what sort of device do you need? Well, of course you can watch Netflix from your computer. You can also download the Netflix mobile app for your Android or Windows phone, your Nook or Kindle Fire, and your iPhone or iPad.
When you log into your account, your queue will be ready and waiting for you, or you can add to it. The great thing about these devices is that you can take them with you anywhere. So, if you do a lot of travelling for work, for example, you can relax with a favorite movie or TV show when you have some down time. Best to watch using WiFi, though, and not use up all your data plan streaming a movie over 4G.
But suppose you just want to watch your Netflix queue on your beautiful big screen television in the comfort of your own living room. If you have Playstation 3, Wii, or XBox, there is a Netflix channel built right in.
Most Blu-ray players also have this capability. The following video gives a pretty comprehensive comparison overview of what devices are out there that will allow you to watch your on-demand content.
If you’re shopping, just look for the Netflix logo on any device you may be considering purchasing for streaming purposes. Check with the sales person if you have any questions and you can always check www.Netflix.com for other information. And make sure you have quality High Speed Internet in order to stream shows and movies to your TV.