I’ve been a long time Blockbuster member and have rented at least a thousand movies from them. Yes you read that correctly, and I agree it is sad. Back in February I wrote about how frustrated I was with Blockbuster’s lack of titles in stock. Sadly, things haven’t improved. In fact if you compare the list of movies I had queued in November 2008 with the current list (below), you’ll notice that exactly half over them are still in my queue six months later and don’t appear to be coming any time soon.
How can it be possible to have over a dozen movies listed as “Long Wait”, seven as “Very Long Wait” and two as “Unavailable”? Why even list the movies if they stand no chance of ever being sent out? All good questions that Blockbuster has never answered for me, despite my asking.
Recently I added a number of titles to my queue hoping to start actually receiving movies again. A few came in the mail about a week later. I watched and returned them and awaited my next delivery. No E-mail notifications came telling me of shipments, so I checked my queue. A few items were marked as “Available”, so I E-mailed Blockbuster asking them why I only have one of my movies out of three that are supposed to be shipped at a time. The answer I received was strange, to say the least. I was told that in order to ensure that there are no shipment delays, I should always keep at least 15 available titles at the top of my queue. That little nugget isn’t presented to you when you have a queue full of unavailable titles, but rather in an obscure FAQ article.
Blockbuster claims to do this so that you always receive the titles you want the most as soon as possible, but I think it’s clearly their way of compensating for a terrible shortage of titles in stock. Based on the available movies in my queue, which is 14%, I would need to have at least 100 movies in my queue in order to find 15 that were in stock. I think that is ridiculous.
I was finally ready to try Netflix, and seeing it pop up on my Tivo is what convinced me to sign up for a free trial. Unlike Blockbuster, almost all of the titles I wanted were available from Netflix. I found the Netflix web interface to be easier to use, and after rating a few dozen movies Netflix began recommending some really great movies – some of which I haven’t seen and would really be interested in. Blockbuster on the other hand has long since run out of movies to recommend me and usually suggests garbage I would never think of renting. I also like how Netflix presents recommendations by category and uses the stars to tell you how much they think you will “heart” the movie. Blockbuster just shows you how other people have rated it.
I also love the fact that I can easily stream movies to my HD Tivo, which can’t be done with Blockbuster’s service (yet – it should be coming later in 2009). To be honest, the quality really isn’t there yet with streaming – not as clear as a DVD and no where near Blu-ray quality, but it is certainly the future of distribution. There is also the occasional load time involved, but that is pretty rare.
Netflix does cost a dollar or two more per month than Blockbuster Total Access – if you sign up for Blu-ray discs – but I think it’s worth it. If you view even one movie electronically per month it’s cheaper than Blockbuster because they charge $3.99 per title (and you have to download and watch it on a computer – lame).
I’m making the switch to Netflix because of their greater selection of titles and the fact that they are actually available. Tivo streaming and a better interface and recommendation system are just gravy.
Check out the comparison between my Netflix and Blockbuster queues below.
Total Number of movies that I attempted to queue: 21
Blockbuster has three available.
Netflix has 18 available.
Winner: Netflix – Blockbuster isn’t even close.
Blockbuster has 10 titles in Blu-ray.
Netflix has 10 titles in Blu-ray.
Winner: Netflix – They actually have the Blu-rays in stock, and Blockbuster does not.
Blockbuster has 3 titles available to download.
Netflix has one title available to download.
Winner: Netflix – I can stream the movies directly to my Tivo for free. Blockbuster charges $3.99 extra and I would have to watch on my computer. Having a few more titles that I can download isn’t very enticing if I have to pay extra and sit in front of my computer to watch them. Not to mention everything else mentioned above.