Netflix vs. Blockbuster

There are two major options for online movie rentals, Netflix and Blockbuster. I recently signed up for Netflix, but before I made that decision I did a bit of research.

Random Movie Test

Before I decided upon a service, I looked into the selection. I tend to watch more independent and foreign movies than the average person. One of my favorite Russian flicks is Stalker. It’s done by Andrei Tarkovsy, who is hailed as THE Russian director. I don’t need to rent this movie, as I own it. Having worked in a CD/DVD store, I know how hard it is to get; it ships from Russia and can take anywhere from a two to six months for delivery. I used this film as my benchmark for size and obscurity of selection.

As its name implies, Blockbuster typically has “blockbusters.” It did not have Stalker, or even some other less popular titles I hold in my collection. Netflix not only had Stalker, it also had a bunch of out-of-print Criterion Collection films.

Subscription Fees

Each of these sites offer a couple different pricing tiers. They are really pretty equal in the pricing. You have to weigh what each brings to your DVD player. With Blockbuster you can get as many exchanges a month and up to three movies at a time. It costs approximately $10 more a month if you want to bring your DVDs back to the store. It’s $30 for 3 movies at a time through the mail and unlimited in-store exchanges.

Netflix also offers three DVDs at once, and streaming video. I chose Netflix’s $13.99 a month plan. I get two movies at a time, as many swaps as I want, and unlimited video streaming from the Watch Instantly section. Their top tier is eight movies and unlimited movie streaming; this package runs $47.99. Why you would ever want eight movies at a time is beyond me, seeing that you can only watch one at a time.

The turn around from the return DVD mail drop to next movie is three to four days, so having one at home and one in the mail all that is needed – at least for me.

Exclusive benefits

Blockbuster has the in-store exchange. For me, this doesn’t do anything. Blockbuster has a limited selection that doesn’t appeal to me. My neighborhood store has a worse than average stock, forcing me elsewhere.

Netflix has streaming movies. I didn’t expect much from this option. I had some problems with the setup. It uses Microsoft’s Media Player and a plug-in. For some reason I couldn’t get the plug-in to properly install. Five minutes on the phone with a helpful tech support guy, and everything was working. I have a high-definition monitor hooked up to my computer and a good Internet connection, resulting in wonderful picture. The plugin runs right in your browser (no Firefox support though), and is setup very much like Youtube. You can slide the progression bar to whatever part of the movie you want, and the movie even resumes playing if you close the movie while it was playing. There are about 6,000 movies to stream, most being documentaries, indie films and classics (my bread and butter). Netflix is also a social network; you can recommend movies to your friends, see what they’re watching, and does a pretty good job of matching how you rate movies to things you might like.

Winner: Netflix, hands down. Bigger selection and streaming movies. For me, wider selection is what I’m after.

Blockbuster is trying to adjust its business model, but has the overhead of physical locations keeping it from embracing something new. Out with the old and in with the new. As we’ve seen with a lot of other businesses and industries (mostly the music industry), not changing with the times will put you out of business. Since Blockbuster recently raised the price on their subscription and movie rentals are at an all time low, my guess is they will be out of business in the next five years if they don’t do something drastically different.

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