What happened to Netflix?

I decided to watch a movie tonight. I pulled up Netflix and looked at my queue, and it struck me how ridiculously few items from my queue were available for streaming. So few that I decided to count them.

I have 257 items in my Netflix queue (counting multi-season and multi-disc entries as a single item). Of those 257, only 28 are available for streaming. That’s just 11% coverage. In addition, 12 aren’t available for streaming or on disc, leaving 217 to rent as discs.

But I also have the option of Amazon Instant Video on the PS3. So I laboriously went through my queue and found everything I could via Amazon, and added it to my watch list there.

Amazon’s score: 22 items available via Amazon Prime, their equivalent of the Netflix monthly membership. However, going a la carte, an additional 186 items are available for streaming for a payment, so I could pay as I go and get access to 208 streaming titles, more than 7 times as many as Netflix offers. Except 23 of those Amazon streaming titles are only available as ludicrously expensive indefinite rentals (mis-labeled “buy”, of course).

There were 50 items not available for streaming at all via Amazon. However, it’s worth noting that my test inevitably favored Netflix in this way, because I had added quite a few items to my queue based on the fact that I saw they were available on Netflix. So, many of those 50 items were random documentaries, and judging from a quick look I could easily find as many Amazon-only documentaries.

I also looked at the movies that weren’t available as reasonable price rentals anywhere. They were pretty much all from either MGM or Sony Columbia. I checked the PSN store, and only a couple were available to rent there. So it seems like Sony are still in the deeply delusional belief that they can refuse to offer normal movie rentals and make everyone pay $10 for a DRM-encumbered indefinite rental dishonestly sold as if you end up owning it. MGM, meanwhile, just emerged from bankruptcy, and are apparently in a hurry to go back there.

In summary:

  • Netflix: 28 streaming titles, 217 discs, 12 titles unavailable.
  • Amazon: 185 streaming rental titles, 23 overpriced indefinite rentals, 50 titles unavailable.

So overall, it seems like for my movie and TV preferences, Amazon Prime is already pretty much as good as Netflix, and has the fringe benefit of free book rentals for Kindle, free shipping, and so on. And if I cut the Netflix disc rentals too, I can spend that money on the non-Prime rental titles. Given that I only watch maybe one movie a week, I’ll end up spending about the same amount for a much better selection.

I’ll end up missing a bunch of Sony-owned movies, at least until they solve their cranial-rectal inversion problem, but I think I can live with that.