About 2 years ago, shortly after Netflix was launched in Canada, my good blogging friend Simon from Sustainable Personal Finance proclaimed confidently to the world that Netflix in Canada Sucked after trying out the service for a short while. Conversely, I have been a subscriber to the service paying the $7.99 a month faithfully almost since the service launched. It can’t suck that much to have me be a customer this long, can it?
So, Does It Really Suck?
At first, I was almost inclined to agree with Simon because the Netflix Canada selection was severely limited and nowhere near the calibre of movies and TV series that Netflix USA had. Not only that, but there was also no way to efficiently browse their entire library and save titles you were interested in watching when you did happen come across a good one. The movies displayed on the front page when you log in were always changing so it was easy to lose track of something you wanted to watch and never find it again. Fortunately, things did improve quite dramatically over time and there was just enough good stuff to keep me interested and stay on as a subscriber.
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Did It Have Anything Going For It At Launch?
People were so disappointed by the crappy selection early on that they were very quick to overlook all the good features that Netflix Canada offered, even on day 1. There is no question it was the quickest, easiest, cheapest, and most reliable way to watch a movie on demand any time you felt like it. No more running out to the store to rent a movie, no more laggy interfaces to deal with through your cable or satellite provider, no more expensive on demand movie fees for renting through iTunes or your TV box, and no more wondering if a movie that you pick will actually be good.
Wait … what do I mean by that last point? Well, the Netflix user rating system is so good and easy to use that if you pick something rated close to 4 stars or higher, you are almost guaranteed to have a good movie on yours hands. Not only that, but it learns your preferences and will weight ratings accordingly so that movies closer to your preference will be rated slightly higher and those you don’t typically watch will be lowered. This is an important point, because even with a limited Hollywood blockbuster selection, it allowed you to single out lesser known movies, tv series, and documentaries that were still worth the watch which you probably never would have discovered otherwise. It can really expand your movie watching horizons!
I also can’t say enough good things about the technology behind Netflix. The service has been up with no outages nearly 100% of the time. To date, I’ve never encountered another online service that has been anywhere near that reliable. I’ve never experienced lag when watching a movie either. The servers provide consistently fast download speeds even at peak times. If there was ever any lag it was because of my own ISP or download speed that was the issue, not their service. Now that I have a 20mbps internet connection at my house, I’ve never seen a single frame stutter due to lag.
Another great point about the technology is that you can watch your shows on practically any device including your laptop, computer, home theatre PC, gaming console, tablet, smart phone, media box, apple TV, Bluray player, and smart TV. Now that’s choice! It will also always remember where you’ve left off in a particular show so you can easily jump from one device to another if you need to change rooms or leave the house. You can even stream two different shows simultaneously so you can watch content in multiple rooms of your house and not have to fight over the remote with your family!
Why I Am Still A Netflix Subscriber Today
What kept me going early on was that I found several movies and TV shows that I was interested in watching, even if they weren’t all le crème de la crème. This included things like all four seasons of Heroes, which I had never seen a single episode of but I was interested in watching. My wife and I ended up watching almost all of it together for hours of extremely cheap on demand entertainment with no commercials. We also found some cool documentaries like “Inside Job”, narrated by Matt Damon, that takes an in-depth look at the global financial meltdown of 2008.
1) Expanded Recent Movie Catalogue
Ever since then the content available on Netflix Canada has expanded to include much more recent Hollywood block busters and Indie films. “Iron Man 2” and “Transformers 3”, for instance, were released within months after they were released to video. “We Bought A Zoo” was just added not that long ago along with “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” and “Salt”. Certainly not everything is available, but there is a ton of ever growing content both new and old. There are some great black and white oldies to be seen as well, which are a big hit in my family too.
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2) Endless Hours Of TV & Series
More than watching movies, we enjoy watching TV series because they have an ongoing story and they allow for quick 45 minute viewing sessions on demand that serve as a short break in between our busy lives. That next episode is always there and waiting whenever we have a spare moment and we can even stop watching at any time and it will automatically be picked up on whatever device we happen to be using when we’re free again. It couldn’t be any more convenient.
Better yet, the TV selection is probably even more up to date than the movie selection. There are tons of recent complete TV series available including such titles as: “Touch” (Keifer Sutherland), “Breaking Bad”, “Man Men”, “Numb3rs”, “Jericho”, “Bones”, “The Unit”, “Prison Break”, and “Lost”. Even the huge library of TED talks are now available on Netflix.
3) Huge Collection Of Kids Entertainment
My young daughter is currently looked after at home by a caretaker all day, so Netflix is a great source of an hour of entertainment a day for her with their absolutely massive library of kids movies and TV shows. She particularly likes to watch Barney! Then, when my daughter goes down for her nap, the caretaker can easily watch a movie to fill that down time. It’s great to always have something available to watch for whoever needs it.
I anticipate that my kids will never run out of things to watch and it will eventually be great for long drives and road trips whenever 4G data becomes unlimited or cheap enough for me to justify video streaming off of WiFi.
4) Instant Queue
At launch, there was really no way to save movies or shows that you saw that you wanted to watch later. This was a huge missing feature but they eventually did add it many months later and now I have a collection of 58 titles just sitting there waiting to be watched when I have the time, which might actually be never! But it’s still great to have a list of stuff ready and waiting for you so you don’t have to waste any time finding something when you sit down exhausted just wanting to hit play and have something on the screen.
5) Everything It Had At Launch Is Still Awesome
All those things I mentioned in the “Did It Have Anything Going For It At Launch?” section still apply today but they are made more awesome by the fact that the selection is now there. The rating system is top notch, the suggestions it gives you are bang on, the user interface is smooth and intuitive, the choice of categories for browsing are extensive, the range of supported devices is second to none, the reliability of the service is nearly 100%, much of the content is available in full HD, you can stream multiple shows simultaneously, and there are no contracts or commitments. It doesn’t get much better than that – except the price!
6) Incredible Value
Unfortunately my viewing history only goes back about a year and a half, but a quick survey of the previous year shows roughly 700 movies or shows watched. That’s approximately 58 shows per month for my entire household. If you calculate using the $7.99 monthly fee (this includes taxes!), that works out to about 13 cents per hour of entertainment! Now that’s pretty hard to beat for quality entertainment that isn’t free by nature, doesn’t contain advertising, or isn’t pirated.
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It’s also important to note was that Netflix Canada was actually cheaper at launch than Netflix USA because in the USA it was originally tied to their mail order DVD service as well so the cheapest package cost almost $20/mth I believe. In my opinion, that made the service even more valuable at launch and helped to mitigate the poor selection at the time. Oh, and did I mention …
7) You Can Get USA Netflix For FREE
Huh? Yup, that’s right, with a Canadian Netflix subscription you are actually subscribed to United States Netflix as well, you just have to be in the USA to use it. If you log on to Netflix from anywhere in the USA, you will be presented with the USA catalog of TVs and movies which is still slightly better than that available to Canadians.
I know what you’re thinking: “that’s useless to me as I rarely spend any time in the USA”. Fortunately, you can use free and easy to use proxy tools like Hotspot Shield to assign an American IP Address to your computer so it looks like you are accessing the internet from the USA. If you do that first, and then log in to Netflix – presto! – you will have access to all the Netflix USA content. What a deal!
So if you were complaining that Netflix Canada sucks compared to Netflix USA, I ask you this: what do you really have left to complain about now? I think I’ve made a pretty compelling case as to why Netflix provides incredible value even for the most frugal of people. It’s a good deal, period!