Archive for the ‘Netflix’ Category

The Future is Light and Short

December 7, 2006

Many writers have pointed out (e.g. Crooked Timber, Daniel Read et al, and the Wall Street Journal) that when we have to choose what movie to watch days ahead of time (as with Netflix), we tend to make more ambitious choices than what we want when the time comes to watch. For example, many people select a bunch of “highbrow” movies on Netflix, then don’t feel like watching them when they arrive.

Netflix is a great bonanza for highbrow movies today, but what will happen when people have access to a library the size of Netflix, but no longer have to make choices days ahead of time?

Brad Templeton wrote a great piece about this, predicting:

…the real shift coming is to pay-per-view and downloading. If people look at the PPV menu and usually pick the light movie over the serious one, then the market for the serious ones is sunk.

Sadly, I think he is right. But neither good nor bad is his other interesting observation:

I’ve also noticed a push for shorter programming… When you just sit down to choose something from your library, the temptation is strong to watch shorter things instead of making a 2 hour committment to a longer thing.

The data sample is small, but my experience is definitely similar. I now have a pile of a few dozen DVDs acquired through Peerflix. Picking a movie at my house means straining my eyes to find the “running time” in tiny print on every disc, and more often than not, choosing among the shortest.

This could be good news for independent filmmakers, because shorter means cheaper. But if this small sample is predicting correctly, even the big studios would be wise to take note.

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Peerflix vs. Netflix

October 27, 2006

Most of my friends know that I am a rabid Peerflix fan. Hey, everyone has to have a hobby, right? 🙂 My apologies to my old high school pal, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix. Reed, I love you, too. And I am also a Netflix customer. But Peerflix—what an idea!

Netflix has to run distribution centers around the country where DVD mailers get opened and re-stuffed. Netflix has to print the mailers and pay for postage. Netflix has to buy the DVDs in the first place.

Peerflix, on the other hand, is just a web site. Peerflix has no distribution centers. Customers print their own mailers on their own printers and mail them directly to the next customer in line. Peerflix gets paid $0.99 for every DVD that gets traded!

Each service has advantages and disadvantages from the customer’s point of view. Netflix has the advantage that you can get whatever you want whenever you want it. But with Netflix, I feel pressured to get my money’s worth. If I don’t watch the DVDs I have and send them back quickly, I’m wasting money (because I pay by the month—regardless of how many DVDs I watch). The last thing I want is pressure to watch more TV!

With Peerflix, there is no time pressure. You own all the DVDs you have, and you can keep them forever if you want without any cost.

But Peerflix has its own peculiar downsides. Some titles are on many “Have” lists and few “Want” lists. These titles will arrive quickly if you put them on your “Want” list. Then, it will be hard to get rid of them. Depending on how lopsided the supply/demand is, you might get stuck with the title forever. In which case, you cannot replenish your “Peerbux” by trading it away. Other titles have the opposite problem: they are on many “Want” lists and few “Have” lists. These titles will take forever to get sent to you. The best titles are the happy medium ones that are plentiful enough to get to you in the first place, but will also be tradable after you are finished with them.

One thing I will say for Peerflix is that it has caused me to buy DVDs for the first time in my life. If I read the description on a movie and I really want to see it, but there are 0 copies available on Peerflix—I’ll look for it on Ebay or used on Amazon and buy it. If I feel it is a must-see, and it is worth a lot of Peerbux, and it is not available used, I’ll even buy it new. My psychology goes like this: “Hey, I have saved way more than 20 bucks on Peerflix already. Plus, I can easily trade this and get Peerbux when I’m done.”

Every time I buy another DVD—used or new—I expand the size of my in-house library—even after I trade it away (because trading away earns Peerbux that enable me to receive more titles from my “Want” list). I now have about 25 DVDs at home that I have not yet seen! That is incredible! How much would I have to pay EVERY MONTH at Netflix to have 25 DVDs at a time?

So here is a topic for you to discuss amongst yourselves: will Peerflix ever be as popular as Netflix? Or is Omar a looney-bird? Or both?

P.S. I forgot to credit Jackie Shadrake with turning me on to Peerflix. Thanks, Jackie! 🙂

P.P.S. I just found a wealth of posts about Peerflix on Brad Templeton’s blog.