Netflix Streaming - so *that's* the big deal

As I mentioned in my last bandwidth post, I finally subscribed to Netflix so I could play with the instant streaming option. I've only had it for a week, but I've already collected a few thoughts.

I'll save my bandwidth comments for the end of the month in my traditional bandwidth post (although the numbers so far are encouraging).

I have already noticed that, as far as instant streaming is concerned, the selection is average. If you search the entire Netflix database and start paging through selections (which, unfortunately, you can't do until you subscribe), you can find yourself flipping through pages of items where only 1 or 2 at best (and often 0) are available for instant streaming. (My completely uneducated guess is about 4-5% are available for instant streaming.)

However, even if the selection is limited, there's still some interesting movies worth watching. And the nice thing is, they're available to watch at any time. I've found movies I had been curious about seeing for a while, but just haven't wanted to invest the time in renting from the video store.

There are also a few kids' videos. Again, not everything is available, but it's nice to have a couple Thomas the Tank Engine videos available on demand when the toddler needs some down-time.

There are still some disadvantages to the service. For instance, although having the aforementioned Thomas videos on demand are nice, they're only available when my internet connection is stable, and they're only available on the Xbox 360 in the family room, not, say, on the DVD player upstairs or in the minivan.

Also, Netflix Streaming does not support captions. We've been in the habit of having closed-captioning turned on and the TV not so loud. But when watching a movie on Netflix, we have to crank the volume higher than normal to make sure we don't miss anything.

Another down side, the Netflix Streaming movies include only the movie. There have been no (as far as I've seen) options for director's commentary tracks or any other bonus extras.

My kids have watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? twice so far, but the second time they tried to watch it, it quit very near the ending as our internet connection hiccupped and knocked the 360 temporarily offline. Every time we watch a movie, even if it's the same one over and over, it must be streamed across the internet anew, consuming bandwidth.

We watched National Treasure 2 over the weekend, and although we enjoyed it, it's probably something we would only watch the one time. The lack of bonus features was missed, but something we could live without. (In fact, when we rented National Treasure on DVD a while back, we almost felt obligated to watch all the extras before returning it; so being reduced to just the movie was almost a relief.)

In summary, I think Netflix Streaming is no replacement for actual DVDs. (In fact, replacing all physical media for all-digital downloads and/or streaming is, I think, a recipe for disaster for consumers; which is something I've ranted about on my gaming blog at length.) But for a quick, no-commitment, no-frills, impulse rental (not to mention for no additional cost once you have a subscription to the service), it does the job well.

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