Friday, October 06, 2006

Netflix v. Blockbuster

Heading into the weekend I need something lighter to throw out there and this week I'm thinking movies. I avoid going to the video store--nothing about looking for a movie, finding what I wanted is gone, wondering if I could get away with bringing home an Audrey Hepburn movie instead, or standing in a line appeals to me.

Both Netflix and Blockbuster Online, have solutions to these irritations so I decided to live on the edge and give each a try. Though both companies offer DVDs delivered directly to your mailbox without extended viewing or late fees I found there were a couple differences in service between the two. Here are my findings, I'm putting Netflix first simply because they talked me into a trial first:

I tried Netflix's two-week free trial first and was impressed by their 65,000-title selection claim. There didn't seem to be any movie, television series or obscure classic they didn't have. Except Condorman. Did you ever see that Disney classic? The comic book writer-turned-spy? I loved that one . . . the boys would ask for the one movie they don't have.

The prices for membership offer six different plans: basic membership starts at $5.99/month which gets you one movie, twice a month on up to $23.99/month which gets you 4 movies at a time, unlimited number.

I opted for the two-at-a-time, unlimited rentals because we don't watch that many movies. However, for your free trial you may chose any of the membership options and can switch to a different plan at any time.

Browsing through different genres was easy enough, the site was easy to navigate. The recommendations they made were alright too, a little off but not too bad. I noticed, however, they didn't carry games. Not a problem for me, but for others it might.

I picked out a few movies for my queue--The Dirty Dozen and Ghandi--neither of which was carried at any of our local video stores--and sat back to see what would happen.

The next day our membership was up and running, the movies were shipped, and we received them the day after that. The only problem was that though I had those two particular movies as #1 and #2 on my queue list for some reason they had substituted The Superfriends (#3 on my queue) for The Dirty Dozen. I can only imagine that there was a delay with my first choice so in the interest of speed they hopped to #3 on the list.

Once finished I sent back my DVDs in the enclosed, pre-paid postage envelopes the day after they were mailed I received an email saying Netflix had received them and was sending out the next movie on our queue.

Slick and easy, I let it go two weeks then canceled to try out Blockbuster Online.


My first thrill about Blockbuster Online was that in addition to their online store, with their membership plans you get coupons for free in-store rentals. This sounded great because if you haven't planned two or three days in advance what you wanted to see it allowed for some spontaneity at no extra charge. The bigger plan you opt for, the more coupons you get.

Blockbuster claims "over 60,000 selections" and I found it to be as good as Netflix. Though they, too, didn't have Condorman. Curses. Their membership prices are the same as Netflix, though they have only four different plans, their lowest priced plan being a one-at-a-time, unlimited number for $9.99/month and their highest-priced plan being the three-at-a-time, unlimited rentals for $17.99.

The Blockbuster site was also easy to navigate, though I thought Netflix was a little better organized. Blockbuster did have an online game selection, though I'd never be able to tell if it was comprehensive or not. It looked large to me.

This time instead of filling up my queue I only chose four movies for my three-at-a-time unlimited rentals plan: Return to Witch Mountain, The Greatest Game Every Played, The Sentinel and Strawberry Shortcake the Movie.

Just as with Netflix, for some reason though my queue listed my three top movies as "available" (as opposed to "short wait") they hopped my #3 choice and gave me #4. This was annoying as I getting movies for several age groups it's no good to lose Superman in favor of Barney the same night that Blue's Clues Greatest Hits shows up.

But besides this issue common to both companies, when Return to Witch Mountain arrived it was cracked. Both companies have online provisions for this, you just log on to your account, report the DVD as damaged and then they give you the choice of having a new copy of the movie sent to you or going to the next in your queue. I opted to have a replacement sent but not only did it never arrive, I could never find any indication in my account that they even processed the request for a new movie. I returned the damaged copy and that was the last I ever heard, it was as if the movie had disappeared.

Finally, my biggest problem was Blockbuster Online's travel time. The website said it would be 1-3 days, it took 5 (a weekend included in there) to reach me up here in Alaska, leading me to ask:

If Netflix can make it in 1 day, what's the matter with Blockbuster?

I think it had something to do with in-town warehouses, Netflix was obviously shipping to us from here in Anchorage--their website claims 90% of their customers are serviced by warehouses that allow receipt within 1 business day. But I had assumed Blockbuster, being national with franchises all over Anchorage, would do the same. Four days is the time it takes to get mail from out of state, so they must be shipping from somewhere in Seattle. Check the Blockbuster Online site to see what your own individual estimate of delivery is.

I waited to cancel my free trial until I had received that week's free in-store rental coupon--they are listed in your account online to print off on a weekly basis as each account allows. But beware, one problem with the coupons is they're only good for one week. The one I printed off on 10/2 is only good until 10/8 so use 'em quick.

I'm planning on signing up for Netflix permanently (only one trial per household) on their two-at-a-time/twice a month plan and at the top of my queue is The Lakehouse--fabulous movie.

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Erin said...

I can't wait to see the Lakehouse. I love Keanu Reeves. I did actually see Condorman in the theater, way back when and Escape to Witch Mountain was one of my all time favorite movies when I was a kid! I should sign up for netflix and let you manage my queue! Actually, we were netflix subscribers for several years, but dropped it once we realized that we would pay monthly for the same three movies that sat, unwatched, on the TV month after month. Now we schlep ourselves to the movie store (an independent near our house. They might have condorman. I will check.) whenever we want a film and contend with late fees pretty regularly. I don't know which is a better option for us.

Anonymous said...

We used Netflix for a while but then couldn't keep up with all the oncoming was like a new movie was coming all the time...I just could't watch them all. They wound up sitting on my coffe table and I just returned them all and cancelled our subscription!

Jenny said...

Audrey Hepburn...sigh. Love her.

What if you get "Always". Audrey Hepburn AND plane crashes.

Everyone's happy.

allysha said...

I LOVE Condorman. We watched it all the time in my family when we were kids. It's so goofy! So, I hope you can find it for your kids, even if Netflix doesn't have it.

Stephanie A. said...

I always forget that I want to see The Lakehouse, but I forget when I'm at the video store. So thanks for the reminder!

Thanks for stopping my my blog, too!

Poopydigs said...

Loved lakehouse. DH didn't--go figure.

Netflix was OK, until they started that whole fiasco where you don't get your "hot" items and they keep sending you the boring stuff at the bottom of your queue.

thanks for stopping by my blog!

J Fife said...

As a major procrastinator and disorganized mess, I love Netflix. It means the end of late fees for me!

Anjali said...

Netflix has been godsend for us. We are on the cheapest plan, and get movies in two days tops.

Anonymous said...

I love Netflix. We've had it for almost two years now and have watched all of their classic Dr. Who's. It's great for getting things from the BBC that our local stores did not have.

Thanks for the comments of my blog.

Much love,

Loralee Choate said...

Bravo for having a review on these two sites. I was wondering about signing on to either, but wasn't sure (They actually have a similar service offered with DESIGNER PURSES. that way, you can "Rent" a purse you could never afford. DROOL.)


Condor man rocked my world as a kid. I loved it. I believe the guy in it was Michael Crawford (Who ended up being THE Phantom of the Opera).

I also loved the TV show "The Greatest American Hero"

Julie said...

We did the Netflix thing for a year and I was impressed with their Documentary collection. My kids loved The Life of Birds series. We did have the cracked/scratched disk thing happen several times and finally got fed up with that and cancelled.

The next time we rented from the Blockbuster down the street, guess what? Yup. The disk was scratched and wouldn't play. But at least it only took a short drive to get a replacement.

M&Co. said...

Yeah for NetFlicks! I signed up with NetFlicks when it first came out and haven't ever tried the Blockbuster one but have been happy with NetFlicks. They have a distribution center where I live so most of my movies come locally or from Dallas. I can usually return a movie on Monday and have a new one by Wednesday. I've not had a problem with them substituting movies. I try to keep on hand one movie for the grown ups, one for the 12 year old and another for the four year old. And when I return one of those groups, I move that persons movie to the top, so it'll be the first on our list. I wish they had some kind of feature that would allow that to happen automatically, but I've managed to juggle it o.k. I even liked NetFlicks so much that I bought some of their stock for my retirement account when someone recommended it and it's done very well!

andi said...

I have heard so many fabulous things about Netflix, it makes me weep that they don't yet exist in Canada. After racking up ridiculously large late fees at the rental stores, I signed up with a second-rate online-rental service here. My only complaint is, like Erin, sometimes I'm not in the mood for a movie they send me and it ends up sitting unwatched for weeks. Then I break down and go the the video store anyway. I might discontinue my subscription, now that 2 major rental chains have stopped issuing late fees.

Occidental Girl said...

I love how you tried both of these and recorded your results like a science experiment. So orderly!

I use Netflix. I love Netflix. I don't have to drag my child to a store, only to deal with traffic and out of stock movies and a long walk around while I try to remember old movies I want to see. The database is awesome! Looking up movies by director, or title, then planning what you want to arrive when.

I've never had a situation like you describe where they've hopped my selection which was "available". Hopefully that will stop for you.

alisonmc said...

Here in NZ we have a few online video stores to choose from and when I joined it seriously CHANGED MY LIFE. Since I moved to a small town I've really missed having a selection of more obscure movies to choose from and an online membership is the way to go! I've been having some issues with the website lately but they've been really helpful.

Online movie rentals ROCK!

girlymama said...

we love netflix! we've had it for 5 years now and just love it. it has all those boring, i mean educational documentaries my husband likes.

we have the three movie/month plan and we now have TWO QUEUES so he can get his guy movies and i can get all the chickflix i want. (like lakehouse. Sigh)

we tried blockbuster - lured by the free rental from the store - and EVERY SINGLE DVD we were sent that month was scratched. and two were completely unwatchable. grrrrrrrrrrrrr. now we're netflix all the way!

Jennifer said...

Although, it appears that everyone reading your blog prefers Netflix, I myself am a blockbuster user. We haven't had any problems with it, and as the price is similar, we haven't bothered to change to Netflix. I mainly wanted to correct something in your review.

THe blockbuster coupons are good for a month. Mine always arrive in my email on the 10th of every month, and don't expire till the following 9th. This ends up being huge, since we rent video cames with them. As the run about $7 a peice and we get two coupons a month, that saves about $14 extra dollars a month.

Basically, for the price of renting two video games, we end up getting two video games and 12 movies a month. Good deal if you ask me.

scribbit said...

Maybe there's some difference in the plans we signed for but my e-coupons were only good for a week. I never tried using them for a video cam rental though--to me the coupons are great if the travel time doesn't bother you. Your travel time might be better than the trip up to Anchorage too. Thanks for the comment.

Kristine said...

We've tried both and prefer
Netflix! Good blog topic. Can I steal it? He he.

Kim said...

We were all about netflix, but I think I am going to give vongo a try. We have had the same netflix movies for over a month, because I never find the time to watch them!

Amy said...

Your experience with Blockbuster sounds exactly like mine! We got our first movie and returned it the same day. I waited seven days and it never appeared that it got returned. I finally reported it returned and the next movie came five days later. My free trial membership was wasted on one measley movie!

I had always liked Netflix, but we were looking for a movie club that did games too. Blockbuster did games, but they have a separate game club or you have to have the most expensive plan to get the coupons for games (this I found out after I joined).

We decided to go with GamezNFlix. I have been a little happier with it, but we have received three cracked movies and have only been with the company a month. Who does one blame? The UPS, my mail guy, or the company?

I am beginning to think it is NOT worth it ;)

Anonymous said...

"Finally, my biggest problem was Blockbuster Online's travel time. The website said it would be 1-3 days, it took 5 (a weekend included in there) to reach me up here in Alaska"

Sounds just like my experience with blockbuster way back when I first signed up with them two years ago. (Signed up with Netflix too at the same time). The would promise me 1-3 days days shipping when in reality it would take 5-6 days. Sometimes even longer than that. And I live in New York (Long Island)! I can occasionally understand Alaska getting 5 days shipping, but New York? And it wasnt unusual for my DVDs to go missing while in transit. Whereas my Netflix DVDs never went missing.

Anonymous said...


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