I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for several years. I started using the service back when they only offered a plan for DVD Rentals and my experience has evolved along with them. I remember when they brought blu-rays into the picture; I remember when they started to charge $1 more for blu-ray rentals than for the regular DVD rentals; I also remember when they started experimenting with streaming, a video service that many Americans now use more frequently than cable television. In the beginning, it was a service that was only designed to be used via PCs, which greatly limited its scope. However, with the inclusion of platforms like the Xbox 360, PS3 and Roku Box, streaming suddenly went from being a fun little distraction to a legitimate home media option. Unfortunately, while their Instant Streaming has enjoyed a larger subscriber base as the years went on, these subscribers began demanding newer, better content. In fact, some of their demands have been downright insane, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding how a streaming video service works in the first place.
Let me break it down for you newbies: You don’t know how lucky you are to have what you do. When the streaming service was just starting out, they offered some content in HD, but most of it was in standard definition. There is now much more HD content than anything I could have imagined at the foundation of Netflix Instant Streaming. Even back then, there were thousands of movies and TV shows to watch via streaming, but back then it was free. Why was it free? Because they needed to prove that there was a demand for the service before charging for it. They aren’t evil for charging a nominal fee of $8 a month for a service like this. I would have happily paid that much back then, as I was discovering new films and television shows I had never seen before and falling in love with them.
Roughly a year or two into the creation of the streaming service, Netflix partnered with Microsoft, allowing them to put Instant Watch on the Xbox 360. Along with this deal came a switch over to a new program that would be used for the service on PCs – Microsoft Silverlight. This program has since become a lot less troublesome, but when Netflix subscribers were originally asked to make the switch from the old program to the new, many of them experienced perhaps the greatest sin against streaming kind. Suddenly, even HD videos were forced to play at a resolution of roughly 320×240. There was no way to go into Silverlight and adjust the settings, so we literally had to wait months for them to fix the problem. Meanwhile, the only way to get proper HD content from the service was to use the Xbox 360. At the time, the service was still free, so it was hard for people to complain too much. There were rumblings, but nothing on the order of what we’ve seen in the recent past. From the very beginning, we noticed that not all content was perpetual – that some of it was only offered for a limited time. Being that it was a free service and there was always a lot of new content being provided, nobody really had much to say about certain content being removed from time to time. Imagine my surprise as a long time subscriber when just a few months ago the so-called “Streampocalypse” took place.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t surprised that a lot of content was being pulled off of the service – I was surprised that other people were so shocked and appalled that they made it out to be some huge issue. I guess all the problems I struggled with from the foundation of Netflix Instant Streaming were just peanuts in comparison to losing a few James Bond titles. Suddenly, quite a few Netflix subscribers were pissed off about the loss of some mostly inconsequential titles from the service, some even going so far as to say that they felt they had been ripped off. Even after losing 1800 titles, the streaming service still had enough content to keep them entertained for the rest of their lives, but these subscribers didn’t care about that. All they cared about was that a lot of content was being removed, an action that was old news to anyone who had been using the service from the very beginning.
You see, the way this all works is that Netflix pays the studios for the rights to stream their content for a limited time. These contracts are probably kind of like the contract that a Baseball player signs with a team – sometimes they are long term, sometimes they are short term, sometimes the team gets a good deal and sometimes the player gets a good deal. Heck, there are even inclusions in the contracts that allow for Netflix to get exclusive deals, or a “no trade clause” if we’re still talking sports metaphors. However, the bottom line with all of these contracts is that they do not last forever. Sometimes they run up, and sometimes when they run up, Netflix decides to just drop the content instead of paying more for it. If the content isn’t getting viewed on a regular basis, chances are they aren’t going to keep it on. The “Streampocalypse” was probably a case of exactly that, as was their decision to drop the Starz Play content. Complain all you want, but regular occurrences like this are actually in the best interest of the service. Keeping things fresh and even giving you the opportunity to discover more interesting stuff that you might not have bothered with otherwise.
To be honest, that is what Netflix Instant Streaming has always been about for me. It was never about getting a bunch of content that I wanted for free and having some unrealistic faith that it would always be there for me, it was about discovering new content that I hadn’t seen before and couldn’t find anywhere else. I discovered films like Luc Besson’s Angel-A, Shane Carruth’s $7,000 masterpiece Primer, Rian Johnson’s Brick and Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird. These are all films I have since purchased on DVD and Blu-ray because I loved them so much. Some of them are still available to watch on Netflix, but others have since been removed. That’s just the way Instant Streaming goes. You can’t just blindly expect their content to be available forever, because there isn’t a studio out there that would sign a contract like that. My message to the “Streampocalypse” people is simple: Stop complaining about what you no longer have and start discovering what you still do have.
I couldn’t be happier with the moves that Netflix has made in the past year or so. Not only have they done away with tired old content that wasn’t worth keeping on, but they’ve kept things fresh with a bevvy of new and completely original content. With shows like House of Cards, Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black, Netflix Instant Streaming is giving the cable companies a run for their money. They’re also inspiring other companies to give new and original content a shot, as we recently saw Amazon offer a lot of free pilots, giving the viewer the ability to vote on which ones made the cut. Some of these pilots included Zombieland and Alpha Dogs, the latter starring Bill Murray and John Goodman. Reviewers and Viewers alike are enjoying all of the new content, too, as the latest hit Orange is the New Black has received a more successful debut than Arrested Development and House of Cards has received several award nominations.
You don’t have to like everything that they choose to do, but one thing is perfectly clear about the decisions that Netflix has made with their Instant Streaming Service: They know what they are doing. Not only are they making it easier for you to discover new content, they are also aiding in the creation of new content. Netflix Instant Streaming has come a long way, baby. I think it’s high time everyone stopped complaining about the insignificant changes they’ve made and started enjoying all of the great things they are doing for the entertainment industry as a whole. I’ve seen the potential of this streaming service from the very beginning, but I never thought it would entirely change the way we look at television and home entertainment.
I couldn’t be happier with the evolution of streaming, as it has gone from being a niche service to one of the most widely used options for home media in the United States. Netflix set out to prove that there was an audience for on demand content and they did just that. In the meanwhile, they created a streaming service that makes it easier than ever for people to discover new and interesting content that they might not have otherwise known about. If you ever fell in love with something you found on Netflix Instant Streaming, it’s time to stop complaining about what you don’t get and start appreciating what you do. What’s your favorite thing to watch on Netflix? Let us know in the comments below.