Saturday, February 11, 2006

Netflix Can, And Will, Throttle You

Back when I had much more free time on my hands, I used to be a Netflix subscriber. I was using their service for about a year until I realized I was only getting maybe 5 or 6 movies a month which wasn't really justifying paying the $20 a month it then cost for their service. I promptly quit when I made that realization and joined (I needed something to do on my then 90 minutes of commute time a day).

For a while, however, I was a very heavy user of Netflix. I mostly used it to rent movies I didn't get to see in the theater as well as watch tv shows on dvd that I had not had a chance to catch on tv. When I was doing this I could go through one dvd a day at times. Yes, I really had that much time to burn. And living in the middle of nowhere with rarely a social contact around (outside of my family) I had nothing better to do.

I'd sometimes thought about going to back to using their service considering that most of my free time comes in small blocks now, perfect for watching episodes of tv shows, but then I've been reading about Netflix's throttling scheme. Heavy users, which I could potentially end up being, had their accounts throttled down so that only so many dvds would be sent out every month, even when you would promptly return your already watched dvds.

It makes sense from the business side since postage has been rising and that is one cost for them which is non-negotiable. I know they don't want to raise their prices either because then it becomes less attractive for casual renters, like I was during my last subsrciption months. They could categorize their subscription types or bill after a monthly cycle, but I don't think either of those options are very viable solutions either.

This leaves Netflix in somewhat of a pickle if more than just a few customers get upset by the throttling techniques they employ. Right now I'm sure it's a pretty isolated thing for a user to be disgruntled about it, but if given enough traction online or in the news it may hurt the company, which would really be too bad because I like their service even if I might not use it right now.

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