Monday, August 22, 2011

My Netflix Game Plan

September is just around the corner, which means the new Netflix pricing structure that we were all wailing about last month is about to go into effect. After weighing my options, I've finally decided what I'm going to do: I'm going to get my money's worth as a Netflix subscriber by swapping between the various plans from month to month as follows:

First month: DVD rentals only, two disc plan, primarily for new releases and titles that are only available on DVD. The one disc plan would cost me $8/mo, and the two disc would cost $12/mo (not $11/mo, as I had in the previous post). With the one disc plan, I'd average eight DVDs a month, and with the two disc plan, I'd average sixteen, so the unit price goes down the higher the disc count. I've done three discs before, but you really need to have the free time to keep up with all the movies showing up in the mailbox, so I'm more comfortable with two discs.

Second month: Switch to the streaming plan for $8/mo, for streaming only titles (there are more than you think), older titles I that might not be on the top of my to-see list, and whatever else catches my eye. There are pretty good resources around for keeping track of which titles are on Netflix's streaming service, so I can coordinate my DVD and streaming viewing accordingly. I know to leave titles like "Hobo With a Shotgun" and "White Material" off my DVD queue because they're on Instant Watch right now. Conversely, I don't expect too many recent Sony and Warners titles to be streaming, so I'd better catch them on DVD.

Third month: Take a break from Netflix entirely. I'll raid my local library collection and see if they've gotten a new batch of old films. Or I'll switch over to Hulu Plus, which costs the same amount as the Netflix streaming plan, but has different content, including all those Criterion titles I haven't seen yet. Or I could use the free trial of another movie service or cash in a few of those free Blockbuster Express one-night rentals I've been accumulating.

Once the cycle is complete, I'll start over with the two-disc DVD rentals only again. The two month gap should be enough time for me to fill my queue with newer releases again that I actually feel are worth the money to seek out and rent. Right now, I'm in a waiting game with my DVD queue, with over half of my list full of titles with their future release dates next to them in red numbers, telling me I'll have to wait a few more days or weeks to see them. I know for sure there aren't another sixteen films on my queue that are going to be available in the next month, that I would have sought out to rent if they were available elsewhere for the same price point.

As for the streaming service, I'm better at finding the hidden gems than most, but I keep an eye on the new additions like everyone else. I've started and stopped my Netflix service multiple times now, so I know that mentally I get a greater sense of satisfaction after I've been away for a while and find a bigger chunk of new content upon my return. The downside, of course, is that streaming titles will expire, unlike the DVD catalog, but I've never seen any come and go in less than three months, unless it's a really drastic event like Sony pulling their Starz films.

Netflix may have phased out affordable combination options, but I think this way I can have the best of both worlds. If they insist on charging me separately for each service, that's fine. I'll just use one service at a time. Also, the math works out in my favor. Average the cost of one month on the two-disc DVD plan and one month on the streaming, and it works out to $10/mo. That's a dollar less than the combination plan most Netflix subscribers are using right now.

Don't get me wrong. I love Netflix and I'm very happy with it. As far as I'm concerned it's the best rental service out there. But we all need to make a dollar stretch a little father these days, and if Netflix is raising the price, then I need to scale back and rethink how I use its services. There are actually a lot more options here than there seem to be at first glance. My game plan takes more effort than most, but I think it'll work for me. I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes.

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