Oh, Netflix. Things were so good between us, and now you've gone and messed things up.
Back in January, Netflix users had a good reason to be upset, as the Internet-based rental service struck a deal with Warner Bros and Redbox that would delay renting new studio releases by 28 days. While all of us who love their Instant Watch option rejoiced at the new offerings it would open up, you still had to admit it was a lousy move. Ostensibly designed to encourage more sales of Sherlock Holmes, all it did was encourage at least one class action lawsuit alleging that it's a restraint of trade.
But it gets better! According to Tech Dirt, Netflix has now struck identical deals with Fox and Universal. While they claim to be the winners -- since they will get access to Fox and Universal libraries for instant streaming, and Universal is giving them a discount on products -- it's a move that will prove very unpopular with customers. The only real winner is Blockbuster, who doesn't have to delay new releases, and will be the place people run to when they aren't going to wait 28 days to rent Avatar. Pirates will also benefit, as many might just go on to their favorite bit torrent and download the movie for free.
It's a lousy move. I love Instant Watch, but I don't think it's fair to expect customers to wait a month for any major studio release. (If your Netflix distribution is like mine, you'll end up waiting two or three months as a studio delay turns into a Very Long Wait!) As we've all pointed out numerous times, if someone likes the movie, they'll buy it. Few buy DVDs sight unseen, and I fail to see how it's really going to boost flagging DVD sales. It may even hurt them as people wait for Netflix to cough up a release. What it's going to do is jeopardize a very successful and innovative company, anger customers, and prop up the dying giant that is Blockbuster that much longer.
Will you consider canceling your Netflix subscription over these delays?