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It’s Not TV. It’s Not HBO. It’s Streaming. But Is It Worth It?

Netflix's streaming service is growing, but not fast enough to please Wall Street. Are original series what it's going to take to get you to sign up?

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Netflix announced yesterday that a lot of people are using its streaming service. But not enough for Wall Street; the company’s stock dropped on the announcement of the number and of its earnings. According to a New York Times report, the video service had earlier expected 28 million subscribers by the end of the year.

The news got me wondering: if you’re one of those 25 million, why do you have Netflix and what do you use it for? If you’re not, what would get you to sign up?

We may not have entered the era of widespread cable-cutting yet, but there are more and more options for watching TV outside normal network distributors, each with its advantages and drawbacks. Netflix, Hulu Plus et al. in theory offer a kind of TV nirvana—an endless library of show and movies to watch anywhere, anytime. In practice, the library is not yet endless, as anyone who’s tried to stream many movies and TV seasons can attest, while in other cases “anywhere, anytime” isn’t quite the case: network agreements keep many shows off mobile devices and set-top boxes.

So what makes a streaming-video subscription worth it? Netflix is betting that, like its sort-of-competitor HBO, the key could be original programming. Next year, it launches the original drama House of Cards, with Kevin Spacey, and the revived Arrested Development. (For the sake of completism, I also have to mention this year’s Lillyhammer.) HBO found that having Sex and the City and The Sopranos would keep people re-upping consistently, even if they weren’t using it for movies. Hulu has been expanding into programming also, but on a smaller scale, largely importing shows like the current run of The Thick of It.

Will that do the trick for you? I’m probably not the best example to judge by: I have both Netflix and Hulu, but I’m paid to watch TV, so there’s a low bar for me. Currently, Tuned In Jr. Jr. is using our Netflix streaming to work his way through every season of Malcolm in the Middle, for instance. For me, it’s one of many (maybe too many) services I use for research on old programming and to catch up on shows I missed first time around. But would a couple series make me buy the service if I didn’t watch TV for a living? Maybe—but if this is the TV way of the future, I’m not sure how many such services I would buy to get a series here and a series there.

So you tell me: what makes a service like Netflix worth it to you—or what would it need to offer to be worth it to you?

69 comments
Kn002
Kn002

I love HBO shows, and if HBO didn't require a cable subscription or tv service (we have three smart tvs, three laptops, and several mobile devices and stream everything we watch), and had on-demand access to shows, I would definitely consider getting HBO.  However, it's not worth it to us to have to subscribe to cable just in order to get HBO.  It's a lot cheaper to rent Game of Thrones on dvd or borrow the bluray of Sex and the City from friends.  Sure, you have to wait a year for shows to come out on DVD... That's why we have Netflix!  Between Netflix and Amazon Prime, we have more than enough content to keep us busy until the next HBO show comes out on disc.

JujuThomas
JujuThomas

I am a subscriber of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon prime because having all three together is cheaper than my monthly cable bill. I love movies and TV shows as do the rest of my family member, and in my house if it isn’t offered on one of these sites then you just need to adjust and move on. Will I miss my HBO and STARZ shows? Yes I will, but I am tired of paying roughly a $200mo cable bill. HBO & STARZ are not worth that to me. The only reason I have them is to view the shows. Other than that they play the same thing OOOOOver and oOOOOOOver and oOOOOOOOOOOOOOver again. If I don’t love a movie there is only so many times I can watch it. Plus they never play anything I even want to watch.

adaptivesalvations
adaptivesalvations

I just closed my netflix account and cable TV . Now I only buy the shows that interest me . Streaming or renting movies/TV is a ripoff . Reality is buying a bluray movie or TV show would be the better investment 

papabear
papabear

Information for all.Netflix = No Commercials and great price.Thank you netflix for great programing for $8. a month& no brain washing commercials over and overand over and ................I wish netflix all the success in the universe.I can't believe so many people are still not only over payingfor entertainment, but paying to watch their commercials too!Don't they get paid to air these commercials?YES THEY DO.Then they charge you to watch them...lol.Anyone who says they love to pay high prices for entertainment,and then pay them more to watch loads of commercialsover and over again, either work for the others,or are 5 bottles short of a six pack.For those of you that love commercialsyou can watch loads of free commercials with a $5.00 antenna.

moment_um
moment_um

Another secret to Netflix is the more quality of the movies you like  U watch , the more leads U find to other movies -I just   watched a top level one & it revealed leads to me to watch so many other top quality movies of the same calibre I wouldn't have found any other way that I've found so far  there.I'm forever spoiled by the no commercials- worth repeating & I do not miss cable at all & the bills from it!Thank you Netflix streaming!

Donald Naylor Johnson
Donald Naylor Johnson

I think we cancelled. I don't remember. I know we don't get any DVDs in the mail anymore, and I don't sign on to their website anymore .... I hope we cancelled. I could use the 8 bucks a month for other drugs.

commandercool
commandercool

I think a huge breakthrough for Netflix would be if they could get streaming for episodes of seasons currently airing like Hulu, ESPECIALLY if it was ad-free like the rest of their stuff. Of course, HBO shows and expanded selection would be nice, too, but for $100 per year, it's worth it about 5 times through as is. I do all of my watching on netflix or with my cheap digital antenna.

Don
Don

Netflix is a gateway to allow access to content, not a content creator.  They should do more to make more great films and shows accessible via streaming, not get into making their own shows.  Self-branded, likely low quality, content isn't going to build upon their position as market leader--it's only going to make me question why I still can't stream Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Lucelucy
Lucelucy

I have both Netflix and cable, and on Netflix I have both streaming and movies.  My daughter and her partner pay for the streaming - they sit in the livingroom packing boxes and boxes of Sweet Caroline's Jams and Jellies wedding favors for shipment to brides hither and yon and just finished with the entire series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - the partner had never seen it and even I popped in from time to time for a return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when we watched the Buffy finale with a box of Krispy Kremes and a bottle of champagne.  They get it on the big(ish) screen through X-Box.  (X-Box, Pause!)

I'm in it for the movies (watch plenty of TV on cable, although it's nice to know Netflix is there when the time comes to ditch it).  I've worked out a system for getting 2 movies a week.  Last night it was "Victory", a 1996 attempt at Joseph Conrad's novel, with Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, and Rufus Sewell.  You can do your own retrospectives - I've done 1930's Clark Gable, for instance.  Everything with Venice as a background.  I'm watching all the Best Movies from 1929 onward - next up "Mutiny on the Bounty" from 1935.  Same thing for Best Foreign Films - last one was "Rashomon."  "The Artist" (current release) is coming soon, and a documentary on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Too many more in the list to mention. 

I was taken a bit aback by the outcry over the raise in price.  But for my previous fiver, I could only get two movies a month.  Now, if I time it right, for 8 bucks I can get 2 a week.  And the (30-something) kiddies can get all the streaming their little hearts desire (they pay that part of it).

Live long and prosper, Netflix.  I'm too damn old to keep changing up to the newest thing every three weeks.

Basnig
Basnig

YES! NETFLIX STREAMING IS WORTH IT! MORE THAN WORTH IT - Maybe those who don't think so are still in the previous era. I stream thru my iPad and I stream NetFlix at home and everywhere I travel. For $7.99 -- c'mon now! That's the price of a Denny's meal! Not even! I can watch unlimited movies and TV programs. I agree with moment_um -- I cancelled my cable and it's been working well for me for a year now! So now I save at least $20/month on cable fees, that's $240/year. KEEP UP THE FIGHT NETFLIX! YOU ARE DOING THE PUBLIC WELL! Now that I think about it, we should probably all buy NetFlix stocks.

moment_um
moment_um

I LOVE Netflix-Yes it's worth it to me! I cancelled my cable & have Netflix streaming and haven't looked back .I recommend it ,because I want Netflix to do well,as it's done well by me-To me it's a blessing-not to sound too smarmy. I recommend cancelling cable & changing to Netflix streaming if U R spending way too much for tv/cable etc. I just saw  on twitter 'Who needs anything else but Netflix and a refrigerator full of food!?!' and I laughed & laughed-'cause that's my feelings exactly & also my life!-Sure keeps me out of trouble!-I was just reading another comment about how people steal services from Netflix by sharing passwords-THAT upset me,IT IS THEFT OF SERVICES! & it affects me, because my price will go up or they'll quit having this service,They sure didn't have it a few years back!that I know of anyway-I spent a fortune on DVD's then.-Keep it up stupid people and we'll have to pay way more-This is the second news article I've seen in 2 days about Netflix and I'm a little concerned(starting to get to 'more than a little concerned!'.Now I'm pissed about people f**king with my Netflix!!!it means that much to me!

danastabenow
danastabenow

Don't have an antenna (only PBS available via broadcast here), don't have cable (five miles out of town), won't pay for a satellite dish, so I livestream off Netflix. I can watch on my TV through my Roku, on my laptop, or on my iPhone, all for $8.27 a month unlimited. If I watch a movie a week or one season of a television show a month it's a steal, and I don't have to so much as get up off my own couch. Netflix 4Evah.

shubooksandtax
shubooksandtax

@TIME Havent had cable in abt 6 months. Wish Netflix and Hulu could be more recent with new shows but it works for my needs.

Sawyer49
Sawyer49

The problem for netflix is it allows each member to use the service from a max of 5 different devices. (say you have a home tv, laptop, cell phone, ipad, and whatever else) People then share their user name and password with close friends, significant others, etc. Me, my girlfriend and my dad all use the same account case in point.

needmorecats
needmorecats

@TIME Cable isn't worth it anymore. Hulu and Netflix have everything we need! Saving $70 a month!

KXB60067
KXB60067

My Netflix account includes streaming and 1-DVD at a time, which is less than $16 per month.  That is the cost of two tickets for just one movie.  It is $192 for the year compared to $540 for cable TV in this area.  I can stream video to my TV, computer, and smartphone.  If something is not available on streaming, it is available on DVD.  Why pay for HBO when I can rent the DVDs for In Treatment and Boardwalk Empire through Netflix?  All AMC shows are available for streaming, and I am working my way through The Walking Dead, Season 2.  Mail is good - I mail out a DVD on Monday, I usually have the next DVD by Wednesday. 

Cable TV may have made sense, until all the commercials ruined it.  We have a game in our house, where we channel surf, and see how many clicks we need to get through before we actually get through original programing.  Paying for USA network to watch NCIS reruns does not count.

WilsonCloud
WilsonCloud

@TIME No, lame "original programming" will convince me to cancel my Netflix account. Ppl want 1st rate movies, etc. $NFLX

NickOldsportg
NickOldsportg

@TIME. : maybe, depends on what the programming is

hderby.nardone
hderby.nardone

We have no cable and use Netflix and hulu to stream TV.  We like Netflix especially because we have small children and they have a large variety of children's programming all shown with no commercials.  We also use it to watch shows we may have missed in the past and are available for us and of course for movies.  We like hulu to keep up with our regular network shows that my husband and I like to watch although hulu shows some commercials they are less than cable does and less directed at children.  I like both of them for the huge selection of shows and movies from other countries that I may not otherwise have ever known about and have turned out to be some of my favorites.  All in all we are glad we made the switch.  We pay less money and everyone is happy (and we dont get bugged about what the kids want that they just saw in some commercial).

Chris_Kw.
Chris_Kw.

I was born in 1987. So I recently had the pleasure of watching Cheers for the first time.  I don't watch every episode but it's nice to just have it there when I feel like nothing is on.  I do the same with Frasier.  I've caught up on other past shows like Angel and on current shows like Parks and Rec. Documentaries--A lot of American Experience and Frontline.  Then there is the occasional movie (some foreign movies that I wouldn't normally watch).  I think for $8/month it's a good deal.  I basically stopped buying Blu Rays and DVDs so 96$/year isn't bad.

mnovaksan
mnovaksan

We watch it for the Mandarin television and films. That's about it. Got it free for a month. Will terminate at the end of that time.

splash
splash

8 bucks a month is not even a price of a move tkt. Recently I saw Thor and Captain America there. Also they have numerous TV shows that I can watch any time, and not have to schedule around to watch on cable. Great bargain

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Let's see.  Let's compare the two:

Option 1:  Basic cable: 50 bucks (and rising) - 600/year  Does not include mark-ups and fees.

Includes: Obscure Stations (Commercial) I am not (Commercial) interested  (Commercial) in.  (Commercial) Not being able to (commercial) watch a (commercial) show on (Commercial) my (Commercial) schedule. (Political ad, political ad, political ad, political ad, political ad, political ad) Along with (Commercial, political ad, ad for a drug for a disease no one ever heard of with side effects no one ever wants) some distracting (commercial, political ad, drug ad) commercials.

Option 2: Netflix 8 bucks/month, 96 dollars/year

Includes: A limited choice of new movies with a large assortment of older films., movies and documentaries.  A large variety of televisions shows including full runs of many of the most popular in their time.  A viewing experience that is relatively simple and can be paused, restarted, fast-forwarded and dealt with without the expense of a DVR.  The selection could be better, but there is one thing Netflix DOESN'T have that makes it a no-brainer when it comes to viewing pleasure: Commercials.  Netflix has none.  For the price, value and service, if not always the content, it's well worth the "investment".

alirecm
alirecm

We have Netflix, Amazon Prime (mostly for the shipping but get the video as a by product), Hulu and PlayOn on our Roku devices.  No cable.   This combination for the low prices covers almost anything we want to watch.   PlayOn lets you watch Hulu shows that are only available on the Web on your TV and gives us CBS shows plus much more as well.  Compared to cable cost it is the best choice.

NoFatChicks
NoFatChicks

i have Netflix (streaming only) hooked up to the Wii in my bedroom to watch before bed.  Use it mostly to watch TV show re-runs, I love the documentaries they have, and there are a lot of random titles I watch if I feel like watching something new.  Oh...and NO COMMERCIALS (lookin at you hulu, and on-demand cable)

rolandrankinjr
rolandrankinjr

I have both Netflix and Amazon prime, I've had Netflix membership since it originally came out. It used to be without a doubt best deal around. but when the lost Stars and lots of other content (around the same time as the Mail and streaming split fiasco) It sorta lost it's punch. This is when amazon, blockbuster, redbox all started negotiating exclusive streaming contracts with the content providers. I've noticed over the last couple months Netflix has started get some content back. things that were in our instant watch queue years ago, suddenly popped back in as they became available again.  

Amazon Prime for us is a no brainer, we order enough from them that the free shipping alone is worth the cost of membership. However if you were only paying it for the free for prime steaming, It could be a tough sell because almost everything prime free to watch offers is also available on Netflix. I do agree with most the others the Amazon Interface really sucks on anything except a desktop computer. For example Fast forwarding past the opening credits is simple and easy on Netflix, doing it on Amazon your more likely to spend more time trying to get back somewhere close to where you started than if you had just watched it straight through.

Simon Peake
Simon Peake

They USED to have good movies. Now they are mostly cheesy B movies nobody would want to watch, with maybe 3-4 good movies mixed in there. Its good for TV series... that's about it. Crackle is free and offers better movies, so Netflix is quickly becoming obsolete.

SStand-UpJones
SStand-UpJones

$8 is definitely worth it. I like the ability to catch up a whole season if I've missed a show when it originally aired. I also love NO commercials. I won't pay for Hulu because of the commercials, but I do use it to watch a few shows. Amazon Prime is absolutely a nightmare to navigate on devices. As GeorgiePatton said, renting is not a good alternative...

GeorgiePatton
GeorgiePatton

Are you kidding me?!  Is $8 a month worth it?  YES!  It's seriously worth triple!

I have had Amazon Prime but its terrible to navigate and they push you to RENT what you really want to watch.  Hulu Plus is good, but $8 monthly plus commercials but its worth it.

People who complained about the price increase are babies, this service will change the world and the cable companies are terrified

MatthewScot
MatthewScot

@TIME things i want to watch with limited or no breaks.

oliviamungal
oliviamungal

@time I was a @Netflix customer since 2006 until they raised prices and cut movie selection last fall. The quality keeps dropping...

WOMDisme
WOMDisme

@TIME i can watch whole season of s shows without commercials..

pointycollars
pointycollars

Netflix is perfect for me because I just don't spend a lot of time watching TV. The vast library of shows means there's always something good to watch when I'm in the mood, and if I absolutely have to see the newest episode of a show that's on a cable channel (like Mad Men and Breaking Bad), I meet up with friends who also don't have cable to watch the show at a local bar that does. To me, Cable TV is just not worth the money.

KristineAz
KristineAz

Oh, also, Amazon Prime has great shows like Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, etc for free.  I've caught up on lots of things. Obviously I'm a big supporter of Amazon Prime.  Down with Netflix! 

Bryanmccandless
Bryanmccandless

@TIME a massive selection of decent titles all at the touch of a button #betterthanlovefilm

KristineAz
KristineAz

I find netflix pointless. Movies are out of date & the ability to see TV shows thru various other venues makes the cost of Netflix not worth it. I do pay for Amazon Prime though.  But even Amazon has more recent movies for rent than Netflix, and the free movies and TV series' (and the free two-day shipping!) make Amazon Prime a much better investment.  I watch a lot of shows streaming on the net.  Network sites and various other free sites.  Netflix is just not worth it.  To make it worth it?  They'd need far newer movies to watch.

sfBirdie
sfBirdie

Netflix is convenient, without commercials, and it has all the Arrested Development I want. I also like that I can use it on my iPad while we're traveling. It works quite well even just on 3G. 

We still have Hulu Plus but prefer to watch things on Netflix. 

PsychichealerC
PsychichealerC

@TIME better movies already so many are on dvd but they are not on Netfilx

sexyethics
sexyethics

@TIME Right now- Netflix offers convenience. Large selection of recent, but off-air shows to catch up on. Would like to see expansion.

commandercool
commandercool

@adaptivesalvations I don't watch most shows or movies more than once. A season of TV usually goes for at least $15-20. Movies $10+ unless you go for the bargain bin or you rent them online. Either way, it's the cost of a month or two of Netflix. Unless you're watching very slowly or watching stuff multiple times, that seems pretty clearly worse value.

Kn002
Kn002

@Don  Actually, we really like Orange is the New Black.  House of Cards has surprisingly good writing, but we don't watch it because all of the characters are evil or dumb.  There's nobody to really root for.

moment_um
moment_um

P.S.Reading more comments-meant to mention I use Hulu too,but getting very spoiled w/no commercials on Netflix.I have to say IT IS the best bargain around & I'm saving plenty from cancelling  cable.I keep finding new movies to watch all the time..I missed out on years & years of good tv shows when I used to work & had kids at home & now I get to see all the shows & even some I didn't know existed.It's such a pleasure to find a good show U like that has a load of seasons. Pure Pleasure!Thank You Netflix-I LOVE YOU!!!

hderby.nardone
hderby.nardone

Also I would like to note that we chose these 2 services because they are widely available on many platforms (we have a roku in one room and use a blu ray in another but we can also use our xbox, ps3, computers and phones if we choose to), easy to navigate and having both costs under $20 a month.

KXB60067
KXB60067

@Chris_Kw. Netflix has turned TV and movies into books.  Just as you can check out classic books at the library, so Netflix allows you to check out classic entertainment.   You're going to love Cheers.

Basnig
Basnig

@mnovaksan So what do you watch then? If you're not a movie watcher and you don't watch TV programs other than news, then maybe so -- but it's not a comment against NetFlix -- it's a comment on your preference.

hderby.nardone
hderby.nardone

@Fatesrider I like that we can watch our shows whenever we choose.  When we had cable the DVR upgrade cost us more than our Hulu or Netflix accounts, just to get that same luxury cost us $120 a year.

twocee
twocee

So does Netflix.  I agree with you on the movies, but from what I've seen browsing Prime's catalog, Netflix has the same if not more TV series and shows in their streaming service as Prime does in their "free to Prime" catalog.  The biggest difference I've seen is that you can pay an additional fee to download certain current TV series (Who's very latest season for instance).  That's what's holding me back from paying for Prime -- I'd still have to pay an ala carte fee for alot of the shows I can't get via Netflix.