Netflix Instant – Death Dealer to the Personal Video Library?

They say that video killed the radio star, and frankly if it wasn’t true they wouldn’t have written a song about it right? Well friends, as per the news from last week, I guess in a few years time we might hear a tune touting how Netflix killed the video store…and I’m guessing a slew of film fans’ personal video libraries while they were at it. And while I’m not entirely sad to see Netflix take down Blockbuster I am a little mournful about the haymaker they’ve dealt to the mom-and-pop shops and even my own personal library. Headlines aside, it’s that last bit has actually been the inspiration for today’s’ editorial so lets get started shall we?

If you don’t already know this by now I am, through and through, a product of the 80’s. Having been raised on classics like Top GunBack to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, VolunteersDie HardBig Trouble In Little China etc. these movies have become ingrained in my mind that even any day of the week something will prompt an uncontrollable quote from the film or a reference that will just make me laugh…and at the same time cause confusion to all those around me. Regardless of the era you were born into there are undoubtedly films you love,  and would probably go out of your way to own and be proud to have them in your library.

Personally I have purchased the latest edition of the films I love in whatever video format has come down the pike and I, like other film fans, have been so proud to have titles like these sitting on my shelf. They have offered me nothing short of hundreds of hours of enjoyment and are at my disposal whenever I so chose to revisit them. And for a time is was good. But then, like an orphaned infant laid at the steps of a church, this little animal called Netflix showed up. Like a new toy Netflix became the pride of the household; tons of movies I’ve never seen before at my disposal delivered right to my door with an unparalleled and very enticing pricing structure. It was too good not to be part of it.

Sure they were no different from Blockbuster in the titles offered but along the way this little service (likened to a Furble if you will) won me and countless millions over in no time flat. Then like the meek David fighting the Goliaths out there this animal, like a Furble has grown considerably into what I consider something terrible, huffing and puffing and knocking over the brick and mortar establishments as if made of straw. And for a time it was good.

So where am I going with this? I mean it’s not news to anyone is it? Well I used to love love love diving into my own personal library (you know, the hard won number of titles that film buffs have gracing their shelves), either by myself, or sharing my favorite experiences with friends family and my wife. But now things are different. My personal Netflix queue has been at over 100 titles for pretty much the 7 years that I’ve been a member. I knock one of and then there are 3 there to replace it. While the convenience and endless supply of titles was so enchanting, it only got worse when they launched the Netflix Instant and then you didn’t even have to wait for the day or two for your next title to show up in the mail box. This Instant feature has become a different animal nearly overriding the both the regular queue and putting my valued Sacred Shelves a distant third in the contenders when the nightly question arose “What should we watch?”.

No, the red walls have nothing to do with my love of Netflix

I guess it’s human nature; when confronted with the idea of old vs. new, most will choose the later simply because it’s something we’ve not experienced yet. The double edged sword of the Instant feature is that, good or bad the title may be, we can evaluate it much faster than waiting for a physical disc to show up in our mailbox. It’s a win if the film is good or decent at the very least. If it turns out to be crap we can simply turn it off and be glad we didn’t lose a prime spot on our physical queue.

But this is a domino effect that has compounded over the years for me at least. Like an addict, the Instant feature has me searching through tons of titles, racking up a dizzying number of films to watch but most times I don’t even watch those and instead choose something else. What is that you ask? Something even newer than that. Now this may be a personal issue that I’m faced with but I really don’t think I’m alone.

Convenience is one thing but it’s sad to see how debilitating it can become. It’s almost like there’s no longer an effort to seek out truly great films, only moderately entertaining instant films which makes the process about as fulfilling as channel surfing and finding nothing of interest on TV. It also makes me wonder why, now that we have it, we still have this insatiable craving for Instant everything? Roku, Wii, PS3 and Xbox are popular devices but now we don’t even need a standalone player as TVs are coming with Netflix app/hardware built right it. Our UK friends and others across the pond have the Netflix equivalent LoveFilm and it’s just as easy to access and stream films now since they offer an integrated app via Samsung TV’s. Again, the internet is becoming more and more integrated into our homes and with TV internet streaming, the number of users going with digital over physical formats will only increase.  When will we get to the breaking point?

Adding to your Instant Queue – something that simple and easy can quickly become a curse

Now last week’s news of the Netflix/Star split (effective Feb 2012) this might seem a mixed blessing as Netflix and Stars have parted ways but despite the impending reduction of titles, it still offers the same convenience. I for one kind of think that trimming down the movies/shows available is a good thing as I all too often am drowning in movies I want to watch but never get around to actually seeing. Many may claim, “well Marc, it’s all about personal responsibly“. But that “personal responsibility” thing is easier to preach than to enact isn’t it? Also I am and have been neglecting my hard won library of films (the Sacred Shelves) I already own and feel I am missing many opportunities to go back to the films I love in lieu of the convenience of Netflix Instant. I guess it’s time I took a stand myself getting films I love like the 80’s greaties mentioned above or other neglected gems like Casablanca, The French Connection, High and Low back in the rotation and stop taking a chance on 2 star films just because I haven’t seen them before. But before I do all that I just wanted write this as a sort of a litmus test of film fans out there.

With that said, I’ll leave it to you? Is the convenience of this Instant media (regardless of the source) keeping you from re-watching the films you love, or own, or both? Are you too caught up the in the “I haven’t seen this yet let’s watch it” daze to turn around? Am I alone in this battle??

  • Marc

    We must be psychically linked or something … I posted a similar discussion on my blog earlier today …

    Frankly I am a Netflix streaming addict. I watch films I would NEVER watch – like last night I caught “Neo Ned” with Jeremy Renner and Gabrielle Union. Bizarre.

    I tend not to re-watch too much.

    A strange consequence of having the Instant Streaming is that I have been exposed to a lot more TELEVISION programs than I thought I would.

    Great post!

    • MarcC

      Hahaha, well great minds think alike don’t they?:P

      I agree with you on the TV part of your comment. I have a good number of titles I’m now very fond of thanks to Instant. Check out LUTHER and if you like Jim Henson (esp The Dark Crystal) check out The Storyteller with John Hurt.

      Thanks for your comment:)

  • Dude, I’m so totally anti Instant Netflix XD The furthest I will bend is the DVD delivery in the mail.
    I’m definitely of the opinion that if it’s too easy, there’s no thought put into it and like you said, we settle for less than outstanding.
    (I’m also a fan of delayed gratification… if it’s not worth waiting for, then don’t even bother o_O)
    Anyway, I’m totally agreeing with everything you said up there. This was a great post and was just about everything I think that I can’t articulate :]

    And definitely, I don’t think Netflix is necessarily evil, but at the very least we have to find the balance between checking out every new film that pops up and going back to the shelves at home that are chock full of old favorites.

    (Uh oh, now I’m wondering if I even made any sense…………….. *worries*)

    Also, about this: “It also makes me wonder why, now that we have it, we still have this insatiable craving for Instant everything? When will we get to the breaking point?”

    As long as we keep indulging our selfish human nature, there never will be a breaking point. We’ll just keep wanting more, more, more; now, now, now. It’s sick.

    Anyway, I totally get you, and thanks for the post.

  • MarcC

    Wise thoughts there Abby!

    True, I may have written this so it sounded negative but I’m still a huge proponent/supporter of Netflix. I don’t think it’s evil, but with anything it’s all about moderation and if I’m upset about my poor choices/wasted time/missing out on the films I love then it’s up to me to chose my shelves over anything Netflix offers:P

    Thanks a bunch for the comment and so glad you liked it!