But millions of Netflix subscribers will be wrestling with a new dilemma as they decide how to respond to price changes that will hit the service's existing customers beginning today.
The new system will impose substantially higher rates on customers who want to keep renting DVDs through the mail and enjoying the more immediate gratification of streaming video over high-speed Internet connections.
A small number of Netflix Inc.'s nearly 25 million U.S. subscribers will be unaffected because they had already limited their usage to Internet-video streaming. Others will have to pay as much as 60 percent more unless they are prepared to wean themselves from one of Netflix's entertainment options or just close their services entirely.
Here are a few factors for Netflix subscribers to consider:
- Find out which day of the month Netflix bills you.
Click "Your Account & Help" on the top right, then look for the next billing date in the center. That is when the new rates take effect.
For example, if Netflix doesn't charge you until the 22nd of each month, you still have another three weeks before being charged more to have both DVD rentals and Internet video. If you usually get billed on the second day of each month, you will need to make a change promptly to avoid being charged more.
- Know the new prices.
For the first time since it introduced Internet streaming in 2007, Netflix is offering DVD-only plans.
For $8 per month, customers can rent an unlimited number of DVDs per month, with a maximum of one disc out per time. DVD-only plans allowing two discs out at a time will cost $12 per month, and three DVDs at a time will go for $16 per month.
The cheapest package that combines Internet video and DVD rentals (one disc at a time) will cost $16 per month - up from $10 per month under the old system.
The price for an Internet-streaming-only plan remains $8 per month.
- If you're among the customers who want to keep just one of Netflix's entertainment options, assess what you like to watch on the service and how you watch it.
Internet streaming is more convenient because there's no waiting for video to be delivered by the U.S. postal system. It also enables viewing on personal computers, tablet computers and phones, besides television sets.
The negatives: It requires high-speed Internet access, which isn't cheap, and Netflix's streaming library is about one-fifth the size of the 100,000 selections in the DVD section.
DVDs remain the best way to see the latest movies after they have ended their run in theaters. In some cases, Netflix must wait four weeks after DVDs go on sale in stores before they can mail them to customers, but that's far better than Internet streaming, in which the wait can last years.
Internet streaming is better for watching documentaries, catching up on past seasons of TV shows and enjoying older movies.
If you like to watch series such as "The Wire" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," stick with DVDs because those titles have never shown up in Netflix's streaming library.
- Before abandoning Internet streaming, remember that it is probably going to keep getting better because it is Netflix's top priority. Netflix has left no doubt that it intends to spend big bucks to make its streaming library more compelling.
The company already has secured the exclusive rights to a series starring Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Spacey. That series, "House of Cards," initially will be available late next year only for Netflix's streaming customers.
- Keep some perspective. A 60 percent increase sounds outrageous, but it's only $6 more per month to have your DVDs and Internet video, too.
by Michael Liedtke Associated Press Sept. 1, 2011 12:00 AM
Preparing for the Netflix price increase