Early Netflix Impressions

It’s been just over two weeks since Netflix brought its movie streaming service (but not its more-well-known DVD home delivery service) to Canada; I signed up on the first day it was available, and Oliver and I have been using the service ever since, first on my iPod Touch and Oliver’s iMac, and, once our Wii application CD arrived from Netflix HQ, on our regular old television set.

Here are my impressions after a couple of weeks:

  • It’s nice that I can stream movies from onto so many devices, and it’s nice that I can start watching a movie on, say, my iPod and pick up watching later on, where I left off, on the Wii.
  • That said, like Neal Gillis, I wish there was better integration between the web and the other platforms, specifically a way of using the web’s excellent search features to allow me to explore and flag movies for later watching on other devices.
  • Netflix’s much-vaunted “if you like this, you’ll probably like this” features seem to be much less useful when the pool of possibilities is the relatively small selection of movies that can be streamed vs. the much larger selection of movies that they have available in the US on DVD.
  • The Wii application is dead simple to use, maybe too simple: it’s really heard to get a sense for the breadth of movies available because of the limitations of the “browse” feature, and it’s really annoying that the “search” feature displays search results for films that aren’t actually available.
  • The “buffering” period – the time you have to wait after clicking “play” and before the movie starts – seems to vary between “a few seconds” and “a minute or two.” It’s not clear what factors play a role in this (my Internet? their Internet? the length of the movie to be streamed?).
  • The selection of movies and TV episodes doesn’t knock my socks off. The movies tend to be just out of date enough to not be entirely satisfying; the TV episodes seem to seldom be the current season.
  • Oliver seems to have found plenty to watch: Liberty’s Kids, Dinosaur Train, Cat in the Hat. But it hasn’t replaced TV for him, and he hasn’t always been satisfied with the selection.
  • I really appreciated all four seasons of the British series Coupling and all five seasons of ballykissangel.
  • Documentaries seem to be a strong suit: I’ve enjoyed more of them than anything else, and I’ve found things that I wouldn’t have ever found elsewhere.
  • You can’t beat the price: $7.99/month is little enough that, no matter the limitations, I’m likely to keep the service around after the 30-day trial.


Neal's picture
Neal on October 8, 2010 - 16:16

Netflix has replaced a Zip.ca subscription for us (for now, at least), where we had been receiving 2-3 DVD’s per month, so the ability to watch as many movies/TV shows for roughly the same price is definitely nice. Most of the discs we were getting from Zip were older films anyway, so Netflix’s lack of new-release content doesn’t bug me so much (as there are quite a few good films on there). Also, Netflix’s suggestion engine seems to be much more intelligent than Zip’s.

The true test will be how often they update the content (and with what).

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 8, 2010 - 16:43

Corrected spelling of Neal (was Neil). Apologies.

Ken's picture
Ken on October 9, 2010 - 01:07

Zip.ca sucked when I tried it a few years ago, but I am enjoying netflix.ca. Nice to know the buffering lag isn’t just me. Let’s hope they fill in the blanks in the catalogue.

Chuck's picture
Chuck on October 9, 2010 - 23:15

We opted years ago to cancel cable in favour of a Zip.ca subscription, mostly so we could keep tabs on what the kids were watching while they’re little, reduce the temptation to turn on the tube when bored, and (especially) to avoid commercials.

Zip has performed well in all those respects, but the problem has been that my lovely wife is prone to keep a Ziplist on the order of 200+ titles. In practice, this means the movies we get in the mail are basically a random selection.

Netflix has addressed that problem almost too well: the one reason we’re considering discontinuing the service at the end of the trial is because the kids have been watching too much TV.

I agree with Peter that the cost is a non-issue. The selection of shows for our younger two kids is really quite good, and I’m fond of older movies, documentaries and French films anyway, so my wife and I find plenty to watch.

On a technical note, we live in Cochrane, AB just outside of Calgary, and haven’t experienced any buffering issues yet; all movies start streaming in a few seconds.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 10, 2010 - 16:17

One of the issues with Netflix that I anticipate being an issue is how to manage multiple “taste profiles” for multiple people in a household. Right now this isn’t an option: there’s one big family taste profile, so I get prompted to watch Barney and Oliver gets prompted to watch Rachel Getting Married.

Mark's picture
Mark on October 12, 2010 - 14:59


I would be less hesitant to use their recommendation service in favour of http://www.jinni.com/ which has a fantastic recommendation engine. You can even integrate it w/ your netflix account (not sure on whether it works on netflix.ca or not)

Chuck's picture
Chuck on November 15, 2010 - 17:25

Update: We canceled Netflix this morning. It just makes it too easy, especially with the cold weather coming, for the kids to watch unhealthy amounts of TV. Limiting them to an hour or two per day provokes much pleading and cajoling, which makes the service more trouble than it’s worth.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on November 15, 2010 - 18:27

We’ve kept our Netflix for now, but I’m leaning toward canceling it: the content is great if you’re looking for 1980s and 1990s era movies and TV with a smattering, randomly it appears, of late-model movies, but it grows tired quickly, as it becomes a “place to go looking for things I watched 10 years ago that I might want to watch again because nothing else is on TV.”

I’ve also become annoyed by the pauses required for video buffering, which sometimes can be 5-10 times in a single movie/episode, despite our 15 meg Internet.

Rob's picture
Rob on November 15, 2010 - 19:52

Netflix was useful for my month long Mad Men marathon. Video quality was excellent and I never experienced any buffering delays while watching an episode. No complaints. However, now that I’ve exhausted the Mad Men repertoire I don’t have much use for it.

Johnny Rukavina's picture
Johnny Rukavina on November 15, 2010 - 20:41

We’re keeping it for now due to on-demand access to copious Dora the Explorer and Super Why programs. Jodi’s watched all of Bally-K and a few other odds and ends, but I haven’t watched anything from start to finish. The content is pretty thin.

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