A positive rate of rate of change

By Razib Khan | November 22, 2010 8:12 pm

A Cheaper Plan at Netflix Offers Films for Online Only:

Netflix said Monday that it was introducing a subscription plan for customers who want to watch movies only online, underscoring yet another step away from its roots in DVD rentals by mail.

The new plan offers unlimited access to Netflix’s library of streaming movies and TV shows for $8 a month. That is cheaper than virtually all of the company’s DVD plans.

I of course immediately downgraded; I haven’t received a physical DVD from Netflix since circa 2007 (it took me a year to return it because I forgot where I’d left it, and never watched it). But when I’m not feeling so well and can’t focus on anything cognitively challenging Netflix is very convenient. There are plenty of free alternatives on the net, but I’ll pay sub-$10 fees to save some time and headache.

But it does make me reflect on the rapid changes in the area of home entertainment since World War II. Video displaced 8 mm in the 1980s, but VCR’s themselves totally evaporated in the first half of the 2000s. Now the DVD format itself is being superseded, but the internet is replacing the hard copy mode of distribution in general for home film viewing. Netflix is already supposedly 20 percent of peak US traffic.

Also, I just realized that I don’t think I’ve been inside of a specialty “video store” since the early 2000s (most definitely from when I first subscribed to Netflix in late 2004). I have looked in the windows, and from what I can tell these stores are all-DVD format now, and it’s rather strange that I’ve never been inside of a “DVD store” even though I’ve passed so many of them over the years. Have you? Do they still rent video games as well?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology
MORE ABOUT: Netflix
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  • Zach K

    Yes, blockbuster still rents video games for a wide-variety of game systems. I figure they probably make a lot of money on this, because renting is cheaper than buying and selling back to game stores for playtesting games you might want to buy.

  • http://changelog.ca/ Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    @Razib said…
    I’ve never been inside of a “DVD store” even though I’ve passed so many of them over the years. Have you? Do they still rent video games as well?

    I sometimes go to them when I’m out with buddies and there’s nothing else to do. (Not all my buddies are tech savvy (ex: one asked me about 9 months ago if I heard of YouTube) so technologies like DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are the only practical option.)

    And yes, they do still rent games.

  • Sandgroper

    Not available to me, unfortunately, bein’ a furriner an’ all.

    http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2117887 I understand that Netflix has become available in Canada since that answer.

    I have tramped DVD stores endlessly trying to help my daughter search for all kinds of arcane stuff. Trouble is, she’s not into renting, she wants things as additions to her library, and the sale selection is usually even much poorer than the rental selection. We usually have to resort to mail order from Amazon after we have exhausted all the DVD stores, and of course that stuff has to be mailed from America.

    There is a kind of Australian version of Netflix, but it does not yet offer streaming. It does sell video games, as do the shops.

    The best DVD stores that I have seen are in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong, all with extensive stock catering for 3 different languages.

  • http://phylogenous.wordpress.com Kele

    I only buy DVDs if there are some really good extras to be had (something you can’t get on Netflix Instant) and that is only usually through a store like Half Price Books. I don’t usually bother buying new DVDs and the closest to a “DVD store” I have been to would be a general electronics store like Best Buy. I don’t even know if video/DVD stores even exist here.

  • Dunc

    but VCR’s themselves totally evaporated in the first half of the 2000s

    What the hell is that thing sitting in between my DVD player and my cable box then?
    Yes, I still have some VHS tapes. Like I’m going to buy all my old stuff all over again just for the privilege of watching it go obsolete again… At least once you’ve gone obsolete, you know where you stand. And yes, I also still have a large collection of vinyl records, and no, I don’t want to buy the “remastered” versions with all the dynamic range steamrollered out by somebody’s overly-aggressive “brick wall” mastering compressor, thanks.

    What’s the opposite of “Luddism”? You know, the irrational need to continually “upgrade” to the latest technology, with no regard to whether it’s actually an improvement or not?

  • http://www.funwithln2.com Jon F

    I re-located to Boston in 2004 and I’m about to move out soon. In the process of noticing changes I’ve noted that pretty much every local-owned video/game rental store in town has closed down and that several Blockbuster locations (including the one closest to me in which I last stepped in 2007, and only then because I had a coupon for a free rental) have also shuttered. That said, I work out in the MetroWest suburbs and out here Blockbuster still seems to be in business and, furthermore, there’s one locally-owned game shop that does rentals and ownership. So I think the trend for extinction of physical media rental is definitely spreading from urban areas, probably driven by (demographically speaking) younger folks such as myself [28] who have long since switched to NetFlix and digital downloads. I can’t really speculate how long it will take until physical rental locations are no longer viable and all business is done mail-order or digitally, at least in the US, but I do know that all attempts to get my parents [58] to use NetFlix over the years have failed miserably, for what it’s worth.

  • Michael

    All fine and good, but try to stream AVATAR, and many other recent movies–can’t be done. Want a COMPLETE season of some favorite TV shows? Sorry, only available on DVD.

    In the meantime, Netflix is raising the price for the DVD distribution.

    Do you kumbaya with your cable TV provider? Netflix is simply joining the ‘Let’s gouge the comsumer’ club. God help you if you’re a luddite [maybe not by choice] or can’t get high-speed internet service in your area…you are screwed.

    I can stream Netflix over my TiVo, and it’s great, but now I have to pay an additional buck a month to get access to ALL movies, not just the streamining ones. Woohoo….

  • http://blog.deafpolitics.org Jessica Thurber

    Tell Netflix: No captions, no money – http://bit.ly/hQqkek

  • Kiwiguy

    ***I’ve never been inside of a “DVD store” even though I’ve passed so many of them over the years. Have you? ***

    Yes, I’m a late adopter.

    ***Jon F Says:

    I’ve noted that pretty much every local-owned video/game rental store in town has closed down and that several Blockbuster locations (including the one closest to me in which I last stepped in 2007, and only then because I had a coupon for a free rental) have also shuttered.***

    In Wellington NZ I haven’t noticed any closing, maybe that will change in the next few years.

  • Clark

    I keep wanting to like Netflix but the number of movies available for streaming really is limited. I checked my queue and only 2 out of 30 were available for streaming. And most of my queue weren’t recent releases either.

    I typically use Handbrake to rip the DVD and then watch it at a more convenient time on my AppleTV. (Although I’m pretty behind – I have three movies here I’ve not yet ripped and have had them for over a month)

  • Zora

    I haven’t had Netflix for a while. I remember that they were slow. slow, slow to get Bollywood films, and that they never had enough copies. I rent from the local Indian grocery/video store.

  • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

    Never used netflix, but I don’t watch a lot of movies. There was a dvd-kiosk in a grocery store right by the nearest blockbuster and we thought the BB might close. Instead they replaced that kiosk with a blockbuster one.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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