I've been subscribing to Netflix's video-streaming service for a month or so. For $9 bucks a month it's a great deal and I recommend it, but that being said, it's also a big disappointment over what I expected.
YouTube has defined what's expected in video streaming, and the Netflix experience is so much worse. One problem is that the video quality is usually pretty bad — blocky and pixelated — even though I have a very fast connection (even via the VPN that I require to access Netflix from Japan). I can watch super-HD 1080p videos on YouTube without problem, but Netflix remains fairly blocky on average. (Only once that I recall in all this time has it ever kicked into basic-HD mode.)
While watching YouTube, if you want to jump back a few seconds, or skip forward a few seconds, you just grab the little location cursor and move it where you want, and usually playback starts from there immediately, because these locations not far from your previous playback spot are in the playback buffer. Not so on Netflix... any movement of the playback cursor — even just back a few seconds — requires a full restart of the stream, taking 10+ seconds and reverting to the lowest-quality video. It's maddening.
Other problems include...
Movie selection: I never knew that there were so many crappy movies made over the years, but Netflix has conveniently assembled them all in one location. To keep things consistent, good movies are kept to a minimum.
Every time I've searched for a specific movie by name, it's not been available. Every. Single. One. Examples include Avatar, 300, Harry Potter, Inception, Major League, Game of Thrones, The Spanish Prisoner, Frozen. Not available.
With an inability to find good movies by name, you're left to browse the cesspool of crappy movies to find the occasional good movie that somehow snuck in, but Netflix makes this very difficult because the rating system is almost useless.
First off, they're always shoving “rate this movie” interstitials into your face, encouraging you to give a haphazard answer just to shut the thing up. An ignorant or unconsidered rating is much worse than no rating, but they aggressively encourage the former, strongly diluting the meaning and purpose of ratings.
While browsing you can mark a move as “Not Interested”, but there's no description of what this actually means. Does it mean:
Already seen this movie (it was great!) but don't want to see while searching for something new.
Already seen this movie (it was horrible!) and never want to be reminded of it again.
Not interested in this specific movie that I've heard bad things about.
Not interested in this genre/director/actor/subject.
or something else entirely? Does it impact the rating system? Who knows.
When they show a rating for a movie, sometimes they show the average customer rating, and sometime they show the rating Netflix thinks I'd give. While browsing, you'll see one or the other, but they're presented with the same appearance so you actually have to read the fine print to know which they're showing.
And if you do want to spend the time to rate a movie, there's nothing between “Didn't like it” and “Liked it”. There's no “meh, it was okay”. I'm sure that a thousand years of consumer research shows that a movie rating system must have exactly five stars, but Netflix picks a lopsided five levels that artificially encourages more positive reviews:
Netflix's Rating System What I think it Should Be ✭ · · · · Hated it Hated it ✭ ✭ · · · Didn't like it Didn't care for it ✭ ✭ ✭ · · Liked it So-so ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ · Really liked it Liked it ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ Loved it! Really liked it
Actually, I think a 10-star system like IMDB would be much better. IMDB gives ratings that actually mean something.
When you're watching at TV show and the episode reaches the end credits, they show the blurb for the next episode, making it easy to skip directly to it. “Easy” is wonderful, but the blurb about the next episode can give away important plot points, destroying much of the fun of watching. As far as I can tell, you can't turn this off.
The Netflix original production “House of Cards” illustrates how little they get the concept of on-demand video. With broadcast TV, especially before recorders and timeshifting, the title sequence of a TV show — those 60 seconds or so of theme music with actor and production credits over generic video not related to the specific episode — served the important function of being a time buffer during which the viewing audience could tune in and confirm that they've gotten to the right channel at the right time, and if they join in early enough in the sequence, allow them the comfort to use the bathroom or grab something from the fridge without worrying that they'll miss something.
This time-buffer purpose has no meaning in an on-demand world of video streaming and DVD rentals where you press “play” when you're ready to watch. The title sequence can of course be useful to set a mood and to give credit to the actors and producers, so it makes sense to have it at the start of the first episode, but House of Cards has almost two minutes of generic title sequence stuff tacked on to the start of each of its 26 episodes. It's exactly the same every time, so after the first episode it's just maddening to have to suffer the 101 seconds of title sequence just to watch the video you wanted to see back when you pressed “play”. I'd rather have commercials.
All told, the wasted time over the course of the 26 episodes adds up to almost 44 minutes, almost as long as a full episode! Clearly, someone doesn't get the concept of “on demand”. And as I mentioned above, Netflix makes it difficult to jump ahead, so you're pretty much stuck watching over and over who designed the costumes, and who the half dozen executive producers were.
(That all being said, House of Cards is an amazing, riveting, fantastic show. It's painful to sit through the title sequence each time, but House of Cards by itself makes the Netflix subscription more than worth it.)