Online Movie Rentals: Netflix Versus Blockbuster

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While there are some other choices, the biggest two on the block are Netflix & Blockbuster so how do they stack up?

It’s easy – you click on some choices, give them a credit card and sit back and wait by your mailbox. in a couple days (especially if you live in a major metro area), you’ll have the discs – my distribution centers are probably about 100 miles away in two directions.

Prices are the same: 2 DVD’s out for $14.99, 3 for $17.99, 4 for $23.99.

Netflix offers more movies for us true film fanatics – up to 8 movies out at one time for $47.99. There are also a couple low tier packages like you can two a month from Netflix for $4.99 but as someone who has about 750 movies in my queue on both services, why bother with that?

Both signups processes are painless and easy.

Your next step is to look over the list of movies they offer and build a QUEUE. The two services then work their way through your list from the top.

SET UP YOUR MOVIE LIST (AKA: THE QUEUE):

This is where Netflix shines. Their website is blazing fast – with great concise descriptions. When you click ADD, it brings up a new window with similiar movies – and damn it – for someone like me it invariable means that there are 10 more obscure movies to add to my list … by clicking on the DVD cover box, it brings you to that specific page with a more detailed description, reviews from movie critics and below – reviews by Netflix renters. The search engine is fast and accurate. Netflix has about 100 genres and sub-categories so you can drill down further – for instance under ACTION-ADVENTURE is DEADLY DISASTER or COMIC BOOKS AND SUPERHEROES so you can see everything in a sub-sub genre. They have 75,000 titles and lots of great obscure stuff. The website is clean, functional, fast and slick looking.

Blockbuster’s website is not nearly as well designed. It’s got lots of oddball design elements and like Blockbuster stores, a square building, harsh lighting with a bunch of jumbled shelves. The search engine is much slower and wonkier – its only slight advantage is if you do a search and the result is what you want, you can click ADD and unlike Netflix, no other window opens – your movie is in the queue – however, if you’re not positive and want to read some more reviews – then it’s a sluggard if you click on the box art (which is missing about 20% of the time) to loads that specific movie page – it’s slooowww (and I’m at 8-12 MB broadband). The individual movie is halfheartedly designed – the description has no formatting so sometimes it’s a one giant paragraph blob – the actors and cast info is presented in tab form but not very complete. There are some links to some reviews but nearly 90% of the movies have no renter reviews.

WINNER: Netflix

MULTI-DISC SETS:

In Netflix, when you are confronted with a multi-disc movie, either because it contains extras on another disc or like a TV series – episodes split over 5 discs, there is the distinct ADD ALL button and below are “Disc Details.” Clicking on it brings up a description of the extra disc or in the case of a TV Series, what episode is on what disc so if you just want Disc 3 of SEINFELD Season 5, just click ADD under that disc description.

Blockbuster chooses a much stranger path. You can only add the entire set and then go back and delete parts later (see managing queue below) – what’s worse is that for TV series is if you only want to see one disc of that season, you have to manually delete the others later in your queue – what’s worse is that there are no episode or disc breakdowns/descriptions so you don’t really know what’s is on each disc. Very poor feature.

WINNER: Netflix

MANAGING YOUR QUEUE

Netflix offers tabs on top and by clicking Queue, your list will appear so youcan move movies up & down your list. If you suddenly have to watch BLAZING STEWARDESSES this weekend and it’s 22 on your list, simply type 1 in the box to the left and hit return, it will be moved up the list. Another nice feature, if you hover over the title, a popup appears with the box art and a brief description – in case you forgot why you wanted to rent DIE MONSTER DIE. If you change your mind – there is a REMOVE box. Click and hit return.

Again, because of the sluggard speed of Blockbuster’s website, while Blockbuster does list your next 10 movies in the queue on the front page, clicking on SEE ALL MOVIES IN QUEUE is another slow page load. They basically copied Netflix page with one exception. You have to use this page to delete any discs of a multi-set you don’t want. Click on the padlock to UNLOCK (why would it be locked? Not sure) – then you can click REMOVE to delete any discs within a multiset you don’t want.

WINNER: Netflix

SELECTION:

If all you’re interested in are the newest and biggest releases or your typical Hollywood major movie, both places are pretty much the same so you can flip a coin but if you’re like me – wanting to see obscure films, classics and of course titles you might be embarassed to walk to the front of the store …

Netflix has way more titles and they generally carry the UNRATED versions of each movie.

Blockbuster has fewer selections and generally have the R rated versions of certain films. Though some obscure movies were only available at Blockbuster since they have inventory from the stores to draw from so titles that went OOP before Netflix started are available at Blockbuster – this os probably a pretty obscure point for 99% of renters, just fanatics like me.

WINNER: Netflix

CUSTOMER SERVICE:

Netflix – in going along with everything on their website is easy as pie. Problem with disc, it’s right on the front page in your QUEUE listing. Just click on report problem. I had one disc that wouldn’t play correctly. If you report a problem, they immediately start the process to mail you another disc without waiting for the damaged one to go back to Netflix. Nice. Email them a question – get a response back in 24 hours though actually I think I got a response with 4 hours even though it was the middle of the night.

Blockbuster. Not so much. First, it’s hard to figure out where the report problem function is – it’s under MANAGE QUEUE which looks like a title of the queue and not a clickable link. They also have a straightforward Report Problem but the problem is that they do not mail you a disc until you get the other one back so in one case that meant 5 days without a working disc … I should also mention the replacement disc was also cracked – after a month, I’ve had 3 cracked discs – not sure if its their envelope or their shipping department. At one point, they had some severe breakdown as when I emailed to complain, I got no response for 3 days and after about a week, Blockbuster CS finally seem to come back online. I will probably quit Blockbuster after I view all the movies Netflix does not have in stock. So far, pretty poor.

APRIL UPDATE: Blockbuster has fixed the policy of waiting for the “bad” disc to come back before sending you a new one so that’s good but frankly, their shipping department is either ineptly designed or staffed by morons. I developed another problem where I kept getting the wrong disc. Every disc you get comes in “their” sleeve with a barcode, title, actors & description of the film. I open it, yes, the title, description and actors match the version I want to watch but the disc – yes, same title but NOT the right movie. Once, you can excuse it – but twice? I’m now waiting to see if it happens for a third time in a row. What’s worse is I said, look, I’ve been a member for a couple months and in that time, I’ve gotten 3 cracked discs and now 2 tries at sending me the wrong movie – can I get a credit at least for the this two week period of essentially zero movies – “Oh sure,” they say. “Would you mind jumping through 2 hoops?” Apparently they are upping me to a 3-time a month deal but at the end of the month, I have to cancel and go back to two a month? WTF?WTH? I emailed them back saying, “Huh?” NO RESPONSE AFTER A WEEK.

WINNER (BY FAR): Netflix

MAILING TIME:

Both services will love you if you’re the type that gets a movie and waits a week or two before watching it – I, on the other hand is the annoying guy who manages to watch 15 movies a month so I’m sure Netflix is “slowing” me down a little – plus my mail now arrives in the afternoon – for a while, I was geting mail by 9 AM so I could have a movie done by 1 and back in the mail to them by night but generally Netflix is like clockwork – within two days, I have a new movie.

Blockbuster seems a tad slower and for that one week period, I had no movies as BOTH movies were cracked and Blockbuster doesn’t mail anything out until they get the other one back and idiots, mailed me back the same (?) cracked disc.

UPDATE: The pattern holds, it takes Netflix a day during the week to get me my next movie. It takes Blockbuster 2 days – both shipping addresses are about 60-70 miles from me in two directions but Netflix wins.

WINNER (BY FAR): Netflix

SUMMARY:

Netflix is a well thought-out well-designed machine that is deserving of all its success. It’s slick, it’s friendly and it manages to convey the attitude that films are fun. Brilliant and a great contribution to 21st century mankind (think of all the gas we’re saving!).

Blockbuster is a haphazard me-too product that is functional and servicable but not much more beyond that. It’s only real advantage now and it might not be available down the line is that you can return a disc to a store and get another movie and you also get coupons towards free in-store rentals so if you spend time or its convenient for you to pop by a Blockbuster, this might be enough to persuade you to use the online version. As I have avoided Blockbuster for 10-20 years, the store return-coupon feature holds very little value for me (you need an in-store account for return discs to that store only).

CLEAR WINNER: Netflix
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Next up, Qwikflix, CafeDVD and Intelliflix.

APRIL UPDATE: After the wrong movie-same title debacle of Blockbuster after the Blockbuster repeated cracked disc mailing, I was so ready to quit them but it turns out I can’t. Qwikflik has an amateur looking site but after a spot check of 20 titles on my Blockbuster queue, they had maybe 5 of them. They are also more expensive and lean more towards the less frequent renter. Clearly they cannot afford a customer like me who can go through 6 movies a week. CafeDVD has a nice looking site but their selection is even weaker – they had maybe 1 of the 20 titles I wanted. Their prices were in line with Netflix & Blockbuster but clearly not a wide selection. Intelliflix has a nice site but I could not get their search engine to work at all – it woudl return the same result no matter what I typed. A Mac Safari/Firefox issue? Don’t know but clearly they are not up to snuff technology wise. They do offer videogames & adult titles so if that interests you, keep in mind to access those, you need to sign up for a year plan and pay upfront so presumably good luck quitting that. You cannot search what adult titles they have so I can’t tell if the selection is worthy or not. Since their search engine does not work, I could not compare my 20 on my Blockbuster list but I’m presuming by a quicks scan through their listings, it’s mostly the Top 500 DVD’s but unless you want to rent video games or adult titles, why not just go with Netflix?

So, for now, it’s Netflix & Blockbuster for the titles missing on Netflix.

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2 Comments

Filed under Film

2 responses to “Online Movie Rentals: Netflix Versus Blockbuster

  1. Really nice site you have here. I’ve been reading for a while but this post made me want to say 2 thumbs up. Keep up the great work

  2. Pingback: Netflix Understands, Blockbuster Does Not « TWO A DAY

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