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The Rise of Watch Instantly

Netflix is raising their prices. Again. A lot.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that they last raised their prices, when the first started offering a Watch Instantly plan with no DVD shipments. I’m going to look up the actual pricing history, but first, here is what I recall: Originally, the best value was pretty clearly the 3-at-a-time plan for $17. This compared to $14 for 2 and $9 for 1, I think. (Beyond 3, it was $6 per additional slot.) All of these plans included unlimited Watch Instantly. (There was, and still is, a cheaper but more limited plan that I’m not discussing.) Sometime last year (possibly the year before, I’ll verify), Netflix introduced a Watch Instantly without any DVDs for $8. At the same time they raised the other prices: $10 for 1, $15 for 2 and $20 for 3. These plans still included Watch Instantly as well.

This first price increase shifted the value proposition from 3 discs to 1 disc, presupposing that you considered Watch Instantly to be worth the $8. $2 extra to have 1-at-a-time unlimited DVD rental is pretty much a no-brainer, assuming you actually use it more than once or twice a month. At the time, I actually thought this was odd pricing. For years Netflix had seemed to push people toward the 3-at-a-time plan and suddenly they seemed to be pushing toward the 1-at-a-time plan. Offhand, I’d have thought $8, $12, $16 and $20 would have made more sense, or even $8, $13, $17 and $20 if they still wanted to push the 3-at-a-time plan. I wonder: What would I have done with those prices? As things went, I switched from 3-at-a-time to 1-at-a-time, saving $7 per month, which I figured more than covered going to Redbox for a few $1 rentals to fill the gap. With my suggested pricing, I think I may have switched to 2-at-a-time. I’d often felt 2-at-a-time made the most sense for us, but the pricing had always led me to the 3-at-a-time plan.


A small aside to mention Netflix’s Blu-ray pricing. When they first made Blu-ray discs available, you had to pay an extra $1 per month to be able to get any, no matter how many you actually got or which plan you were on. Later, they added an additional $1 per disc slot, so $2 for 1-at-a-time and $4 for 3-at-a-time. I don’t think I’ve had Blu-ray on my plan since that change.

The last straw?

Today, Netflix announced new pricing. They key point is that they’ve decided to separate Watch Instantly entirely, though they still offer “combined” plans, though with no discount for the combination. The Watch Instantly price is staying the same: $8. The DVD plans are changing to $8 for 1-at-a-time, $12 for 2 and $16 for 3. Doesn’t seems so bad if you happen to miss the part where those DVD plans no longer include Watch Instantly. To get the same benefit as before, you have to pay $16 for 1-at-a-time with Watch Instantly, $20 for 2 and $24 for 3. If you were already on the 3-at-a-time plan, the $4 increase from $20 to $24 is steep, but not crazy. From $15 to $20 for 2-at-a-time is more severe. From $10 to $16 seems ludicrous.

Netflix correctly points out that these are the lowest unlimited DVD rental prices they’ve ever offered. Things would probably be perfectly fine if they hadn’t already trained a large number of their customers to expect Watch Instantly as a perk. In fact, if I step back and consider the options individually, I don’t think I have any problem paying $12 for 2-at-a-time rentals, nor am I bothered paying $8 for Watch Instantly. Additionally, as I observed above, the previous 1-at-a-time price was likely too low, resulting in the obscene increase at that level (300% if you consider it going from $2 to $8).

When I started this post, it was really as an excuse for the pricing research I wanted to do and a way to vent a bit. Instead, I feel like I’ve talked myself into defending Netflix’s new pricing. I’m certain they will lose customers over this change, but I think the real culprit is the previous change. If the previous prices had been my second suggestion above ($8, $13, $17 and $20, notably a fairly steep $4 increase for the 1-at-a-time plan), I don’t think the complaining at the time would have been much different. That would have resulted in the change to the current combo prices ($8, $16, $20 and $24) seeming a bit more reasonable.

I have no idea how many people switched to the 1-at-a-time plan on the previous pricing change, but certainly anybody that paid enough attention to the choices and was at all price sensitive was likely to have done so. Now, it is exactly that same group of people that are hit the hardest by the current increases.

iTunes opportunity

While Redbox offers a great alternative for renting DVDs of recent movies at arguably a better price than Netflix, I’m just as likely to get older content and new TV shows from Netflix. At present, unless this content is available online (via Netflix or otherwise), there is really no good alternative. I had hoped that iTunes would solve this problem when they started offering TV show rentals, but they just don’t seem to be offering rentals for the shows I want to watch. Even if they did, their prices are just a bit too steep unless the rentals are available much earlier than the DVDs. Or, as I mentioned in that same post, I’d be thrilled to subscribe to streaming of select channels (HBO, Showtime, TNT, etc.) as long as I didn’t have to have cable or satellite service.

Grumble. Grumble. I can already tell that I’ll very likely be changing my Netflix plan from $10 to $20. Grumble. Grumble.

Oh, I did verify the prices were as I remembered them and the last price increase was just last November! Notably, their announcement then indicated that the 1- and 2-at-a-time plans were the most popular, which might explain the changes then, but such explanations are rendered moot by the new changes.


Thank You



Turbo Answers Via Google Suggestions

At this point it’s pretty much become cliché to seek answers to questions via Google. In fact, it’s gotten to the point that I’ve heard (and repeated) the phrase, “if only there were a way” (in response to some out-loud wondering over a piece of information) more times than I can count.

More recently, however, I’ve noticed that for many questions I don’t even have to actually excute the Google search. It’s enough to simply look Google’s search suggestions to find the answer. Now I even make a bit of a game of it wondering how few characters I can type before I get the suggestion that provides the information I want.

Here are some examples I’ve used recently:

How do I spell the name of the actress that played Bob Nehart’s wife in The Bob Nehart Show?

OK, so I had to type quite a bit for that one, but at least it fixed my spelling error.

What’s the name of that girl from that movie? Dang it, I can’t remember either! Oh, she’s in that Cisco commercial…

“cisco com” is pretty good, though the answer is several hits down.

What’s that new Matt Damon movie coming out soon? “Green Mile”? No, that’s not it… “Green” something…

Nice! First hit with only two letters.

I’ve used this feature for “the question” for years, but I seem to be using for “the answer” more and more of late. Maybe they should make a commercial of this…

(I had to switch to the google page because I had already done that search to find the actual video and this altered the suggestions such that even typing just “g” gave “google superbowl ad” as the first hit.)

Of course, the ad isn’t really the same thing as it’s still about the questions rather than the answers. It’s still really good if you haven’t seen it, so here you go:


Texas Independence Day

174 years ago, Texas declared independence from Mexico. If you’re curious about it, I found this to be an interesting read.

Totally Unrelated AsideLast month marked the 5-year anniversary of my blog and, just like last year, I completely missed it. Anyway, Happy Blogiversary to me! 🙂

(OK, so perhaps not totally unrelated, as they’re both anniversaries.)

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One of my time-wasters is to play Words with Friends on my iPhone. I typically have a number of games going at the same time. I’ve always been a strategic player, focusing more energy on scoring points than making long words. Recently, however, I’ve been experimenting with a couple of additional strategies. First, sacrificing my own potential points to block my opponent from a large score. Second, trying to setup higher multiple turn scores.

It’s difficult to measure the success of the first strategy, as I seldom have the opportunity to know what would have happened had I not blocked my opponent. The second strategy, however, is quite measurable. It either works as planned, or it gets blocked by my opponent. So far, it’s been blocked more often than not.

There are, naturally, other small strategies that come into play. For example, I typically like to play a Q as soon as a decent opportunity presents itself. Likewise for the other rare letters.

It’s not often that all of these things come together, but in the board shown here that is exactly what happened. The result is that I have a plethora of choices of where to play. Note that I’m not counting the choices of words when I say that, and it may be that many of my choices are eliminated by what words I can actually form.

The choices that jump out at me are:

  • Play the Q with the U and DW – get ‘er done!
  • Play the S at the end of JET to get the TW (and probably the TL) – points!
  • Try to preserve the S and play on the other J TW – block & gamble.
  • Play on the TW at the top right – block, but low percentage.

I have yet to decide, so I hope you’re not waiting for any sort of conclusion. 🙂

Oh, and if you want to play WWF, my username (as seen in the image) is RenM.