Netflix, founded in 1997 and based in Los Gatos, California, is an Internet subscription service for movies and TV programs. Its subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to thousands of movies and TV shows on DVDs and Blu-ray discs or through video streaming. The rapid growth of Netflix, with 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada as of 2011, has played a key role in the decline of brick-and-mortar video rental stores.
How Does Netflix Deliver Movies and TV Shows?
Netflix, with shipping centers around the U.S., claims that more than 97 percent of its members receive DVDs and Blu-ray discs within "about one business day" after they are shipped. Shipment occurs after the return of any discs rented by the subscriber. No return deadline is imposed. Netflix's other delivery method, streaming video, has grown swiftly in popularity. The subscriber selects a film or TV show from a "Watch Instantly" queue of titles at the Netflix website via a computer or an "app" on some devices. Netflix streaming video can be watched on more than 200 devices, according to the company. Among the most popular are Internet-connected Blu-ray disc players and the PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 game consoles. In addition, content can be viewed on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, as well as some Internet-connected HDTVs.
What Subscription Plans Does Netflix Offer?
Netflix occasionally changes its subscription plans, but as of early 2011 offers a choice of 10, ranging in cost from $4.99 to $55.99 per month. The plans vary chiefly by the maximum number of DVDs and Blu-ray discs that can be rented at one time, with the most expensive plan allowing the subscriber to rent up to eight discs simultaneously. All of the plans, except for the least expensive one, include unlimited video streaming. In late 2010, Netflix introduced a streaming-video-only plan for $7.99 per month. Netflix's library of roughly 17,000 streaming-video titles is growing but is still dwarfed by the company's total library of some 100,000 titles.
What Are the Leading Competitors for Netflix?
Blockbuster, which operates hundreds of video rental stores, has long been a chief rival for Netflix. Blockbuster also offers DVDs by mail, with the added option for the subscriber to exchange them in-store. Blockbuster's "On Demand" streaming video service differs from Netflix in that it is separate from the company's mail subscription plans. The user pays a fee for each download. In the video-streaming realm, other key competitors for Netflix include Walmart's Vudu service and Amazon's Video on Demand. Another competitor, Hulu Plus, focuses chiefly on TV programs.
What Are the Best ISPs for Netflix Streaming?
Internet connection speed and reliability are key factors to an enjoyable experience with Netflix's streaming video service. In early 2011, the company released a report about which Internet service providers do the best job with Netflix streaming, according to the website Cnet News. Cable Internet providers topped the list, with Charter ranking first, followed by, in order through 10th place, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Suddenlink, Cablevision, Cable One, Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth.
How Can I Sign Up for Netflix?
Access to rentals and video streaming begins immediately after providing a payment method, user name and password and choosing a subscription plan at the Netflix website. Service is provided on a month-to-month basis, with cancellation available at any time. The company offers a free one-month trial to new subscribers.
- Netflix: Press Kit
- ConsumerReports.org: Which Movie Services?
- "The New York Times"; Awash in a Stream of Movies; David Pogue; January 2009
- Cnet News; How Well Does Your ISP Steam Netflix?; Marguerite Reardon, et al.; January 2011
- Blockbuster: On Demand FAQ
- "PC World"; Hulu Plus Vs. Netflix: Which Is Better?; Jeff Bertolucci; June 2010
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