With the release of Roku’s Netflix Player earlier this week, and all the subsequent blogosphere chatter, I thought it might be interesting for me to explore my own relationship with Netflix’s Instant Watching service. Because I can say, completely without hyperbole, this service has changed my life. Well, the entertainment consumption part of my life, anyway, and that’s a really big part.
First, some background. I started using the Instant Watching service as soon as it became available to me. Hayes and I have been Netflix subscribers for several years now, and we got access to the Instant Watching service in March 2007. And since Netflix keeps track of our viewing activity, I can easily see what I’ve watched since – turns out I’ve watched more than 214 hours of instant content in the past 15 months. This is in addition to the DVDs we get in the mail.
Also, I love movies and television. I’m not a huge fan of sitting down and watching two hours of uninterrupted primetime TV; I’m pretty particular about what I like and quite frankly, most television sucks. But when I find something I like, I will watch it over and over and over again. We own literally hundreds of DVDs, and I’ve watched most of these multiple, sometimes even dozens of, times.
Now before you start wondering where I find the time to watch that much stuff, I want to share something about how I watch this content. I really like to have a movie or TV show on while I’m working (and I work from home), but if I’m watching something new or interesting, it tends to be distracting (duh). So my strategy is to put in something I’ve seen before, so I don’t have to pay much attention to it, but I still have something there. Normally I’ll turn on a season of Arrested Development or Futurama, or maybe a movie like Office Space or the Royal Tenebaums, but Netflix has so many other choices. Of course, if I have to concentrate or do serious writing work, then I’ll turn everything off. Also, I have two big widescreen monitors, so I have enough screen real estate to share some with a video.
When the Netflix Instant Watching service was first released to users with my particular subscription type, I was limited to fifteen hours a month of free viewing. I used that up every month. I was very particular about what I would use my time on; I remember thinking, “I shouldn’t rewatch that episode of 30 Rock, because I’ve already seen it a few times already. I should watch something new.” I watched mostly movies during that time. The selection of classic films is great. They also have a lot of independent and documentary films.
Now that I have unlimited viewing, I use it for two main things. One, I’ve found it’s great for watching television shows. I have watched a few of my favorite shows over and over, namely 30 Rock and the early seasons of The Office (both the British and American versions). I actually own these DVDs, but I still will watch them on Netflix when I’m at my computer. I watched the first two seasons of News Radio, and got a surprising amount of enjoyment from John Ritter’s show Hearts Afire. I caught up on missed seasons of shows I like such as Heroes, Weeds and Dexter, saw the premiere episode of Californication, and tried out shows I’d never seen like The Tick, The Tudors, Facts of Life. If I were so inclined, I could even watch season after season of Dr. Who and Saved by the Bell.
In addition, Hayes and I have caught up on all kinds of really excellent campy sci-fi films from the 1940s-1970s. From the classics like Planet of the Apes and Plan 9 From Outer Space to the lesser known, but still wonderful in their own way, movies like Dinosaurs! and Mars Needs Women, it’s been great to have all of these available to us anytime we want. We watched A Boy and His Dog last week. It was highly entertaining, and has possibly the best and worst last line of a movie ever.
I personally don’t see a problem with the “limited” supply of movies offered by the Instant Watching service. There are new movies every day, and the choices are already pretty staggering. There is so much to pick from that it seems like it would be hard to not find something you’d want to watch. If all you ever watch is brand new blockbusters, you will be disappointed, but if that’s all you like, then I might suggest you expand your movie-watching horizons anyway. There are a number of new movies in other genres. And so much good, older stuff to catch up on! Think of all the movies you’ve missed throughout and before your lifetime. This is great for that.
Up to this point, Hayes and I have been simply plugging one of our laptops into the TV when we want to watch something together. The Roku player is going to make that process so much easier. I think entertainment content should be on-demand and always accessible, so I am very excited. DVDs are so 2000; streaming content is the future. I for one welcome our Netflix Instant Watching overlords.