June 11, 2008

Looking at my NetFlix usage

I've been a loyal Netflix user since 2003. I enjoy their service and find it to be very convenient and pretty cost effective. Lately however I've been pretty busy and I haven't been watching my Netflix DVDs very regularly. So I decided to go look at my Netflix account history and see exactly how many movies I've been watching.

From late 2003 till mid 2008 I've rented 329 movies from Netflix for an average of 6.2 movies a month. With a monthly fee of $17 that comes out to $2.73 per movie average cost for the total history. That's not bad versus typical $4 movie rentals but I might do better with RedBox rentals that are only $1 /night.

I've had ups and downs in my rental activity at Netflix over the years. In 2005 I was most active and had 115 movies or 9.5 per month for an average cost of $1.77 per title. Lately though my activity has slowed. In the first 5 months of 2008 I have been fairly inactive. I've only had 8 titles out so far and at $17 a month I'm averaging over $10 per title so far in 2008! Ouch! I've also used some watch on demand with Netflix so that raises my average up to more like 10 titles equivalent so my average per title is more like $8.5 so far in 2008. Still not very good considering I can drive to Blockbuster and pay half that easily.

However its only been a few months and I've had some dips of activity in previous years too. In the past 30 days I've watched 5 titles so I maybe back on track to more regular usage moving forward. But still its worth considering cutting the Netflix plan down to a lower rate option.

The available plans on Netflix are:

  • 8 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $47.99 a month
  • 7 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $41.99 a month
  • 6 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $35.99 a month
  • 5 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $29.99 a month
  • 4 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $23.99 a month
  • 3 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $16.99 a month
  • 2 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $13.99 a month
  • 1 at-a-time (Unlimited) - $8.99 a month
  • 1 at-a-time (2 a month) - $4.99 a month

Right now I'm on the 3 at a time plan for $16.99. Given my recent usage level I could probably drop down to the 1 at a time plan. Even looking at my long term history I could probably work just fine with the 2 at a time plan.

I could abandon Netflix entirely to just go to regular rentals at a local Blockbuster or RedBox outlet. But one big benefit of Netflix is that you can get a lot of obscure titles. I skimmed through my history and found that about 40-50% of the DVDs I watched are more obscure titles that I don't think you can find in a typical Blockbuster or REdbox. The remaining 50-60% of the movies are mainstream titles that are probably going to be available in most video rental locations.

Netflix also has a titles that you can watch on demand over the Internet. This is a relatively new feature of Netflix and I've used it a bit in the past year. In the past 12 months I've watched 53 titles which includes individual TV episodes. I figure this equates to roughly 1 extra DVD worth of entertainment per month.

The convenience level of Netflix is also a great bonus. You can save time and gas money with Netflix. I don't have to drive down to the video store and go through check outs. I can just browse the Netflix site once in a while and load up my list of movies then they come to me automatically. If you're not driving to the store then you're also going to save on gas. If I were to make weekly trips to the Blockbuster near me then that would be about $3-4 in gas costs monthly.

For this reason I am not ready to quit Netflix entirely. But I could cut back my Netflix plan and possibly partially replace it with Redbox rentals.

So given my normal usage of Netflix whats my best choice? Normally my usage with Netflix is 6.2 films a month with 50% obscure titles. So that's 3.1 obscure and 3.1 mainstream titles on average. Option 1: I could get that with the 1-at a time unlimited Netflix plan for $9 a month plus supplement it with 2-3 rentals at Redbox for $3. So combined that would give me 1-at a time Netflix for $9 plus 3 Redbox rentals at $3 for total of $12 a month cost. That should give me enough movies for what I've watched historically and it would be $5 less. However it would be less convenient to have to make trips to Redbox. Option 2: I could just drop down to 2-at-a time option on Netflix. This would give me plenty to hit that 6 films a month average and cost $3 less a month. I also wouldn't have to bother going to REdbox.

So that gives me
Option 1: 1-at-a time Netflix for $9 plus 3 Redbox rentals for $3 = $12 total
Option 2: 2-at-a time Netflix for $14 total

I'm going to go ahead and try out Option 2 and drop from the 3-at-a time plan to 2-at-a time.and see how that works. I'll test it for a month or so and if it works out all right then I'll stick to it.

Could you benefit from this kind of analysis? Maybe. Consider at least looking at your DVD rentals over a few months and see how much you rent. If you're using Netflix now then look through your account history and see how many movies you actually use. You might be surprised how little you use it and what the actual cost per DVD is. If you rent a lot of DVDs (especially more obscure titles) then it might be worth looking into using Netflix.

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