Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Comparing Netflix and Blockbuster

A few months back I decided to switch my DVD service from Netflix to Blockbuster. Netflix had raised their rates to 21.99 while Blockbuster monthly rates stayed at 19.99.

I figured that they were both basically the same service competing on price. So switching seemed to be the rational thing to do.

But I have to warn you that it is not the same service.

First, most of the new releases at Blockbuster are not immediately available. Now, I ran into this problem a few times at Netflix (although not in the last six months), but most of the movies in my queue at BB say either short wait, long wait, or very long wait.

In addition, the turnaround time in receiving movies through the mail seems to take a little bit longer with BB. I've noticed that Netflix had a Chicago mailing address while BB is out of state. Does Netflix have warehouses set up at different locations to speed delivery? I don't know, but they are definitely quicker than BB.

Finally, Netflix has a more user-friendly web-site. The difference in quality isn't that great, but enough to be noticeable.

I was actually quite surprised to find that BB's service was inferior as I thought a company with the resources of Blockbuster would be able to match the service of an upstart like Netflix.

Now I'm not sure if I made the right decision as the hassle of waiting for movies probably isn't worth the two bucks I save.

But just now I received an e-mail from Blockbuster notifying me that they are reducing their rate to $17.49 a month. I believe that's pretty much an admission that their service basically sucks. Now the question is whether I want to pay an extra $4.50 for the quality of Netflix.

One last note. Some people claim that each service is able to hold onto to customers by letting them rate movies that the service then uses to recommend future titles. While it is true I have spent more time than I like to admit on Netflix rating movies, I always found their recommendations of little use. I'm not sure this will too great of an effect in preventing users from switching.