That One Red Envelope that Leaves Me Conflicted


Why must you make me choose?!?

It’s something we’d discussed for a long time.

Subscribing to Netflix had been a spur-of-the-moment decision. We had just got our first laptop – a third-hand MacBook G4 – and set up a wireless network in our first apartment. The laptop was there, the ad came on the television for a free trial, and we were bored.

That was, of course, during the days when boredom was possible. We didn’t know how good we had it.

I became a voracious consumer of DVDs at first. Movies I hadn’t seen in a while, movies I’d always wanted to see, movies Netflix thought I should see – updating my que was a constant adventure. Oh, the wonder of getting that little e-mail letting me know my next title had been mailed, the sacred ceremony of unsealing the envelope, then slipping the just-watched disk back into its sleeve and peeling away the protective strip from the adhesive and readying it to go once more back into the post!

When streaming became available, I was smitten. I would sit in front of my old desktop Dell on nights when my wife worked and watch the documentaries and old black-and-white films that she hated.

Later, after we moved into our house, discovering that my new laptop had an HDMI port on the side was earth-shattering – now, we could hook this right up to the television in the living room and stream movies on the big screen! And then, finally, the streaming service came to the Wii – first, you had to use a special disk, and then later with an application installed on the entertainment system.

But, through the construction of the house, Ashley’s pregnancy and then being alone rather often with a newborn/infant/toddler, use of Netflix waned. Several times, with bills getting tight, we contemplated cancelling our account. We scaled back the number of disks we could have out at a time, from three to one, and now we face still another cut.

Netflix has raised their prices.

A jump from roughly $10 a month to $16 a month seems slight, even if it is a 60 percent increase. And the reasoning behind it is clear – because they can.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Netflix would make more money if they actually stuck with ‘flix on the Net. In other words, if they didn’t have to pay to keep up with and mail all those disks, their overhead would plummet and their margins would soar. Possibly, more money in pocket would put them in a better negotiating position with studios, which could bring more content to their streaming service faster.

I’m for it, but I still don’t trust it. Comcast – my cable company upon whose wires I am uploading this blog – is acquiring NBC and a handful of cable channels with it. That’s a big deal. And they have exclusive rights – along with other cable and satellite providers – to show movies on pay-per-view before they get to go on Netflix’s streaming service. So, anything that’s just out is another $5 I have to pay to see it on top of what I’m already paying to not watch Netflix.

It’s agony. On one hand, it’s an absurd expense, small though it is. Just $16 a month, but for a service I use infrequently. But also, there’s the comfort of knowing it’s there. There’s the dream that I’ll one day be able to come in from work, eat a little something, and settle in to watch a movie. Hasn’t happened in the past three years, with the wife working until after 7 p.m. (or getting to work by 7 p.m.) and a kid who’s more entertained chasing me around the house than by watching that movie I’ve been wanting to see.

There is a cost/benefit ratio that applies to entertainment. How long will I be entertained relative to how long I worked to earn the money that is buying that entertainment? Will the intensity and duration of the entertainment be worth the cost of the ticket? Am I purchasing an experience or trying to kill time that would be better spent elsewhere?

Ten bucks a month is worth the cost of admission, to have something on hand that will show me television shows and movies and things, especially now that my daughter is getting old enough to enjoy watching them.

But is $6 a month worth what I must pay, if not to watch a movie, for the comfort of having that red envelope waiting for me atop the DVD player, ever patient, for days or weeks or, hell, months, until I have the opportunity to settle in and watch it?

The reason I may scale-back (or cancel) my Netflix membership will likely not be because they hiked prices, but because they’re forcing me to make the decision at all.


One response »

  1. Pingback: Jesus H. Christ, Netflix: Why Are You Doing This to Me? « The Squad Blog

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