It might be hard to remember, given how famous it is for streaming, but Netflix’s bread-and-butter used to be physical media. Today, Netflix DVDs are still around (even if they don’t get much fanfare), and I’m hoping the company keeps it that way for the foreseeable future.
According to a report by Recode, nearly 4 million people still use Netflix’s DVD service. That might seem like a large number, but it pales in comparison to nearly 52 million people who stream, and the number has been declining, infinitesimally but steadily, for years.
That could mean it’ll cease to be a profitable venture for Netflix, and I have no doubt they won’t hesitate to shut it down should that happen. But I hope it doesn’t, because Netflix DVDs still seem to be part of a larger library than the streaming version, and I’d hate to see that go away.
For example, here are all the things I’ve searched for in the last month or so which are available on from Netflix’s DVD service, but not its streaming service:
- The Women
- The Searchers
- Stalag 17
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- The Maltese Falcon
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights
- The Count of Monte Cristo
And keep in mind I use Netflix an average of once or twice a week (I’m a gamer; I have other distractions). To me, that’s the most disappointing thing about Netflix’s digital library — you don’t realize how many good movies are missing from it until you’re looking, and they’re invariably available on DVD.
Every time I searched for something, only to run up against the “DVD-only” wall, I felt a sting of disappointment. Sure, I’d have had to wait a few days to see my movie of choice with a DVD account, but without one, I wouldn’t see it at all.
If you think about it, the alternatives are few: Amazon Video has some plum options as far as older movies go, but not everything on my short list is there either. And it’s not as though Redbox is likely to have anything older than this year’s releases.
Netflix’s DVD collection is pretty expansive and doesn’t seem to undergo the same fluctuations as the streaming-only component. You can keep the DVDs until you get tired of them, and you get free shipping.
So why are so many people going streaming-only? There are two reasons that I can see: instant gratification, and mobile viewing. When you select a movie or show that is actually available for streaming, then you can watch it instantly on any device in your house, from your TV to your pocket-sized smartphone. That’s a luxury not available to DVD viewers. I’m pretty sure a large contingent of Netflix’s customers don’t even own DVD players anymore.
I can see why so many people are going non-corporeal with Netflix. But I can also see the advantages of a DVD plan. So let’s hope that Netflix keeps that part of the service around for a while longer, even if it’s a tiny minority among the rest of their customers.