Bottom line: Netflix really wants out of the physical DVD business. And the company is doing its best to hasten its exit.
It has been widely reported that the company’s director of product management, Jamie Odell, announced that subscribers will no longer be able to add DVD titles to their queue using network media players, connected TVs and Blu-ray players, or mobile devices. If you want to add a title to your physical DVD queue, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way: go to the Web site. The only reason to do this is to make it more difficult to manage your physical DVD queue, and drive more people to use the streaming service.
While this is sure to upset some subscribers, it sends a strong statement about the company’s plans. And it makes even more sense when you combine this with the announcement at CES that new remote controls for connected TVs, connected Blu-ray players, and network media players from major manufacturers will start sporting a big red Netflix button that takes you directly to the service with a single click.
My concern with this emphasis on streaming to the exclusion of physical discs is that the service is not quite ready to be the equivalent of the mailed disc service. You can’t get high definition streams for the majority of titles, and the streaming title selection is not nearly as good as what you can get from the local Redbox for a buck. (Or a buck-fifty for HD Blu-ray.) Netflix seems to be playing a game of chicken, betting that it can come up with enough money to convince the studios and other content producers to let them have more current content. The risk is that some better alternative could come along, or the studios could simply decide to cut them off from the “good stuff”. Netflix has negotiated some impressive agreements with some smaller, quality studios, but they don’t have enough of the big titles on the streaming service yet.