Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Netflix v Blockbuster? I vote Netflix.

I've been a fan of Netflix for a long time. A year ago, I thought I'd give Blockbuster Online a try. I'm now ready to go back to just one service again, and I pick Netflix.

One reason I tried Blockbuster was that they carry some movies that Netflix does not have, and I wanted to see some of them. Primary among them is the World At War series, which I'm honestly very surprised that Netflix doesn't carry. I had seen the series when it was first broadcast in the 70s, on PBS (as I recall). Twenty-six broadcast hour-long episodes, plus a bunch of extra features they came up with for a later (30th anniversary?) release. Eleven disks in the series, so it's taken me a while to go through them all. Wonderful series; no surprise there.

And Blockbuster has cut deals to make some movies exclusive to Blockbuster. Lower-echelon movies, mostly. The best of those that I saw was Bobby.

But I've now had enough. The biggest "benefit" to going with Blockbuster Online is that you have a choice in returning movies: you can mail them back in a prepaid mailer (like Netflix), or you can take them to a brick-and-mortar Blockbuster store and trade it in for a "free" rental. (The store will then drop your movie in the mail for you.) The free rental is treated like a regular Blockbuster rental - you have to return it within five days, or they hit you with a late fee (which they call something else, but that's what it really is), and if you don't return it in something like two weeks, they bill your credit card for the retail cost of the movie.

The other benefit with Blockbuster Online is a monthly free coupon for a game or movie rental. (Okay, for me, that's a movie rental, as I don't have an XBox or PSP game system.) Same deal: you have to go to the physical store and get a movie, and return it five days later.

And because Blockbuster Online is more expensive than Netflix, you have to take advantage of these benefits to feel like you're getting your money's worth. (Especially when they raise their monthly fees while Netflix leaves theirs unchanged.)

When you come down to it, though, the three-movies-out-at-a-time that you have with Netflix is sufficient for me, and you don't have the hassle of returning movies before their dates to avoid late fees or the inconvenience of driving out of your way to the Blockbuster store, where you have to undergo their attempts to upsell you with candy and popcorn.