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How the New New Netflix Changes Will Affect Most of You (Hint: Probably Not that Much)

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | September 19, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | September 19, 2011 |

Many of you probably woke up this morning, rolled over in your beds, grabbed your smart phones and — as many of us do first thing in the morning — checked your email. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you likely received an email from Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix. If you’re like me, you probably read the first two lines, thought it was an apology for the way they handled last month’s new pricing plans, and skipped past it to find out what was offering this morning.

There’s more to it than that. Indeed, the Netflix we all once knew and loved won’t be the same Netflix anymore. From now on, Netflix will refer to only the streaming service. The DVD by Mail service is spinning off into a separate company: Qwikster.

Besides the dumbass name, here’s what you should probably know: If you are a streaming-only subscriber to Netflix, things won’t change for you. In fact, it may become easier for you, because the Netflix website will no longer be integrated into the Qwickster website. That means, at the very least, that when you look up a title that’s only available on streaming, you won’t get that annoying message: “By mail only” and then let out an exasperated sigh because you no longer subscribe to the mail service. I assume, instead, it will say: “Not available.” And then, especially with Netflix’s loss of Starz, we’ll all get a better idea of the real nature of Netflix’s streaming catalogue. For those of us who watch a lot of TV and keep up with most shows, Netflix may become more and more irrelevant. For those who still need to catch up on “Sports Night” or re-watch “Better off Ted,” then Netflx will still matter. As the months and years pass, presumably Netflix’s streaming service will grow. I am still of the opinion that, to truly matter, Netflix will eventually need to have access to television shows as they are (and thus put out cable businesses).

As a movie service, the choices on Netflix streaming will probably become fewer and fewer (I understand, even, that they are not as interested in going after documentaries, which has been the major reason I use Netflix).

So, if you’re in it for the movies only, Qwickster is at least a better alternative than Blockbuster. But even still, Netflix has come to realize — appropriately so — that even DVD by mail service is growing increasingly irrelevant, since many of those movies you can buy or rent on iTunes or Amazon the day they are released on DVD. Unless you watch a lot of older movies, Qwickster may not be that beneficial. My guess is that Qwickster will thrive for a few more years, but will eventually die, and the CEO doesn’t want Qwickster dragging down his Netflix service.

It also means that, if you subscribe to both Netflix and Netflix by Mail (now Qwickster), you will have two different websites you’ll have to browse and your credit card will be charged separately. I don’t know why that’s a big deal, but some find it annoying (the total price will not change; there are no new pricing plans involved).

Besides the minor inconvenience, I don’t find much particularly bothersome about the new plan, other than the condescending language of the email. There’s even a bonus if If you’re a gamer, as you now have the ability to receive video games by mail for a surcharge. On the other hand, if you’re Netflix queue is currently 200 titles long, you’re going to lose it. Sorry, but let’s be honest: You weren’t going to watch most of those movies, anyway.

I do understand, however, that many of you hate change, even small incremental change, and that you enjoy having something to bitch about. This should give you plenty of material to get through the day, if only it had come tomorrow, so you wouldn’t have to combine your Emmy awards bitching and Netflix bitching into the same news cycle. What will you bitch about tomorrow?

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.