Netflix is still renting DVDs to customers in the US! Video may have killed the radio star but streaming has yet to dispense with the disc. Despite falling numbers, millions of people are enjoying the sound of a red envelope landing on their doormat. What’s more, Covid-19 led to an uptake in business.
DVD.com is Netflix’s dedicated arm for old school media. They describe Digital Versatile Discs as “a great way to complete your Netflix experience”.
A modern day app provides a 21st century way of keeping the flame alive. Covering the launch in 2017, The Independent wrote it “lets you monitor what’s trending and search for films and TV shows by categories or filters such as people, genre, and channel.”
There was an attempt to create a separate entity called Qwikster in 2011 but responses were negative. That said, Netflix on DVD requires an extra subscription. As with the streaming version, there are different plans available and a “first month free” trial. Blu-Rays are sent at extra cost.
So how does the service compare with streaming, where things are available at the touch of a button? Outlining the basics, Business Insider writes DVDs “typically arrive in one to three days.” And there’s no rush to get them back. “You can keep the disc (or discs) for as long as you like, with no late fees.”
A watchlist of sorts can be made in the form of a queue. Viewers send a movie back, before the next one is posted out. Postage is free, though in demand titles can take a while. Netflix don’t leave customers hanging – mail workers deliver the next pick down in the meantime.
Who is using Netflix’s DVD option in the US? CNN reports, “The Federal Communications Commission estimates 24 million Americans fall on the wrong side of this digital divide.” Factors that influence this decision include less than stellar broadband speeds in remote areas.
Another important reason is choice. Those in heavily populated areas rely on the service to offer what bandwidths can’t. Netflix states they carry “a huge selection of new releases and TV shows, many of which aren’t available to stream.”
The future may be online, but the internet is still playing catch up with a century or so of moviemaking. There are thought to be around 100,000 titles to rent, which puts the streamer’s tally of some 6,000 in the shade.
Streaming films is good, however sometimes quality is a casualty of convenience. A Blu-Ray doesn’t suffer from a sluggish connection, meaning high-definition entertainment is uninterrupted (provided some careless soul hasn’t scratched the disc of course!). Crucially, a title may suddenly evaporate from someone’s stream. That doesn’t seem to happen much with DVD.com, where releases sit on shelves all year round.
A consensus is emerging that things ain’t what they used to be. Wired notes, “As Netflix has grown… the selection of good films seems to have shrunk…as the company focuses its efforts on original television shows and documentaries.” The DVD wing appears to focus exclusively on features. Movies represent a mere third of Netflix’s business according to some reports.
How many are renting DVDs and Blu-Rays from Netflix? Naturally this section of the customer base is diminishing. Wired refers to over 2 million subscribers, with around $300 million made last year. Back in 2017, The Independent mentioned 4 million users. It’s a sliding scale, yet one that’s moving slower than anticipated.
There are some things even modern technology can’t predict, Coronavirus being one of them. The variety of DVD.com and increasing demand for more content has racked up new subscribers for the company. Postal service issues and a depleted catalogue of new releases may go against it in the long run.
Eventually DVDs will be consigned to the past. For most it’ll be seen as progress. Others will think of it as the end of an era, and not only for a fondly-remembered format…
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Steve is a writer and comedian from the UK. He’s a contributor to both The Vintage News and The Hollywood News and has created content for many other websites. His short fiction has been published by Obverse Books.