Monday, August 9, 2010

A Question For Netflix Customers

We are thinking of giving up satellite for Netflix. One of the reasons is that most of the channels are now so awash in commercials that it isn't worth the effort--and on some channels, the number of commercials become so obnoxious towards the climax of the movie that you start to lose the plot.

Another reason is that most of the channels really aren't worth watching. Yes, there are 250+ channels on Dish, but it seems like 60 of them are sports (which we don't watch), 30 of them shopping channels (even less interest), 20 are "adult entertainment" (no thanks), and many of the rest aren't carrying anything we particularly find interesting. My guess is that 90% of what we watch is History Channel, History Channel International, Science Channel, National Geographic, Animal Planet (which is better than you might at first guess), and Fox News (although less so, as O'Reilly's ego has become even more obnoxious, and the actual news programs become even more entertainment focused than before). For $60 a month, the amount of valuable stuff is surprisingly small--and Netflix's $8.99 per month is very attractive.

Here's my biggest concern (which I can't seem to find answered on their website). We have an adequate Internet connection--about 800KB downstream--but if the Netflix streaming has to go directly from your computer out to the TV, with no way to save it locally, this isn't going to work for us. An 800KB stream is going to lose way too many frames to be watchable.

8 comments:

John Cunningham said...

We recently got Netflix, in addition to cable TV, and I think that a movie is downloaded to my laptop before it starts playing. so, it might take a bit longer on your system to get the whole thing, but it probably would work.
Netflix used to have a 30-day trial period, before you start getting charged. if they have that, you could test it out and see how your speed works.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who's worked on the engineering side of video-on-demand for the last 15 years, Netflix is almost certainly starting the download of your movie long in advance of your actually starting to watch it. The quality-of-service available on today's Internet isn't up to delivering broadcast-quality video in real time. As John says, try before you buy is a good idea.

Robb Allen said...

While the quality isn't quite up to DVD standards, we stream movies through our Wii. Most of them are for our young daughters who aren't picky about the quality.

I can stream a movie every here and there so long as it's not an action flick and not lose sleep over the compression.

I have Fios, and honestly I could live with 5 channels vs. the 800 we have, but unfortunately those 5 happen to be in packages that require we buy 'em all. I can't wait until channels become ala carte.

Anyway, give Netflix a try. It's cheap enough that it won't break the bank to test it out for a few months.

Anonymous said...

Is your connection 800 kilobits or 800 kilobytes per second? If the former, you may be marginal for streaming. My wife and I found we couldn't reliably stream Netflix on a 768 kilobit per second connection and cancelled our subscription.

Netflix does buffer locally, but I do not believe it stores a complete local copy. When we would watch a movie, it would stop to rebuffer periodically, which got really old.

I am glad to see your blog back up. Your social commentary is insightful, and your machining posts are always enjoyable.

God bless!
Wayne

J said...

We use Netflix' on demand service because there are movie fans in the family. It works fine but I hear that the selection of movies available for download could be better. Netflix has a subset of its library that's available online; the latest & greatest movies are still delivered on DVD (via post).

When I signed up, Netflix was recommending a 3Mb connection, so I upgraded my 2Mb link to support it. In practice, we get between 2 and 3Mb now. That works well -- for a single viewing session. If two different movies are being streamed to different sets, one or the other will lose frames.

Support for video-over-the-net is pretty common now in DVD players, Wii's, X boxes and some TIVOs. I bought a Roku HD and like it.

But most of those are *not* DVRs, so they do not save the video for viewing later. TIVOs may be an exception to that but I don't have any experience with TIVO.

Clayton said...

800 kilobits/sec, not 800 kilobytes/sec. Sorry: it's easy when you leave real engineering to forget that KB and Kb are read differently!

Anonymous said...

If you are actually getting 800 kbps, streaming might be workable. I would recommend using their free trial to see if it will work before cancelling anything.

God bless!
Wayne

Mauser said...

I tried the streaming, but I had to install Silverlight, (Which made my streaming radio fail badly, good old WMP streaming worked fine after I uninstalled it). But my ancient PC wasn't up to snuff, so the quality was really poor. I just get the DVDs. For that, I've been pondering upgrading to the Two disks out plan.

If you like Beck, there's a guy who saves every show to YouTube.

I ditched DirecTV. I was pondering this new $25/mo deal Dish was offering, but lately I'm in negative cashflow, so that's out of the question.