Netflix – UK

So, a lot of people in the UK are not really aware of Netflix, which I personally find astounding. This isn’t a new and exciting service here, this is one of the biggest revelations within US broadcast media in decades finally being rolled out across the pond to the benefit of the ignorant UK populace. Just to give you an idea what Netflix is like, here are some statistics:

  • Over 20 million world wide subscribers
  • Over 2 billion hours of TV was watched in the last 3 months of 2011
  • Uses around 32% US broadband of bandwidth during peak hours
  • Available in over 50 countries
  • Can be streamed on majority of internet accessible devices (phones, tablets, tv’s, PC’s, consoles, etc.)

By no means is Netflix tiny, as the statistics prove. But stats don’t tell the whole, or even half of the story. What is Netflix like to use?

Signing up couldn’t be easier, and you can even register through your Facebook account if you so wish. One benefit to this is that you can share with everyone what you are watching, as well as what you’ve rated films and tv shows. On the downside, you may accidentally let it slip that you’ve spent the past few days catching up on Desperate Housewives or Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, rather than catching some kick ass Chuck Norris and losing man-points. Of course, you can quite easily choose not to share your viewing habits. So with the opt-out, I’d say this is a solid positive.

Netflix is also relatively cheap for the unlimited streaming services that it offers, at only £5.99 a month with 1 month’s free trial. With this unlimited streaming service you also get the option for HD streaming, something that can make a world of difference if your connection can handle it! You may not even miss watching DVDs or Blurays if you can stream your movies in that quality instantly. In fact, I used to be an avid DVD collector and at its peak had over 350 DVDs in my library. Whilst some of you may scoff, if you live in less than palatial settings, 350 DVDs can be a right pain in the arse for storage! What I have found to be beneficial whilst streaming through my PS3, is that it will stream in HD where possible, and if the bandwidth is being eaten up by another greedy member of the household it’ll drop down a level, yet jump back up should enough bandwidth become available again.

Netflix is great for US import TV shows of which I am a huge fan. I don’t think there are any UK shows that can hold a torch to the great drama coming from across the pond in the form of Dexter or Breaking Bad, let alone hit the height of comedy that is Arrested Development. In fact, even if you have no intention of subscribing to Netflix in the long term, the very fact it is practically giving you all of Arrested Development for free for a month is reason to sign up. Hell, Netflix is the company that is resurrecting the funniest show in TV history. Enough fanboy-ism there though. It does also have great UK shows such as the Inbetweeners, Peepshow, Top Gear and the IT Crowd on offer as well. The movie side of Netflix is, in my opinion, a let down though. They don’t seem to be on the ball when it comes to picking up new movies for streaming, especially when compared to UK alternative Lovefilm. Latest movies on Netflix currently include The Expendables, The Switch and The International – certainly not keeping pace with Lovefilm in that department, and absolutely not what one would consider world beating films you just have to watch! In fact, I’d be very careful to avoid them. Given their Netflix’s buying power I can only see them going from strength to strength in the UK acquiring movies if need be, but definitely more in the way of domestic TV shows.

The interface for Netflix is pretty darn good. Its very simple, easily defined genres, and it makes a real attempt to get to know you and your preferences. It’ll compile lists of things you’ve already seen without their services and use the ratings you give them to suggest further viewing. It also allows you to pick genres and sub-genres of your favourite viewing habits. For example, I love a good comedy, but from time-to-time I go looking for those particularly oddball comedies which just are a little bit more bonkers: BASEketball for example. Netflix provides a sub-category on your homepage with suggestions along those lines, as well as similar shows to ones you’ve recently been watching. Considering a lot of what it has are US imports you may not know or have had the chance to see, this is a great way to get into what your American cousins are watching. Everything looks smooth as well, and is standardised across each platform. Admittedly I had some trouble having it working on my iPad, some random errors stopped it from working the first day, and then with my Galaxy S2 as well, yet my iPhone took to it like a duck to water.

This is a streaming only service. Lovefilm gives you options for receiving physical DVDs and Blurays. Plenty of you want to keep getting discs as it makes life more manageable, the quality consistently high and reliable, and it is a very easy system to understand. I get that. Also, a lot of you are pirates, lets not play games. You download torrents or use filesharing sites and forums like the now defunct MegaUpload. You are probably going to be the most interested in this service as it will be a legitmate way to get what you want. Some of you already stream like feinds, but from dodgy sites like alluc or tvlinks, which are being hounded by the authorities and legal dogs as well. This should be given a go, see if it bests the low quality streams you’re probably using at the moment.

The rest of you should at least give it a go. Its free for a month, as is Lovefilm. Hell, try one, then try the other. See what you think and let us know. If streaming isn’t for you then fair enough. For me, its the way forward and for now, it looks like Netflix is my favourite.