Confession time: I, like so many of you, am a Netflix moocher. I have used, loved, binge-watched and abused a Netflix account for nearly three years now, but I’ve been leeching off an old roommate’s account, which she was fine with, even if my viewing habits mix in a lot of Justice League Unlimited to throw off her heavily mumblecore-centric viewing recommendations.
These heady days of unlimited Netflix sharing, however, may be coming to an end. Bloomberg reports today the service that is changing the way we watch TV wants to actually charge you for the way you watch TV. It may soon start cracking down on the number of devices you can stream the service on, which means no more mooching off of mom and dad’s account and no more one Netflix for the whole apartment [UPDATE: Netflix has just released its "moocher plan" price: $12 for four streams!]. It’s cool, I was going to get my own account soon anyway. In fact, this is actually a pretty great sign of things to come. Here’s why:
Right now, you can stream Netflix on an unlimited number of devices (though the service limits you to two simultaneous streams). Netflix, ever savvy (save that Quickster debacle), has long known that DVDs are not going to matter much longer, which is why they named the company Netflix and not Netdisc woah those many years ago (in 1998! Was anyone even alive then??).
Bloomberg estimates the company has 10 million moochers, people like me who use it without paying for it. That’s on top of 33 million paid subscribers.
So the company wants to make those people pay, and while you can be frustrated, you can’t really get mad. Hell, if any company has a right to actually try to capitalize on its popularity, it’s Netflix.
A Netflix streaming subscription is $8 a month (or the newly announced $12 moocher plan), which is, essentially, pocket change for access to more TV and movies than you could ever watch through four hurricanes and a month’s worth of sick days. I went to a Mets game last night and spent more than the cost of Netflix on a single serving of ice cold french fries that I’m pretty sure were made of Ike Davis’ cleat dirt.
But there’s another big thing going on here: Netflix is the bannerman at the head of the charge against traditional cable which, as is well documented, is a engine of hot garbage that runs on brain cells and is shoved into your throat via fiber optic tubes that make you care about things like Kardashians and old guys with beards who get hard-ons by shooting ducks for fun or something. And cable news! Have you watched that lately or, like, ever? Sources say Wolf Blitzer is a cylon.
Netflix paved the way for Hulu and HBOgo, and for Amazon’s streaming service and the next billion waves of on-demand, TV-free entertainment options that will follow.
I had resolved specifically to buy my own Netflix account next month anyway, because of the best thing Netflix has ever done for us: Arrested Development. AD, when looking for a home for its new episodes, obviously looked at the networks and thought: why would we go back to a network system that screwed us and under-appreciated us in the first place? Why not instead go directly to the fans, the ones who kept the show culturally alive for the last decade, the ones who lie in bed hungover on an endless loop and watch AD episodes back to back because they’re just so comforting and enjoyable?
As I overhead Michael Cera saying in a Bed-Stuy coffee shop two weekends ago, Netflix was totally cool to work with. When AD said they wanted to do more episodes than the original planned run, Netflix was like “surely!” [AD reference mine]. Its May 26 debut (all episodes dropped at once! Binge watching is so in) is so anticipated, David Cross expects the whole server to crash.
And have you seen that House of Cards? Zoe Barnes, you make me all gurgly inside. It’s a show I probably would not have watched on regular cable, but the allure of having a show to burn through all at once was too good to pass up.
Netflix is decentralized viewing, like how your iPod was decentralized radio listening. Remember radio? If not, let me do an impression for you: MAROON 5 SWEET HOME ALABAMA LINKIN PARK THAT ONE CROSSOVER INDIE SONG YOU USED TO LIKE BUT IS NOW OVERPLAYED EVERY 20 MINUTES. Terrible.
So you paying Netflix your $8 a month allows the Bluth gang to return, plus unlimited hangover viewing, and any number of other easily accessed entertainment that does not involve being force fed commercials for cars you’re never going to buy or medicine you probably don’t need.
This comes down to what I like to call “purposeful consumption,” though I’m sure there’s some fancy sociology word that already describes this. Simply, it’s the act of recognizing when a company or product has decided to cut out the middle person and appeal to me directly, giving me exactly what I want. This is why you pay a little more for the locally sourced restaurant, or choose the beer from the company with pretty groovy community minded philosophy or why you subscribe to Spotify because it is a perfect marriage of the ease of piracy with the responsibility of paying your share. It’s why I’ll eventually pay for an HBOgo account when they make that available without having to get a whole cable package (HBO is clearly working on this. They’ve known they’re better than the rest of cable for a long time).
I’m signing up for my own Netflix account, because I want to be part of the Arrested Development bump, but also because I’m ready to chip in my fair share for a service that is helping crack the awful prix fixe world of cable into a smaller a la carte menu. We are, after all, the Cheapest Generation, which means we don’t care about collecting “stuff” any more. Let us live in the cloud in peace.
Let’s all sign up so this kind of entertainment keeps coming. It’s a choice as Ann as the nose on plain’s face.
Follow Tim for some Afternoon Delight: @timdonnelly.