Netflix first made its name by upending the rental video market, offering a home delivery option for DVDs and helping to put putting Blockbuster into bankruptcy. The Netflix streaming service is what the company is most commonly known for these days. It allows users to watch television shows, movies, and original programming on a variety of devices. Like any online video service, there’s always room for improvement and Netflix could certainly benefit from a few redesigns, but overall the company provides one of the best options for streaming services at an affordable price.
Netflix Streaming Content Offerings
For just $7.99 a month, Netflix streaming subscribers have access to a vast catalog of content. The company has deals with some of the top studios in Hollywood, such as Warner Bros., Universal Pictures, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as the top broadcast networks and cable channels, to stream their content. This provides users with a library of videos ranging from cult classic movies to entire television series, with the latter usually resulting in serious binge watching.
While Netflix offers a wide variety of content, it’s limited in terms of new releases. The company tries to hide this with a catalog section entitled “New Arrivals;” however these are new additions to Netflix, not actual new releases. This goes for both movies and television shows. If you are watching a completed series like “Gilmore Girls,” you can watch all seven glorious seasons without interruption – besides your roommate occasionally checking in to make sure you are still alive, and Netflix asking if you’re still watching after a few episodes of autoplay! However, if you are looking to watch a show still on the air, Netflix is not the best option for viewing a current or recently-aired season. The company has been forging deals to speed up this process, but it remains to be a serious limitation.
Netflix streaming has seen major success with original programming, most notably “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Netflix currently offers more than twenty original programs and has even penned a deal with Disney to bring live-action versions of four of Marvel’s most popular characters, starting with Daredevil. Netflix has also won over audiences by reviving several critically acclaimed shows, such as “Arrested Development” and “The Killing,” that were untimely cut from cable.
The company is also diving into more kid-friendly content, recently announcing that it will be adding five children’s shows over the next year, including new versions of “Danger Mouse” and “Inspector Gadget.”
While streaming services for Netflix were originally offered through a computer-only online model, the company optimized its service for a variety of platforms. Netflix provides a free app for iOS, both for iPhones and iPads, Android, which includes a Kindle Fire app, and Windows 8. Netflix is also available for Roku and Apple TV, as well as all major video game consoles that double as media centers, such as Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Netflix accommodates for these viewing options by allowing users to register up to six devices on each account, meaning you can link your phone, tablet, gaming console, and computer to one account and still have two to spare. For the basic $7.99 a month plan, users can only watch on one device at a time. The standard plan, which costs $8.99 a month, allows you to watch on two devices at the same time, while the premium plan, which costs $11.99, allows four people to watch on the same account at the same time.
Ease of Use
Getting started on Netflix is easy and simple. After signing up, you’re welcomed by a questionnaire about your viewing preferences. The result is a list of recommended content that you can start watching immediately. While this is nice to help you get started, you may need to mess around with your star ratings on your account, as Netflix may begin to recommend things you aren’t interested in. Netflix applies descriptors to all of options, but some of them are misleading or aren’t related to your tastes.
Searching manually on a computer, smartphone or tablet is painless. This process is rather tedious on the Roku, as there is no easily accessible button for the search page, instead it is just one of many tiles. The search process is slightly better on Apple TV, but using the remote to select letters is more time consuming than typing a search on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Overall, the viewing experience on different devices is good, though there are several inconsistent features and account controls across apps. For example, the ability to add close captioning and sort content by the language of subtitles are two features that are only available on certain apps. Netflix could benefit by streamlining features across all platforms, making the experience seamless for every user.
Users can manage their viewing selections by creating multiple profiles. This is a huge plus if several people are using one account. For instance, if you like Danny Boyle’s filmography and your spouse prefers more lighthearted films, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” you can make separate profiles to avoid mixed recommendations.
The multiple viewer profile can also be extremely helpful for parents creating separate profiles for their children. Netflix also offers parental controls, so parents can restrict what content is available to view on specific profiles.
Netflix does offer one major benefit over some competing online video services: the lack of any on-screen advertising. Users don’t have to sit through ads before or during their movies and shows, unlike with Hulu Plus. (Read our full Netflix vs. Hulu Plus comparison for more information.)
While Netflix doesn’t have plans to offer offline services anytime soon, the company does provide one of the best streaming experiences and has a variety of content to choose from. It still might not be an alternative to cable, but Netflix does offer an amazing value for its services.