Obscurity Knocks

Earnest, empathetic, industrious, unpretentious, gay Virgo in Milwaukee with a great life, amazing friends, and a wonderful family.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Netlifx streaming: not all it's cracked up to be

An open letter to Netflix CEO Mr. Reed Hastings and Time Warner CEO Mr. Jeffrey L. Bewkes:

Mr. Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix
Mr. Jeffrey L. Bewkes, CEO, Time Warner

Dear Mr. Hastings and Mr. Bewkes:

I am a Netflix subscriber and I also have Time Warner's Road Runner high speed Internet service. Recently Netflix announced a price increase. I was on the three DVDs at a time plan from Netflix. Since that plan is increasing from $16.99 to $19.99 per month, I switched to the two DVDs at a time plan which recently increased from $13.99 to $14.99 per month. I understand that Mr. Hastings and Netflix want to move their customers from DVDs to Internet streaming. Doing so allows Netflix to reduce what it pays in mailing costs to the US Postal Service. I understand and appreciate that someday Netflix will likely be all streaming and no DVDs. Although Netflix has a long way to go before accomplishing this goal since less than one-third of my Netflix queue is available on streaming, hence my decision to be on the two DVDs at a time plan.

Since I want to move forward with technology, this weekend I bought a Sony Blu-Ray player (BDPS570) with Wi-Fi. The sales associate at Best Buy explained that this Blu-Ray player would allow me to watch streaming Netflix on my Sony Bravia TV in HD. Great, I thought.

I got everything hooked up without any trouble. I was excited to watch my first Netflix streaming movie. I selected "The Rape of Europa," a documentary about how the Nazis looted and destroyed a significant amount of the world's art in the 1930s and 1940s. The movie started playing on my TV, and I was thrilled with the sharp and bright HD picture. The sound was good, as well. But then the difficulties began. The documentary is 1 hour and 56 minutes in length. It stopped playing approximately 50 times to buffer. Instead of taking 1 hour and 56 minutes to watch, it took me 2 hours and 21 minutes, meaning that the many, many stops for buffering totalled a mind-numbing 25 minutes. Mr. Hastings, if this is streaming Netflix, I'm not interested. Give me the DVD where I don't have to be constantly wondering when the movie is going to stop for buffering. I'll go insane if this is how I have to watch movies.

I wondered if my Road Runner high speed Internet connection was inadequate for Netflix streaming. I tested the speed twice using speedtest.net, and my results were 22.83 Mbps and 25.85 Mbps, which the site said was average. Perhaps my difficulty is with Time Warner's Road Runner; I don't know. If it is, then I'd respectfully request that Time Warner and Mr. Bewkes provide me with improved Road Runner service. I live in the City of Milwaukee. I acknowledge that I don't live in Palo Alto, but Milwaukee is a fairly major city and should have truly high speed Internet service. By way of comparison, my work computer tested at 92 Mbps, but that's a very good service.

However, I think that the problem lies with Netflix. I found this article entitled "How Netflix is Failing You," indicating that I'm hardly the only person experiencing this problem with buffering. My question for Netflix is this: Why are you trying to move your customers to Internet streaming when your Internet streaming service is so inadequate? Shouldn't you have the proper infrastructure in place before you increase your prices to move people to streaming? Isn't there a way that when I select a movie, all the buffering could take place before the movie starts playing, so that once the movie starts playing it won't stop?

Until Netflix can get its act together, I don't plan on using the streaming service since it's so maddeningly frustrating with the constant buffering.

I'd welcome hearing from Mr. Hastings and Mr. Bewkes and/or their associates.

Steve F.


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