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Understanding Netflix

4/23/2008, 1/5/2014 - Author: Felicia

What is Netflix? Netflix is a company that has found a new way of doing movie rentals. They are incredibly successful in this venture.


The old way

You’ve probably used Block Buster or your local movie rental store at least once in the last decade. You would drive to the store and rent the DVD or VHS movie(s) of your choice. The movie rental store gave you a period of time in which you had to return the movie or you would be charged late penalties.

One of the major problems people ran into with renting DVDs from local stores was the ongoing problem with reliability. Imagine you go to the store and rent a DVD. You get it home and try it out, but it won’t play in your DVD player. You drive back to the store and complain. They give you a different one. You try that one and it doesn’t work either. So you go back to the store for the third time, and they don’t have any more DVDs of the movie you wanted to rent. Thus you have to choose a different movie.

You can imagine the frustration level of these reliability problems. Netflix realized the problems with the old way rentals were working.

·         Short time to return without penalty

·         DVDs that did not consistently work in set-top players

·         Travel time and wasted gas to go to the rental store

·         Supply problems with a particular movie of choice

The new way

Netflix recognized the problems of the old way the movie rental industry was working and decided to do it differently.

·         Unlimited time movie rentals with no penalty

·         Movies returned and delivered by USPS

·         Huge regional DVD distribution centers to eliminate supply problems

·         Quality control point after every movie return (The DVD is checked for function.)

·         Movies on demand

Netflix has a number of plans to allow you to choose a plan that matches your needs. You can change your plan as much or as often as you want to without any contract penalty. There are no contracts. Additionally, their website is very easy to use and functional.

Netflix instant movies

With all of the movie rental plans, you have access to instant movies through their website. This is the coolest part of Netflix.

Internet bandwidth

You have to have a normal high-speed Internet connection in order to make use of this feature. People on very slow satellite connections should not use this. Dial-up connections will not work. The movies are streamed to your PC in a reasonable resolution.

Image quality

You have to realize that instant movies will never look as good as a video that you are seeing on a DVD. Commercially produced DVD movies can contain more than 5 GB of data. It is impossible to push all of that data over the Internet to the majority of American households. If we all had fiber connections to our houses, the story would be different.

In order for this technology to work, pixels must be removed from the overall picture quality. When people talk about high definition TVs or DVDs, these things are really just ways in which you get MORE pixels. The theory is that more pixels are better. In reality, after a certain point, the human eye just can’t detect any more pixels. So I’m not an advocate of HD or Blu‑Ray.

The instant movie feature is great for all the old movies we love to watch. Anything made before 1970 doesn’t have the greatest picture quality anyhow. I’ve watched a bunch of WWII films using the instant movie feature. When I evaluate the ability to watch the movie instantly without waiting for a DVD to arrive in the mail compared with video quality differences, I’ll take the instant movie any day. I still use the regular DVD via mail feature, but I use it for movies I know are really good and where I want to see really good picture quality.

Instant movies gotchas

·         You must back up and be prepared to restore the registry key on each PC where you enable instant movie watching. Export the following registry key to a reg file or use regdmp.exe in a script.
This registry key must be restored via regini or regedit if you have to rebuild your computer or it crashes and you have to restore it to a time before the key was there.

·         Be choosy about which PCs you register the instant movies on as you are limited to four.
The counter on this resets every January.

·         The video driver in your computer must be able to support DRM (digital rights management).
Additionally, your video card must be able to handle that as well.
In practice, I’ve had the best of luck with a computer built in 2005. I’ve had more problems with new computers as there seems to be DRM compatibility bugs in their video drivers that the software developers have not yet fixed.

·         Netflix instant movie player is run‑time version of Windows Media Player.
Only video drivers that can handle DRM can play the Media Player DRM add‑on.

·         Remember to use the Back to Browsing button to navigate away from a movie when you are done watching it.
This essentially sends a kill bit to the movie streamer server to tell the server to stop sending the video to your machine.

Instant movie tips

You can tweak the compatibility with Windows Media Player by right-clicking on Now Playing, then click More Options. On the Performance tab, click Advanced. Uncheck the box for Use Video Mixing Renderer. Perhaps if you update your video driver, you may then be able to set this check box back to the default.


Netflix is awesome and better than the other video rental companies even if you never use the instant movie feature.


1/5/2014 Update


It seems that everyone has jumped on the streaming video on demand bandwagon. Blockbuster went bust because they entered the VOD (video on demand) market too late. Now movies can be bought online directly from the independent film maker themselves, Amazon, Youtube, and other vendors.