Why after 14 years of being a subscriber, I canceled my Netflix account

A quick background

When I graduated high school in 2003 my big gift to myself was getting a Netflix account, being able to have thousands of movies and TV shows mailed to me for less than it would cost to rent them at the store was amazing and something I fell in love with.

Then streaming came along, and at first it was buggy and I didn’t really like it, but over time streaming got better and I grew to love the fact that I could stream anything in the library instantly.  And so for a little while I had both the DVD plan and the Streaming plan, and I enjoyed having options.

Then about three years ago I decided to cancel my DVD plan and stick with Streaming only.  I only had the DVD plan to try and rent newer movies and honestly I could just rent those same movies on Amazon or VUDU for the same amount per month or less if there wasn’t anything I cared to see that month.  So that’s what I did, and overall it’s worked out great, yes a few times I’ve paid more in a month than I would have for the DVD plan but if you average out the numbers I’ve saved a lot more than I’ve spent, so I don’t mind.

Why I cancelled my Netflix streaming account

There are three main reasons for this, they are:

  • Auto-play previews
  • Auto-play of the actual title
  • Removal of the star rating system

The auto-play of the previews is annoying but it tolerable, I would prefer to have not have them but it’s not a deal breaker.  The auto-play of the actual title on the other hand really gets to me, I’m not given a choice, if I click on something it just plays without me actually hitting play.  There have been several times something has been recommended to me and instead of clicking on it and adding it to my queue I skip it, why?  Because I don’t want to have to deal with the auto-playing of the title when I just want to read the damn description!  And most of the time when I get to my computer or phone I’ve forgotten what the title was and so I never end up watching it.

But what finally drove me away was the removal of the star rating system, since 2003 I have been rating everything I watched and Netflix just threw all that away for this stupid “thumbs up or down” system.  Now I’m getting recommendations for things I would never watch, and of course all the Netflix Originals are being rated in 90% range, when most of the stuff they produce I have zero interest in.  So this was the final straw for me, I’ve been a loyal Netflix customer for 14 years and this is how they treat me?  Take all the work I’ve put into training the algorithm to know what I like and what to recommend to me, and they just throw it all away and give me nothing but pure crap!  Well I have choices outside of Netflix and later on in this post I’m going to list some of those choices, and a few resources for finding more.

Netflix originals aren’t holding me back either

Let me just say when it comes to “Netflix Originals” they don’t have the most compelling choices, the only shows I actually enjoyed and would like to see more of are House of Cards, The Santa Clarita Diet, and The Ranch.  That’s it, three shows, and I can watch them other ways without paying for Netflix, so if I really want to see them I can.

Netflix needs to change their attitude if they what to survive

Since 2011 and the Qwickster debacle Netflix has become more and more hostile towards their customers, they seem to push out things we don’t want, take away things we do want, and now just strait up spit in our faces with the removal of the star rating system.

This attitude has to change, going against the customer no matter how good it seems for the company in the short term will always end up hurting the company in the long term.  Eventually the customer base will get sick of being treated like crap and cancel their subscriptions, and once enough of them do it Netflix will start losing money and that will be the end of the line.  And even if they eventually down the line realize that they screwed up and try to give the customer what they want it may be to late, once enough people associate Netflix with hostility towards customers no amount of PR will bring them back, and the company will be dead.

What should Netflix do to avoid this and bring customers back

  • Bring back the star rating system and dump the thumbs system
  • Stop the auto-play of previews
  • Stop the auto-play of the actual titles
  • Bring back the “Not Interested” button
  • Show the titles expiration date from day one.

I want to explain that last one since the first four are self explanatory, I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve been watching a multi season show and suddenly it’s gone.  I don’t want to have to go to the website, hover over the streaming menu, select “My List”, and then scroll through my entire queue once a week to see if there are expiration dates next to anything on my list.  I want that date to be shown from day one.  Let me give an example.

Let’s say Netflix acquires the right to stream the TV show M.A.S.H. from August 5th 2017 to December 1st 2019.  Ok so I see Netflix has M.A.S.H. and add it to my queue, I want to know that if I add it to my queue in July of 2019, I only have a few months to watch it.

With the system they way it is right now I get one maybe two weeks notice before a title is gone.  And I know that Netflix thinks that if they tell me a title will be gone in a certain amount of time that I won’t watch it, but the opposite is true, I would be more likely to watch it, especially if I had started it and wanted to finish it before it’s taken off.  If I’m only on the first season of a 7 season show I want to know when it’s going off with enough advanced notice that I can finish it without spending every waking moment of my free time hate watching something because now I only have a week to finish the entire show since Netflix didn’t bother to tell me it was going to be gone until a week before they remove it.

Alternatives to Netflix

This is a big list and I’m not going to list them all here, but I will link to resources that do list them all and stay up to date with the cord cutting trends.  I don’t claim to be an absolute expert on cord cutting, but I’ve been following the movement for several years now and will share some of what I’ve learned when it comes to viewing choices outside of Netflix.

Paid Services
  • Amazon Prime – I have this one listed first since a lot of people already have a Prime subscription and get Prime video with that.  Take a look at what Amazon has to offer, they have got some really compelling offers with their originals and network offerings.  I have to admit I never really looked into their catalog before writing this and I was amazed at how good their selection has gotten.  Plus don’t forget all the sweet extras like free 2 day shipping, free music, storage, ect.
  • VUDU – I love VUDU and have been converting my entire DVD and Bluray collection over to digital on VUDU, and most of the movies I buy now are on VUDU instead of physical copies.  A nice bonus is VUDU lets you take advantage of UltaViolet which lets you link up other accounts and unify your collection across multiple services.  VUDU also has a free service but you have to watch ads, but hey it’s a small price to pay to watch a free movie!  The main difference between Amazon Prime and VUDU is that VUDU is not a subscription streaming service, you buy or rent on VUDU.
  • Google Play – I’ve used Google Play a few times, and it’s a lot like VUDU with a few exceptions, they aren’t UltraViolet compatible (at least not at the time of writing), and they don’t have ad supported free content.  And dear reader the irony should not be lost on you about that last one since Google is an ad network that runs a search engine.  Also like VUDU you buy or rent rather than paying monthly for an a la carte streaming service.
  • Hulu – Hulu gives a lot of options, you can get a lower cost package with ads, or for a little more get the ad free package.  And like Netflix and Amazon Prime Hulu has originals and network shows.  The other benfit you get with Hulu is you can watch network shows after they’ve aired, sometimes within just few hours.  Hulu is a subscription based streaming service more like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
  • iTunes – Now not being an Apple user I don’t know much about iTunes so I can’t go into much detail, but what I can say is that Like VUDU and Google Play iTunes is a buy or rent service.
  • HBO NOW – HBO NOW is HBO’s subscription streaming service, you can watch the  current shows and the back catalog, plus any movies they have the rights to at the time your subscribed.  The nice thing about HBO NOW is they get newer movies sooner than Netflix, plus they do have some amazing shows.
  • Starz – Starz like HBO is the subscription streaming version of the cable channel with on demand TV and movies.
  • Showtime – Showtime like HBO NOW and Starz is the subscription streaming service for the cable channel with TV and movies on demand.

There are other paid services and I’m not going to list them all here, but you can find them in some of the resources I’ve listed below.

Free Services
  • Crackle – Crackle is a free streaming service with TV and movies, it is of course ad supported.
  • Pluto TV – Pluto TV is like the Internet’s version of over the air (OTA), you get a bunch of channels for free but you have to watch ads.  They have a lot of channels of varying types and have a few movies channels.
  • The CW – The CW has an app that lets you watch for free with ads, so far there is no subscription offering from The CW.
  • PopcornFlix – PopcornFlix has movies and TV shows all ad supported.  While the selection isn’t top of the line I’ve found things to watch on this service.
  • tubitv – tubitv like PopcornFlix has TV and Movies for free with ads, again the selection isn’t the best but not horrible.

There are countless other free services and I’m not going to list them all here, but you can find them in some of the resources I’ve listed below.

  • The Cord Cutting Report – This is a website with a lot of information, it should have all the answers you need, at least to the basic questions.
  • Channel Master Cord Cutting Guide – Channel Master is a DVR for Over The Air (OTA) TV, and they have a basic guide to cord cutting.
  • AntennaWeb Cord Cutting Guide – This is a website that helps you find local antenna channels, they also offer a basic cord cutting guide.
  • Cord Killers – This is a weekly podcast all about cord cutting, I personally listen to it every week.
  • A Brief Guide to Cord Cutting –  A book all about cord cutting written by a cord cutter and co-host of Cord Killers Tom Merrit, this i a great resource.

I have not listed everything possible, I merely gave a brief overview of what is out there.  If you are looking for something that I have not listed here just try Google, there’s a good chance you’ll find something you like.

In Conclusion

Netflix has really screwed up this time, by becoming more and more hostile towards their customers they are pushing them away more and more.  And their customers are realizing that they don’t need Netflix like they thought they did, and that can only hurt Netflix in the long run.  There needs to be some major changes in the attitude of the Netflix management team or they will be out of a job in the not to distant future.

And what about me?  Well I’ve learned that while I liked having Netflix, I don’t need it.  There really are only two downfalls I see for myself by getting rid of Netflix,

  • Having to find other ways to watch the three Netflix originals I enjoy.
  • Staying current with the films on a podcast I enjoy called Film Sack where they watch movies on Netflix and then do a podcast about them.  I guess I’ll just rent them on Amazon or Vudu, not that big of a deal.

So in the end I can live without Netflix, and I encourage everyone to try it out with me, see what you can find outside of Netflix, you might find you don’t need Netflix either.  And while your at it make sure to contact Netflix customer support and let them know that you are unhappy with the new ratings system and anything else you’d care to let them know about, just keep it respectful, the customer support person your talking to didn’t make these changes, so don’t take it out on them.

UPDATE Dec. 31, 2017

After not being able to find some of the Netflix originals I wanted to keep up to date with on other services and finding out that after 10 months Netflix will delete your viewing history, I decided that for the time being once every 6 months (June and December) I would reactive my account for one month.  So far this has been working and I’ve kept my place on the shows I care about and my queue is mostly intact, obviously while my account was inactive some of the titles were removed from Netflix.

As for how I’m doing without Netflix, I’m fine and finding some great things to watch on Amazon video.  Honestly I recommend everyone try giving up Netflix, I’m saving money and I don’t feel I’ve lost anything.