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Arts and Entertainment

Why Netflix Still Kicks Blockbuster's Ass

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LAist has been a subscriber to Netflix and until today, Blockbuster Online Total Access. Today we were canceling our subscription to Blockbuster Online and it prompted the question, “Why are you canceling today?” Since we were only able to give them a 255 character answer, we decided to write a post here to fully explain why they fall short of being a good service.

First, we never received the movies we wanted from the top of our queue. The first movie on our list at the beginning of the month was Amores Perros. The first movie at the top of our list at the end of the month was Amores Perros. The entire month its status was “A short wait”. Well, we’re done waiting.

Blockbuster Online acquired an unanticipated 2 million subscribers last quarter, and has failed to keep up with the demand. We were roped in by the Total Access program, which supposedly never leaves you empty-handed since you get free new release rentals in-store. When you actually go to the store however, everything is checked out and you end up wandering around looking for anything to rent. I don't want to rent a Steven Seagal movie or American Pie 5. What the hell is the point of free in-store rentals when there is jack shit available in the store? Garbage.

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Third, it took forever to receive our movies. From where I live they get mailed from a distro center in Santa Ana, so it takes around 2 days to receive your movies… usually. One week we didn’t even receive any movies. Netflix’s turnaround is 1 day, not 2. In theory, Blockbuster never leaves you without movies. Wrong. In practice, Netflix kicks Blockbuster’s ass.

Fourth, the recommendation system is a joke in comparison to Netflix. We have no idea what type of algorithm they are using over at Blockbuster for their recommendation system but it is useless. We took the time to tediously rate 493 movies in their system, which then recommended 200 movies back to us. And by a shot in the dark, we were interested in seeing 6 out of those 200 recommendations (which were added to our queue). We'd like to think that if anyone randomly named 200 movies, we would be interested in more than only 6 of the ones he or she mentioned.

What the hell were those movies it was showing us? Is their system based on showing you movies that are available because no one is renting them? How is it that we can give a movie like Raging Bull 5 stars, and then in turn be recommended Men in Black? If we go see Children of Men for example, and then log on to our account and recommend it, right away we should be suggested another Alfonso Cuaron flick, like Y Tu Mama Tambien -- or maybe even films made by his friends like Amores perros by Inarritu or The Devil's Backbone by Guillermo del Toro. Sadly, we resorted to logging in to our Netflix account just to search for movies to rent with our Blockbuster Account.

Fifth, the way in which you search for movies is lacking. You can only search by movie name or actor. How about date range, movie studio, genre? Nope. You can of course, use their categories to browse movies (80's, horror, etc). But the movies listed under each category are pathetic. Most of the movies are so far from worth watching that it feels like you're wading through the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart.

The only insightful part of the Total Access experience was the easy-to-find "Cancel My Subscription" button. Bravo on that.

Photo by mini K via Flickr