Sunday, February 17, 2008

Making Spreadsheets for Fun

I am such a dork.

Out of boredom/procrastination on a lazy Sunday morning, I've been doing a little bit of analysis of my Netflix movie rental habits.  In the past three and a half years, I have watched 350 movies though this service.  That translates to 7.8 movies per month, and, at $18 per month subscription fees, means that I pay roughly $2.30 per movie watched*.

This seems pretty reasonable to me.  That's cheaper per movie that I would get renting movies from the video store.  Of course, it's not as cheap as piracy, which I can't honestly say I'm morally opposed to, but I've written at length about how much I like Netflix's ratings and recommendations service, and I find the queuing mechanism invaluable for organizing my movie watching habit.  So it is a service that I don't at all mind paying for.

But recently I've been thinking about the future.  Especially about high definition, and what my options will be in moving in that direction.

Now that Blu-ray seems to have won the HD-Disc format wars, I will likely soon be picking up a Blu-ray player (at least as soon as the 2.0 profile machines come out, *grumble*).  Netflix allows seamless upgrades to Blu-ray discs whenever they are available, so this will serve my purposes for the near future.

But I feel pretty confident that HD downloads are the true way of the future, so I've been looking at my options on that front as well.  The current options, however, are just too expensive for my current movie-watching habits.  The Apple-TV, X-Box 360 Marketplace, TivoHD+Amazon Unbox, and my cable company's On-Demand service all offer hi-def downloads, but cost between 4 and 7 dollars per movie.  The quality upgrade over DVD just isn't enough justify the increased costs for me.

So here's what I really want.  I want Netflix (or someone using their model) to make a set-top box.  This box would have enough hard drive space to store up to 5 HD movies (depending on subscription plans).  The movies would be downloaded, not streamed, to maximize the video quality.  The downloading would the throttled so as not to interrupt normal Internet activity.  The downloads could take up to two day to complete (Netflix's current minimum turn-around time anyway).  The GUI of the set top box would display a "Return" button next to each currently downloaded movie, which when clicked would delete that movie and begin download of the next one in the queue.

Will this happen?  I dunno.  This kind of thing has been rumored for more than a year.  But I'm afraid that Netflix would want to tie it to their low quality "Watch Instantly" service.  Until broadband capacity is seriously upgraded, no streaming service will be able to match the quality of a disc.  In addition, the "Watch Instantly" service doesn't take advantage of the queuing mechanism that I love so much.

So, we'll see.  But for now, I'm going to go throw my 351st movie into the DVD player.

*For the purposes of my calculations, 1 disc full of episodes of a tv series counted as 1 movie, and I didn't consider my "Watch Instantly" activity.

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