The One Big Problem With Canceling Netflix

If jammed customer service lines are any indication, Netflix's price hikes are driving a lot of users to change their plans or cancel the service entirely. By some informal estimates, culled from online polls, nearly 41 percent of Netflix customers say they are going to jump ship.

"We are experiencing higher than normal call volume," said an automated recording when I tried to call Netflix on Wednesday. "Please try your call again later."

This is no surprise. Ever since Netflix announced yesterday that it'll stop bundling DVD rentals with unlimited streaming video at a discount, vocal users have shown their outrage on Facebook and on Netflix's own blog. The new pricing splits DVD rentals and streaming into separate plans, so instead of paying a minimum $10 per month for both, users will pay at least $8 per plan, for a total of $16 per month.

But quitting Netflix is hard, and not just because phone lines are jammed. (If you're having trouble on that front, Netflix's account management page has options for canceling or changing plans.) The problem is that none of Netflix's rivals provide the same one-two punch of Internet video and DVD rentals, which allows users to fill the streaming catalog's holes with a larger physical media selection. Netflix's service also is baked into a lot of hardware devices such as HDTVs, Xbox 360, Tivo, and Blu-ray players. A true Netflix alternative simply doesn't exist.

(See Related Article: How to Navigate the Deluge of Netflix Streaming Devices)

By cobbling together disparate sources, you'll probably spend more money than you would by sticking with Netflix. Blockbuster's DVD plan is more expensive and doesn't include streaming. Amazon's streaming plan is slightly cheaper but has a smaller selection. You could keep renting Netflix DVDs and purchase on-demand streaming video from other sources, but Netflix is a better deal if you watch more than few movies per month. You can keep streaming from Netflix and rely on Redbox for DVDs, but then you lose the convenience of home delivery and will be choosing from a smaller library.

I'm reminded of the dilemma people face when they want to cut the cable cord. Sure, the Internet provides plenty of options for streaming video, but if you want to watch a lot of TV--sports and news in particular--there's just no replacement for cable right now. Netflix, likewise, offers a service that no one else can match. Cancel if you must, but be prepared to get by with less.

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