Netflix® is an online movie rental service offering flat-fee subscription plans for video on demand and DVD and Blu-ray disc rentals. Individual discs are mailed to subscribers in prepaid envelopes that include a return mailer and postage. There are no late fees, but a customer must return a movie before receiving another, though depending on the subscription level, a subscriber can have up to three discs out at a time.
In addition to disc rentals, Netflix® also provides unlimited online streaming directly to TV. Rather than waiting for a disc to be mailed, the “Watch Instantly” feature will get a near-DVD quality picture to a television in seconds. Although this service was originally free with every plan, notwithstanding the device required to use it that the customer must purchase out of pocket, the company decided to separate the streaming and disc rental services in 2011, charging separately for each. This was initially part of a plan to spin off the disc rental service as its own entity, but that plan was later dropped.
Netflix® boasts a growing catalog of over 100,000 titles that not only cover movies, but many television series, documentaries, and anime. When a subscriber joins the disc rental program, he or she creates a list of desired movies or programs. The company mails the first one or more titles on the list, depending on the subscription plan, then as the client returns movies, subsequent titles are mailed in order. An account can have multiple profiles and lists, as in the case of a family where Mom and Dad might have one list, and the kids, another.
Due to the 100+ mailing points located across the United States, Netflix® claims most titles arrive at a subscriber’s address in about one business day after shipping. There are some complaints, however, that the company engages in “throttling,” or servicing customers that rent fewer titles first, over more frequent renters. Whether for this or other reasons, at times titles on a subscriber’s list might be shipped out of order or delayed.
The company offers a free one-month trial, after which the subscriber will be charged for the selected plan unless action is taken to opt out. No long-term contracts are required and there are no cancellation fees. Subscriptions can be canceled at any time online at the site, though there are no pro-rated refunds for monies already paid.