Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Netflix Blu-ray vs. DVD confusion

I have Blu-ray enabled on my Netflix account, and have the option set to prefer Blu-ray discs, which is what I want 95% or more of the time. Recently, I was trying to get the DVD version of Rango.

I went into the DVD queue and set the format to DVD, and was surprised that they sent me a Bluray. I proceeded to try again on another sub account and the same thing happened.

So today I called Netflix customer support to find out what the deal is. Apparently they must have had a firestorm of complaints from people about getting DVDs of movies that have Blu-rays available. For example, if you added a movie to your queue and only DVD was available at the time, and then a year or two later they make a Blu-ray of it, it used to be that they would just send the DVD because that was the chosen format. Now, they *ignore* the format that you choose in the queue and just send Blu-ray always if available, assuming you have the automatically send Blu-ray option enabled.

In order to get a DVD of a movie that is in Blu-ray, you have to change to manually choose Blu-ray, which means each time you add a movie to your queue you have to pick the format. Or you have to turn the option back and forth whenever you want to get a DVD.

I can understand that there are customers that may want to always get Blu-ray but it seems to me that this problem could be much more easily solved in a way that would meet my needs as well as the "always Blu-ray" and the "mostly DVD, occasionally Blu-ray" folks.

Basically, they would just need to remember whether you had ever manually changed the format in your queue, and if so, respect that. The preference would simply set what your default format is, either DVD or Blu-ray. Then the list would indicate for each item in the queue whether it was DVD, Blu-ray, or Default (which could parenthetically indicate the preference, or that could be mentioned above the list once, or both).

You could very easily migrate people to this new setup by doing the following for all items in the queue which have a choice of format:
  • For manual mode, all items that are set to DVD should instead be set to Default (DVD). Blu-ray items stay as Blu-ray.
  • For automatic Blu-ray mode, all items are set to Default (Blu-ray), regardless of the setting in the queue because that is actually how things behave today.
So for those who never visit the queue to set the format, everything behaves as it does today, but if you do set the format, it is respected. There could even be a popup menu on the queue to set the default format easily, which would update all Default items to indicate the proper format.

If Netflix does not change to something like this, I think they need to change the presentation of the queue when you are in automatic Blu-ray mode, so you know that you never ever will get a DVD for any movie which has Blu-ray available... perhaps just don't show the popup menus at all and show things as Blu-ray, and have a link to turn off the option. Alternately, show popup menus with all of them having Blu-ray, and if you try to change it then it should prompt you to turn off the automatic Blu-ray setting.

Without one of these two approaches, the queue is very misleading because what it shows as the format that you will get is completely ignored in automatic Blu-ray mode.


imlucid said...

Didn't you get the memo? Physical media is dead!



Jason Townsend said...

Let me know when the complete Netflix library is available for streaming... because right now there's a lot of content that is only available on physical media.