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FlixBuster

I’m a NetFlix fan. I love it. I also love [Netflix Freak][freak]. I’m not sure I could do Netflix without it. It just works so well. I am, however, having some reservations. The service has not been very good lately. Not bad, just slow and somewhat unreliable. It took about week for Netflix to realize that I had mailed a movie back to them. This happens more frequently now. I used to be able to get movie turnaround time in 3 days, from receiving it, watching it that night, mailing it off, and receiving the next. Now, I’m lucky to get 5 or 6 day turnaround. Not bad, I’m still watching several movies a week, but not what I’m used to. The price has also been fluctuating recently and I’d prefer it to go down again rather than up, but I understand price fluctuations in a competitive market. They’ve also recently allied with Wal-Mart, something I’ll return to later.

Blockbuster, however, looks better on paper. The price is (currently) cheaper ($14.99 compared to Netflix’s $17.99). Not a big difference, but cheaper is good. They both have around 40,000 movie titles according to their about pages, so no real difference there. Blockbuster also lets you have two in-store movie rentals per month. Considering that I live within a block of a Blockbuster store, this could be a big difference. Of course, I generally hated the selection of the store and haven’t set foot in there since I started on Netflix. Even with that, I like being able to get two extra movies almost anytime I want (the store has long hours but isn’t open 24-hours a day).

With my current mild dissatisfaction with Netflix, the cheaper prices of Blockbuster, and the two extra movies, why don’t I switch? [Netflix freak][freak]. I love it and hate to leave it behind. I would be willing to work on creating a Blockbuster-based client, but I’d prefer to have someone else do it so I can focus on the apps I’ve already got out there.

There won’t be a “freak” for Blockbuster for a number of reasons. The Little App Factory (creators of Netflix Freak), won’t work on one because Netflix is the best service, Blockbuster has a small consumer base, and Blockbuster is evil (middle of [this page][evil]). I’ll address these in turn.

First, Netflix offers a fine service, yes. But I wouldn’t use it except for Netflix Freak. It is what makes the Netflix service usable to me. Otherwise, it isn’t that great. I have friends doing the Blockbuster thing and they have perfectly fine service. One tried all the possibilities doing their month-long free deal concurrently. He watched a lot of movies (he had a month of nothing to do because he was between careers and couldn’t start the one he was going into yet) and found that Netflix and Blockbuster were about comparable, except that Blockbuster seemed to have slightly quicker turnaround. Not enough to be measurable or easily perceptible, but that’s just the feeling that he got from the services.

Second, Blockbuster’s consumer base is growing. A lot. It isn’t the size of Netflix, but it still reaches a lot of people. If there are 500k users (as The Little App Factory claims), and, say, about 5% were Mac users, that leaves 50k possible customers. If you can get 5% of that market, you’d have 2.5k users. At $15 a pop (the price of Freak), one could make $37,500. Not bad. But this assumes that you reach a very small portion of a very small proportional population. It is very likely that even fewer that those numbers are likely. I was argue that 5% of 5% is highly optimistic. However, the market is growing. It is growing a lot. It may be that getting only 1% of the Mac market would provide decent returns.

Finally, Blockbuster did show misleading advertisements. I won’t downplay that. I didn’t like Blockbuster for it and criticized it at the time… then I moved on. For some reason, it didn’t matter anymore. But I suppose it is as good a reason as any not to do something. I believe in holding out for what you believe in. Which is why I’m not keen on Netflix partnering with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is notorious for workers rights violations, environmental destruction, unfair business practices, and much more. I recognize that the vast cement islands are a part of living and a boon to those who depend on the low prices, but Wal-Mart’s sins greatly outweigh its merits. But I still shop there. More correctly, my family still shops there so I feel like I shop there, too. I’m not one to picket or make a bit noise over all this, it’s just always in the back of my mind. In fact, the partnership was what prompted me to consider leaving Netflix. Obviously, Netflix has done nothing wrong. My problems are with Wal-Mart. But that doesn’t mean I have to like Netflix partnering with Wal-Mart. I was holding out hope for an Amazon.com-Netflix thing. That would have cemented my loyalty. As it is, I don’t hold it against Blockbuster anymore than I hold Wal-Mart against Netflix. I guess it could be better stated that both leave about the same distaste in my mouth, so I’m not going to worry about it.

I want to wrap up by saying that I don’t think The Little App Factory is wrong in this. I admire them and their products greatly. I merely want to illustrate that while they have their reasons for not doing a Blockbuster front-end, I have reasons for wanting one and I don’t their reasons should hinder someone else creating it. If someone does, please let me know. Until I can get one, I’m tied to the wonderful [Netflix Freak][freak].

[freak]: http://www.thelittleappfactory.com/application.php?app=Netflix%20Freak “Netflix Freak”
[evil]: http://www.thelittleappfactory.com/support/netflixfreak.php “Netflix Freak FAQ”

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