As Netflix Evolves, What Combination Of Services Make Sense?

When Netflix announced the division of its services into Netflix and Qwickster yesterday, I did what I’ve been meaning to do for a long time and finally cancelled the DVD service, pledging to send a dusty envelope with a couple of episodes of Being Human in it back to the warehouse. But one thing that strikes me as potentially good for Netflix, if insanely frustrating for customers, is the possibility that folks won’t cancel because even if it means managing two accounts, it’ll still be easier than trying to figure out what combination of services best covers your entertainment consumption needs.

One thing that I think was underdiscussed in the early discussions of the announcement was the fact that Qwickster is part of a bid to add gaming to the overall company’s portfolio; the new service will let you rent games by mail for part of your monthly fee. So we’ve got the following options:

-Qwickster: movies and television on DVD, also games, available via mail

-Redbox: movies, television, and games on disc, available via nearly 28,000 kiosks

-Netflix: streaming movies and television

-Amazon Prime: streaming movies and television, free two-day shipping on most Amazon purchases, perhaps a couple of Kindle books a month

-Hulu Plus: streaming television from current seasons, though when the shows go up varies by network, and a back catalogue of streaming television and movies

-HBO GO: Available only to HBO subscribers, streaming HBO original and licensed content

That’s a lot of services to build combinations out of, and what’s right for you will depend on your preferences. I’ll never be a serious enough gamer to have that alone keep me a subscriber to Qwickster; I’d rather just buy the occasional game. I have HBO for work (one of a bunch of services I subscribe to for work), so my access to HBO GO also means I don’t need access to HBO discs, but for other people, discs are the only way they can access shows like The Wire or The Sopranos or Sex and the City. Then, when I want to watch a streaming show, it sometimes feel like the constantly shifting selection means I have to stay subscribed to all of the other services to make sure I can hit everything. When I started watching The League, all of both seasons were on Netflix. Halfway through, season two disappeared, only to reappear as available for a very limited time on Hulu, so I ended up scarfing down the entire second season in a day. I use my Amazon Prime account for streaming much less than I initially expected to because the selection isn’t very good, and it can be hard to figure out if something’s available through it.

I know I watch far more broadly and randomly than the average consumer, but still, it feels like this is a difficult moment to be an informed consumer and to find the options that work well for you. I’ve said in the past that HBO GO always struck me as a way of gaining leverage in the contract negotiations with whatever service eventually gets HBO’s content streaming. But given this landscape, I honestly wonder if there might be a future in services that cater to broad taste tranches if only so it’s easier to find out what you need for what you want.