Netflix is probably the most recognizable brand name in streaming. However, several former Netflix partners have parted ways with the streaming giant to build up their own streaming services. Does Netflix still have what it takes to compete for streaming subscribers in 2020? This Netflix review will help you decide.
What is Netflix?
Netflix is one of the world’s most popular on-demand streaming services. In fact, the service is now so ubiquitous that CNN digital correspondent Paul R. La Monica dubbed Netflix “the king of all media.”
The history of Netflix dates all the way back to the late 90s. In its early years, Netflix was a mail-order DVD rental service. However, founder Reed Hastings never intended to stay in the DVD rental business.
When Hastings brought in Ted Sarandos to manage Netflix’s content library in 1999, he explained to him that he intended to pivot into streaming– hence the name Netflix. Netflix waited several years to debut its streaming service in 2010– then it immediately pursued an aggressive expansion strategy.
Originally only available in the United States, Netflix’s territory now extends to nearly every part of the planet except China, North Korea, Syria and Crimea.
Netflix 60-second summary
Unlike niche streaming services that focus on fans of specific genres or content types, Netflix doesn’t seem to have a specific demographic that it’s trying to target. In the past, Netflix’s user base skewed young, but this isn’t the case anymore. According to a study from Civic Science, Netflix’s United States user base matches up with the country’s general population in terms of gender, income, education and age.
The only way to gain access to Netflix is by purchasing one of three different subscription plans. But even with the recent price hike, you can still access the entire Netflix catalog for just $9/month with the service’s cheapest subscription option. That’s still a very reasonable entry point compared to cable TV services, which typically charge $100/month or more.
At the end of August of 2019, Netflix had 5877 titles according to uNoGS. Today, that number has fallen slightly to 5795 titles. One reason for the reduction in the number of titles could be that some of Netflix’s partners are branching off to create their own streaming services.
Roughly 20% of those titles are owned by Disney, Warner, Comcast, and Fox. If those companies discontinue their deals with Netflix to build up their own streaming services, Netflix’s content catalog could continue to shrink.
However, any reduction in the amount of titles in the Netflix catalog will likely be offset by new original content. According to Quartz, Netflix put out 1,500 hours’ worth of original content in 2018. To watch all of those shows and movies, you would have had to tune in four hours a day, every single day throughout the year.
As mentioned earlier, Netflix is available just about everywhere. However, subscription prices vary from territory to territory– and doe does the amount of content you get. According to a study from data journalist Rebecca Moody, Netflix subscribers in Pakistan, India and Colombia get the most value out of their subscriptions in terms of how much content they get for the price they pay, while subscribers in Finland, Denmark and Iran get the worst deals.
Netflix pros and cons
As other production companies break away and create their own streaming services, Netflix will replace their shows and movies with their own. For that reason, if you’re looking for an all-you-can-binge buffet of content from a variety of different sources, Netflix may not be the best option anymore.
On the other hand, Netflix’s collection of originals is very compelling. The service will debut 43 new series this year. The new shows represent a large number of different genres, ranging from satire to reality TV to drama and more. If Netflix keeps churning out top notch originals, it’ll likely be able to keep pace with its growing number of competitors.
- 5,800 shows and movies to peruse.
- Reasonably priced subscription plans.
- No advertisements.
- Rapidly growing selection of high quality original titles.
- You can download content to watch offline.
- No live news or sports.
- Disney, Warner, Comcast, and Fox will likely pull their content soon.
- You often have to wait a long time to watch recently aired shows.
- Subscribers in some countries get much less content.
Netflix plans and pricing
Netflix offers three subscription plans: Basic, Standard and Premium.
- Basic: $9/month. Basic subscribers are limited to SD (Standard Definition) streams, one stream at a time and can only download content to watch offline on one device.
- Standard: $13/month. Standard subscribers get HD (High Definition) streams, the ability to stream to two screens at the same time and can download content to watch offline on two different devices.
- Premium: $16/month. Premium subscribers can access UHD (Ultra High Definition) 4K streams, plus they can stream to four screens simultaneously and download content to watch offline on four different devices.
While these plans have the same features all over the world, residents of different countries pay different prices.
Netflix has established relationships with production companies in many different countries. For example, Netflix brought in the South Korean drama production company AStory and the result was the zombie-flavored period drama Kingdom. Production companies in Japan, Korea, India and Thailand have also teamed up with Netflix. Since Netflix controls the rights to these locally produced shows and movies, all Netflix subscribers can enjoy them with subtitles.
Netflix content library
Research firm Ampere analyzed Netflix’s content library at the end of 2018 to learn more about its composition. They discovered that Netflix originals only made up eight percent of the total Netflix catalog. 13% of the library’s content was licensed from Viacom, CBS, Sony, PBS, MGM or HBO, while 19.6% of the titles were owned by NBCU, WarnerMedia, Disney or Fox. The remainder of the content belonged to other production companies.
All this means that Netflix’s catalog is likely on the verge of a big shakeup, since some of the companies mentioned above are trying to build up their own streaming services. That could be part of the streaming giant’s master plan. In 2016, Netflix CFO David Wells said that Netflix’s long term goal is to produce 50% of all its streaming content.
Netflix’s most popular shows
Netflix is famously unforthcoming when it comes to data. Since the streaming giant doesn’t reveal much, the media has to find other ways to get information about what Netflix users are watching.
Here are some of the most popular TV shows in the Netflix catalog, according to a recent survey from research firm MoffettNathanson/HarrisX.
Orange Is the New Black
Over seven percent of the 11,135 Netflix subscribers that contributed to the MoffettNathanson/HarrisX poll identified Orange Is the New Black as their favorite show to watch on Netflix. The story revolves around a woman whose relationship with a drug dealer lands her a 15-month prison sentence.
Stranger Things— another Netflix original– was the second most popular title. Just over six percent of the poll participants reported that it was their favorite Netflix show. It’s a science fiction / horror drama set in the 80s that follows the adventures of a group of kids that try to investigate their friend’s disappearance.
Ozark– yet another Netflix original– was the third most popular TV show after Stranger Things, according to the survey mentioned above. After a failed money laundering scheme goes wrong, an upper middle class father relocates his family to a summer resort in the sticks.
Netflix stream quality
Netflix first debuted 4K streaming in 2014, when 4K technology was still quite new. Prior to that breakthrough, YouTube was the only other major streaming service that was 4K-capable. Only Netflix originals and a few nature documentaries could be viewed in 4K when Netflix first debuted the feature, but now there are a whopping 709 4K titles to watch according to entertainment blog What’s On Netflix.
Even though Netflix’s stream quality goes all the way up to 4K, only Premium tier Netflix subscribers can access 4K streams. Basic subscribers can only view content in SD and Standard subscribers can watch in HD, but not in 4K.
Netflix device support
Netflix has a robust app lineup. Nearly every type of popular TV device has a Netflix app, from streaming media players to smart TVs and even Blu-ray players.
Netflix on Roku
You don’t even need to visit Roku’s app store to download Netflix. Most Roku devices come with Netflix pre-installed.
Netflix on Fire TV Stick
As is the case with Roku, Amazon ships their Fire TV Stick devices with Netflix already installed. All you have to do to get started is click the Netflix app. From there, you can either set up a new account or access your current one if you’re already a subscriber.
Netflix on Apple TV
Apple TV 2 and Apple TV 3 both come with Netflix pre-installed, but if you have an Apple TV 4 or Apple TV 4K, you’ll have to download Netflix from the Apple Store to get started.
Netflix on iPhones and iPads
Netflix looks even better on an iPad, since it’s optimized to use the extra space afforded by the larger screen. The iTunes app has a four-out-of-five star rating, but most of the negative reviews don’t have much to say about the actual app– they’re just complaints about how the content library changes when you cross a Netflix region.
Netflix on Android Phones and Tablets
The seven million people that reviewed Netflix’s Android app awarded it a four-and-a-half star average rating. Most of the complaints center around various minor bugs and glitches.
Netflix on Smart TVs
Netflix has partnered with a wide variety of smart TV makers, including Hisense, LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba. Smart TVs that are a part of Netflix’s “Netflix Recommended TV” program come equipped with a Netflix button on their remotes and Netflix preinstalled.
Netflix on Desktops and Laptops
In addition to the apps mentioned above, you can watch Netflix the good old fashioned way by opening up a web browser and logging into the Netflix website. All the most popular browsers are compatible and you don’t have to install anything extra to begin streaming.
Netflix On Other Platforms
A wide variety of different Blu-ray players are compatible with Netflix, including devices from Samsung, Sony, Philips, Toshiba and several others. Pretty much any Blue-ray player that has a built-in WiFi antenna can access the on-demand service.
Netflix Customer Support
Even though Netflix is very easy to use, certain problems can arise from time to time. Service outages are increasingly rare these days, but they still happen from time to time. Sometimes for various reasons Netflix apps glitch out and need to be reinstalled or tweaked.
When these types of situations arise, the fastest way to get help is through Netflix’s support site: help.netflix.com. That site will connect to you knowledge base articles that can help you resolve your issue and you can also search for error codes there. If you can’t reach a solution on your own, you can get in touch with Netflix’s 24/7 help desk via chat.
How to cancel Netflix
Canceling Netflix is a simple and painless process. All you have to do is log into your Netflix account, select Account and then click the big grey Cancel Netflix button. After you verify that you want to cancel, you can continue using the service until the next billing period arrives. At that point, you’ll lose access to Netflix. You don’t have to complete any surveys or make a phone call to quit.
Netflix refund policy
There’s no way to get a refund after you cancel your Netflix subscription. You can access your account until the next billing period, after which you have ten months to reactivate. If you wait any longer to restart your subscription, Netflix will delete all your account data.
The fact that Netflix is changing may actually be one of the biggest reasons to remain a subscriber. Netflix has always been a fascinating company to watch and it’s showing no signs of falling into complacency. It’ll be interesting to see what the service comes up with next.
A DVD mail-order service seemed like a risky venture back in 1999, but Netflix made a killing with it– and helped put brick-and-mortar rental shops out of business in the process. A few years later, Netflix launched its own streaming service at a time when streaming technology was just beginning to become viable. Then, Netflix shook up the TV and movie industry by producing its own titles, many of which turned out to be wildly popular.
Today, Netflix is that it’s providing opportunities for international cultural cross-pollination that just weren’t possible before. Movie makers and TV show producers from across the world can gain a chance to tell their stories to a mass audience. That alone is a tremendous reason to stay tuned, even though many other interesting streaming projects from other companies have emerged.