Saturday, August 27, 2011

NETFLIX HATES TV ON DVD: A NEW COMPLAINT ABOUT NETFLIX!

Let me begin with the TV show, "Louie." It's on FX, and some of you might have seen it. I'm very interested in seeing it myself. I've heard  good reviews, it's gotten a few major Emmy nominations recently, and I'm a huge fan of Louis C.K., the show's star. He's a good actor and comedian, and is especially known for being a comedy writer. He's famous for being Chris Rock's writing partner, and wrote much of his well-known material. And I know the DVDs of the first season are available, at least at stores. I've held one in my hand at a Wal-Mart about a month ago. I've been patiently waiting for Netflix to soon carry the DVDs of the show. They once had the show streaming, and then they didn't for awhile, and now they do again, but they still don't carry the DVDs of the first season. It's on my saved list right now, with an availability date listed as "unknown." I'm aware that most major studios have contracts with netflix that require their product to be out on the marketplace for up four weeks before Netflix can carry it, that's a standard in most of the contract deals Netflix has made with the major film/TV distributors, but it's been longer than four weeks now, and it's starting to get annoying, and it's not the first time something like this has happened. Okay, I know most everybody else's complaint about Netflix these days is the price hike, and yeah I'm not thrilled with it either, but I've already made up my mind on that. If I'm pressed, I'll get the DVDs. The streaming sucks and is limiting anyway. But there's two aspects of Netflix that's starting to become annoying, one, is their inability to keep a consistently updated New Release section, and second, their failure to inform users of release of new seasons of TV shows.

It's seems like the simplest part of the website. Once a week, there will be  new DVDs released, and Netflix will have all/some/many in stock, usually on a Tuesday, which is the industry standard for when new DVDs are released to the public, and these newly-released DVDs will be listed for the customers on the Netflix website. This includes TV series. A check at the New Release section of Netflix, reveals that they have five new TV series in stock this week. However, they didn't mention when they got in stock, a new season of a TV series, that they had one season of in stock already. I'm not even talking about TV series bad some bad cable reality show on VH1 or something like that. No, I'm talking about critically acclaimed TV series, important TV shows. In the last two weeks, I had to find out the hard way that new seasons of "Eastbound & Down," "The United States of Tara," and "Dexter," were available on Netflix (Eastbound & Down, will be available on the 30th). A couple of those series, they're well-known for streaming, (I first saw "The United States of Tara," on Netflix, as a special preview of the show they offered, before it aired on Showtime!) How did I find out about these new seasons of some of my favorite shows? As many of you know, I like to makes lists. No, I don't have a list of every TV show I've ever seen, like I do movies. That would be impossible, and way, way too long. I do have a small list of TV shows that I use to remember shows I haven't seen and keep track of shows on cable that I am unable to watch until they're on DVD, and I keep track of what season of the show I'm on. I made this list by going through every major cable channel's website, and check out their shows, and tried to make notes of the more important shows to eventually watch on DVD. I try to keep that updated to as new shows on cable are constantly coming up, and because a cable network has a different programming schedule than a basic channel, there's new series debuting all the time, not just in the fall anymore. When a show ends, and I've seen the last season of it, I knock it off the list. I'm more updated on some shows than others. At least I thought I was. Netflix started doing something unusual a while back. I think it was done as a time and space saver. It's that, instead of giving each season of a TV series, it's own space, they instead shove the entire season of a TV show together. So, instead of looking up, "True Blood, Season Three", let's use that for an example, they'll send you to "True Blood," and instead of the typical "ADD," options, which allows you to add the series to your queue, it's replaced with a "DISCS" option. Clicking "DISCS" take you to the show on Netflix, and announces which seasons they have in stock, in this case Seasons 1-3, with an option to Save Season Four to your queue for when it's available. They've tried to do this now, for most of the TV series, and at first glance, it seems rather helpful. But, there's a lot of TV series, on top of a lot of movies, and maybe we forget. Of course, many people have other options, hulu for instance or some other streaming site, video stores carry DVDs of TV shows, or they could buy them if they're financially well-off enough to do so. I only think that last option is worth it for the most personal favorite TV series that you know you'll watch over and over again, and there isn't an traditional outlet like constant reruns that may already provide that option, but, still.... (Redbox has probably wisely chosen to stay out of this market.) And when a new season of a TV show on DVD is released, every store, Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, you name it, will place that new season, in a New Release Section, for everyone to see. Now, Netflix, used to do that. Recently though, because they group these TV shows, separately for the show, as oppose to a different group for each new season, the computer doesn't read these new seasons of a show on DVD as a new release. So, it's not on there. So now, back to my list, I have to go through, every currently-running TV show that's on that list, particularly ones that I haven't seen a new season for recently, and double-check to see if there is one. This list that I made, which was only there to remind me for when I finish "The Sopranos," to look at and go, "Ah, yes 'Men of a Certain Age,' I meant to watch that 'cause Andre Braugher got nominated for it..." is now more critically, a list I have to keep looking up and checking in on once a week, to make sure that, I'm not missing a new season of "Weeds," or "Dexter," or whatever, insert favorite show here.

And what about this "New Release Section," of Netflix. Originally, they had a New Release Section, and then, one day they didn't. I kept trying to look it up, and it wasn't there. I finally called in, asking to find it, as I was informed that they had gotten rid of it. Apparently, they had done some research that showed that people didn't look at the New Release section, and preferred to find movies on their own, and through the recommendation system they use based on our previous viewings experience and preferences. (And there is nothing funnier than how that machine characterizes our movie preferences. I apparently love cerebral foreign-like dramedies with strong female protagonists.Whatever-the-hell that means.) I found that troublesome originally, because that didn't make much sense to me. There's new movies coming out all the time. If you're going to bother with Netflix, wouldn't you want to be up-to-date with movies? Even if it's simply enough to find the movie at a video store or Redbox so you can save Netflix for harder-to-find films? They recently almost tried the same stunt, temporarily pulling the page while they did some reworking of the website. Now, there's two ways to go to the New Release section on Netflix. One, to go to Browse DVDs, then click New Releases, and go to "Released in the last", and choose "Week". Either that, or the secret way, which is to go type in www.netflix.com/AllNewReleases, which gives you a list of all that week's new releases. You can't get to that site by starting on Netflix.com, so you have to type that in (At least once, and then mark it as a favorite, which is what people should do for this blog). It still, seems strange that they don't take greater care in this. Go to a video store or the video section of any store, and essentially, there's two sections, "New Releases," and "Everything Else." Everything Else, is often organized in some manner through genre or subgenre, which can really get confusing, but that's a subject for another time. After careful consideration, I don't believe that research. Maybe there are many more people who don't just look up what the latest film released is, but I think that research must have been flawed; I mean, they brought the New Release section back eventually, but even so, why wouldn't you still provide a section like that for those that are, am I'm betting most the most devoted filmgoers/filmviewers are constantly keeping up-to-date with stuff like that, and use Netflix as a vital tool in their filmviewing experience. That includes TV shows, which are just as culturally important as film is, if not moreso. I know Netflix is a company, and they're trying to make money, hence that price-hike everybody is pissed at, but let me tell ya, you don't treat the customers correctly, the stockholders are going to hear about it, and they're gonna pull out, and it won't be the price-hiking that's going to do it, it's going to be these constant little problems, that seem far easily fixable that are gonna lose customers. Netflix, I'm still a devotee, but this is a fixable problem that needs to be addressed, and soon.

NOTE: Before I posted this blog, I decided to call Netflix's Customer Service Line. I've called on many occasions before, usually because of a streaming problem, that usually could correctly be blamed on my internet provider. Also, I had made similar complaints in the nature of this blog on the Netflix Blog on multiple occasions, but hadn't decided to call in about it until now. First off, in regards to "Louie," not being available on DVD yet, while it is available currently for streaming, they are having a problem with the distributor of that series, and therefore do not have it in yet. While I found that unusual, I did suspect a problem of that nature. They are usually good with TV shows on FX being available through both streaming and DVD; "The League," "Justified," "Sons of Anarchy," and "Damages," for instance, are available through both DVD and Streaming on Netflix, and this is an anamoly for them. I then asked about the problems with the New Release. The CSA, who I must say was incredibly nice and supportive, as every call I've made to Netflix's Customer Service Line has been, seemed to indicate that we was aware of this problem, and had gotten similar complaints, and he himself had complained about the problem. He particularly wanted to let me know that the more people that call in with these complaints, the more Netflix will do to address and fix them, as they are always trying to make everything available to the customers. Based on past experiences, I believe he's right, and Netflix will provide and correct for such services, they have been for the most part, especially generous in this regard. So, here's the phone number for Netflix's Customer Service Line: 1-866-716-0414. Everybody call in, and soon, no more having to be shocked that your favorite TV show's latest season has been on DVD for six months.
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