It was a laughably bad day to launch a new streaming TV service. On Tuesday, New Zealanders only wanted to be watching one thing and Netflix's offerings didn't extend to the cricket.
That suited me fine. Go team and all that, but cricket... meh. Instead, I got home, signed up for Netflix's free month trial and proceeded to poke about.
It's fleeting and dissipates quickly but there's a small buzz to logging in for the first time. After all these years hearing about the wonders of Netflix it's initially very impressive to find yourself logged in. It feels exciting, part of something global, something larger than its core. It's the first great trick Netflix plays on you.
The truth is it's not the amazing, bazaar of televisual wonder it's been made out to be. It's certainly very good, and its self-produced content is fantastic, but there is definitely room for improvement and, most surprisingly, space for its local streaming competitors to operate in and exploit.
After signing up you're presented with a range of shows and asked to choose three you like. These picks are then used to tailor viewing recommendations its algorithms think you'd enjoy.
I found this largely useless; after all I'm a complicated man. Just because I dug Homeland does not mean I dig Broadchurch. Over time its selections will no doubt refine as my viewing habits feed the machine more data to work off, but it's not a feature I'll be referencing much. Especially considering its woeful first stab at suggestion: House, Lost and, presumably because it thought I was a 13-year-old-girl Vampire Diaries. Scrolling down more suitable options started appearing like Arrested Development, The Killing and Firefly.
Great as these shows are, they are not the new hotness. And I wanted the new hotness. I hit 'Sort by year released'.
This rearranged the menu order. Up first, all the series' produced by Netflix. These really make the case for signing on and really sell the service. Tina Fey's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is joyously fantastic and after watching the intriguing first episode of Bloodline last night I'm super keen to hit up ep 2 tonight. Other Netflix exclusive shows that appealed included The Returned, Bojack Horseman and the upcoming Daredevil.
Of course global rights being what they are "exclusive" has various interpretations so there's no House of Cards at all.
But that's what's not there. What else is there? A lot of kids stuff, including some terrific Disney flicks. Some decent looking anime. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is pretty good...
Now, I'm no professor but my best estimate it that there's roughly 265 shows to choose from. Which sounds a lot but over half of those are kids shows (with nearly 30 of those being various incarnations of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers...) and there's not a whole lot of recent big shows.
For example, there's two seasons of DC's Arrow to get through, but no sign of its new third season, and not a single, solitary episode of its crossover series The Flash.
That said, there's still a whole bunch of worthwhile series' to binge on, including some very appealing BBC docos.
Of course, this is only half the story. Netflix also offers movies. Once again 'Suggestions' come to the fore to trick and confuse, so once again I selected 'Year by release' to really get a grip on what's going on.
Turns out 2013 is what's mostly going on. Each genre has 3-5 flicks of varying quality from last year, but the majority are a couple years old. The notable exception is in Comedy where I was very excited to see a bundle of Netflix exclusive stand-up specials from notable comedians like Aziz Ansari, Bill Burr and, scrolling down a year, Marc Maron.
But for the most part it's eerily similar to perusing the cheap shelves at the old video store. You've got old classics like Scarface, The Terminator and The Godfather, and a lot of great stuff from a couple of years back like Drive, Safety Not Guaranteed and Dredd. But if you want to watch the latest blockbuster - or even a recent blockbuster - well, you're out of luck.
Peddling old content was a criticism I lodged at rival Neon. Here I'm inclined to be a little more forgiving as Netflix comes in at half the price. It's basic, bare-bones plan clocks in at $9.99 a month versus Neon's $19.99. The other contenders Quickflix and Lightbox are now both $12.99, which is the same price a dual screen, ultra HD plan will cost you on Netflix.
Netflix's astoundingly low price point allows me to overlook the catalogue gaps in both its film and television offerings. It's not disappointing by any means, but it's not quite the no brainer, slam dunk many - including myself - predicted it to be.
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