Netflix is the best US DVD rental site, with twice the market share of its nearest rival Blockbuster, and a well-deserved reputation for the best and quickest service. They stock 100,000+ unique titles--more than any DVD rental service in the US, or indeed the world (yes, we have checked). And with 12 million subscribers as of early 2010, they must be doing something right. Despite the recession, people are flocking to Netflix in droves for cheap entertainment at home.
Netflix really shines in its delivery speed, which is due to having more than 50 distribution centers. These blanket much of the US, and 97% of Netflix subscribers live in areas that can generally be reached in one business delivery day. Of course, some of the rarer films may not be stocked at your nearest distribution center, and may take longer, but this will be the case with any online DVD rental company.
Their vast library of films is separated into 21 genres for convenient browsing, and then over 200 subgenres--essential with so many to choose from. In fact their suggestions system ("if you liked that you'll like this") account for many rental decisions--you end up seeing films you may never have discovered on your own but which are in tune with your interests. This is a seemingly minor benefit, but not something to be sniffed at.
Their actual browsing system is excellent; you don't have to click on a film to get info about it, roll your mouse over a title and it will bring up a temporary text box listing the synopsis, stars, director, genre, and rating. Clicking on it will give even more data, though not as much as detailed as on Blockbuster it must be said. The search engine is very powerful--essential with such a wide catalog--allowing separate searches on actors, director, studio, genre, decade, new releases, and critic ratings. The customer ratings are also extensive (over two billion!), making it less likely you'll pick an unknown film that's really bad.
The system really is continuing to evolve and improve. For instance, they have recently tweaked new user Community Home Pages, which list your favorite genres, directors, actors, etc., any top ten lists of favorite films you like, and allowing you to see recent reviews your defined group of friends has made. Their Community Blog often takes customer advice for teaks to their system--you just don't get this level of feedback and back and forth at other sites. There are too many additional features to list, like RSS feeds, gift subscriptions, etc.
Netflix stocks over 1,000 new high-definition Blu-ray discs, though in October 2008 they announced they would charge an additional dollar per month to rent these more expensive discs. And yes, for those 18 or older, they do stock adult films as well, though not a very wide collection we're told. We especially like the fact that they will happily to ship to APO/FPO post offices at overseas US military and diplomatic facilities--and we know plenty of people in the military that treasure this piece of home while abroad.
In January 2007 , Netflix released its Watch Now facility, allowing subscribers to stream full-length movies and TV shows on their PCs, free for subscribers. There are already over 18,000 video on demand titles, an area which will continue to grow. As they note on their About Us portion of the site, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings always believed that online DVD rental would be a great initial service, but even way back in 1999 he named the company "Netflix" and not "DVD-by-mail.com". Their strategy is to continue to grow in DVD rentals, and to offer online video and DVD rentals in one subscription service as the transition to greater digital distribution takes hold over the coming years..
Netflix started life in 1999, but it took awhile to catch on. Blockbuster online was launched in August 2004, and gunned for Netflix from the start, though it still comes second in market share, with about half of Netflix's subscribers. As of late 2010, the company even expects to roll out download-only services across Europe as well.
Netflix customer service is exemplary, and the presence of a customer service phone line is a huge plus, something so many online DVD rental companies lack. That said, though the number is staffed an impressive 24 hours, it is hard to find on the site, so best jot it down (listed on the righthand column).
Their one main issue of complaint is allegations of "throttling"--slowing down rentals to high volume renters; but this should only affect heavy users even if it is continuing (and we've heard varying reports on this). If you're likely to be a very heavy user, Blockbuster would likely be the better choice, but the vast majority of DVD renters are not, in which case Netflix's features make it the obvious choice.
Prices: Netflix offers a two-week free trial. They offer four unlimited DVD rental plans; 1 disc out at a time for $8.99 per month (plus 9 hours of free film downloads), 2 discs out for 13.99 (plus 14 hours of free downloads), their most popular 3 discs out for $16.99 (plus 17 hours of free downloads), and 4 discs out for $23.99 (plus 24 hours of free downloads). They also have one budget capped plan of 2 total DVD rentals in the entire month, one out at a time, for only $4.99 (plus 5 hours of downloads).