This morning, after about five clicks over the course of 10 seconds, I cancelled my Netflix membership. The company had started notifying people of its latest price increase—a two buck bump from $12 to $14 in my case—and I just couldn’t do it any more. In fact, you should ask yourself if you need to keep paying for Netflix. It’s not as special as it used to be.
Think about it for a minute. When was the last time you opened up Netflix to find something truly incredible and unique to watch? (If you’re a Stranger Things fan, the answer to that question might be last Friday, but I’ll come back to that in a second.) For me, it was about a year ago, when I broke out into a cold sweat while watching The Shining alone in my apartment. I rewatched the movie several times and even used it for some TV testing this past summer, because it’s a masterpiece. However, somewhat inexplicably, Netflix removed The Shining on October 1, a full month before Halloween.
But that’s not exactly why I quit Netflix. Movies come and go from the service thanks to a combination of licensing agreements and programming decisions. Perusing the list of what’s coming to Netflix on any given month has actually becoming an exciting ritual for a lot of movie lovers. I used to be one of them. Then I noticed something—something that was surely highly subjective and somewhat fueled by the growing tab of monthly charges I’d racked up as a longtime Netflix subscriber. The list of good movies coming in has been way out of whack with the list of great movies leaving the service. The Shining is, well a shining example of this irksome phenomenon.
It used to feel like Netflix was a magical thing. In the early days, DVDs on your doorstep was a thrilling glimpse at the future of on-demand goods and services that Silicon Valley promised us. The days of DVDs were obviously numbered, and when Netflix launched its streaming service, the future seemed even cooler. You could watch movies immediately without even getting off your butt! I signed up early for the streaming service and quickly found myself pirating less while enjoying the serendipity of scrolling through the quirky Netflix movie categories to watch films I’d forgotten about or had forgotten I’d seen before. For a few years, it was amazing.
Then, along came Amazon. I signed up for Amazon Prime by accident—maybe you did, too. When I realized the service came with a free Netflix clone, though, I was hooked. The movie selection sucked early on, but now it rivals Netflix in terms of size and quality. Amazon even has its own stable of award-winning exclusive programming, much of which I prefer to shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Amazon is even bringing home Oscars with its feature films these days.
Jeff Bezos and company were hardly the only ones to jump on the streaming bandwagon. These days, it seems like anyone with a stable of dealmaking lawyers is starting up their own subscription-based streaming service. HBO Go is one that I pay for and love. Roku recently launched its own channel for its set-top boxes and streaming sticks that offers free movies and TV shows with a handful of ad breaks. My local library even has a free streaming service that offers every movie from the Criterion Collection.
Suffice it to say, I’m not short on ways to spend hours staring gleefully at the old idiot box. I am, however, beyond the point where juggling different services and apps has become so expensive and time-consuming that I need to pare down my offerings. Amazon Prime is the best deal in tech, so I’m keeping that. HBO Go is so well curated that I always feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. My local library is awesome, and I’m not about to ignore free movies.
Then there’s Netflix. Netflix is not free, and in my opinion, it’s not that good any more. I did enjoy the early seasons of House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black, but stopped watching both a long time ago. I want to like the Netflix Originals feature films, but I don’t. The latest Noah Baumbach joint was a real disappointment. I also want to like Stranger Things, but it never struck a chord. Plenty of people love it! If that’s the one thing on Netflix you can’t do without, however, you can easily subscribe for one month, watch everything four times, and then cancel your subscription having only spent 10 bucks or so.
That’s what I’m going to do. Not right now; Netflix and I are in a fight. But if there’s a must-see Netflix thing in the semi-distant future that I decide I must see, I might try paying for one month and dipping back out to my already bountiful world of streaming options. I’m sure Netflix hopes people forget to unsubscribe when they do this. I’ll set myself a reminder so that I don’t.
The funny thing is, I cancelled my subscription just before I started writing this post. It felt good and vindictive. “You’re not getting one more of my dollars Netflix!” I said to myself. Appropriately, in the time it took me to finish my rant, I got a notification on my phone: “$11.99 at Netflix”—that’s my bank telling me this month’s payment to Netflix just went through. It’s likely just a coincidence, but the timing feels like a bit of an insult. Either way, I’m asking for my money back.