Sunday, September 21, 2008

Netflix: You Suck at Streaming

We signed up for Netflix so we could use the "Watch Instantly" feature and catch up TV shows we missed while in Vietnam. Ah, this was going to be great. No dice. It seems that the streaming doesn't work on Mac.

Ok, so they're in bed with Microsoft so deeply that Macintosh households are out of luck. I dug an old XP laptop out of the bottom of the electronics drawer in my home office. After waiting 10 minutes for it to boot, I fired up Firefox and logged onto the Netflix site. I started getting excited about all the great streaming shows I was going to be able to watch on Netflix.com. Not so fast: Netflix doesn't stream with Firefox (even on Windows XP). Oh, great.

Luckily I hadn't removed IE from the old XP laptop. So I fire up Internet Explorer and try to watch the third episode of Weeds, Season 1. This takes about 20 minutes of software updating and installing of various media player components. Finally I get the media player running from Netflix.com. Just before the show starts I get a message that says my account is on hold and that I can't watch instantly until I update my account. Sure enough, we have a new billing address so I update my account information so Netflix has my correct billing address and try again. Nope! Same error. I try logging out and back in to my Netflix account. No luck. I try restarting Internet Explorer. No joy. I try restarting Windows, always good for a half hour of meditation. Nope, that's not it. I try calling Netflix customer support. The very polite customer support representative informs me that Watch Instantly servers update once a day. Turns out they update at midnight Pacific. Not exactly instant is it? Maybe tomorrow I can actually start watching instantly.

I understand that movie studios love their DRM. But if any of the Netflix gods are listening, you've got some work to do. In the meantime, I'll just cancel my subscription and check back in a year or so to see if they start supporting MacOS. Maybe Blockbuster will have that Weeds DVD in stock. I bet I can even watch it on my MacBook Pro!

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