Netflix went live in Ireland on Sunday night and, naturally enough, I signed up for the free month trial. After playing around with the service for a couple of hours I've got very mixed feelings about it. The technology is fantastic, though not perfect, but the range of content available isn't exactly stellar.
Signing up only took a couple of minutes, though quite a few people seemed to have issues, as Netflix were offering two signup options; a normal one and "signup via Facebook".
Once I'd signed up I answered a few questions about my personal taste in movies and tv shows and then linked it to my Apple TV (2nd generation). You can also link your Netflix account to Facebook and share your activity. If you're watching something on a computer you can easily choose not to share what you're viewing with Facebook, but on the Apple TV sharing is on by default. Of course you can disable the social sharing completely, but I haven't so far.
So now that I was all "setup" it was simply a question of choosing something to watch. This, unfortunately, is where the service left me a little disappointed.
Netflix Ireland's range of "new releases" is anything but "new". You might find a film that was released on iTunes a few months ago, but you're more likely to stumble across some "straight to DVD" or weird Asian title. The back catalogue of movies is pretty good, but a little patchy. Interestingly enough there are titles and categories of titles on Netflix that the more conservative iTunes would never carry. While iTunes has plenty of "over 18" / "R rated" films, they're usually of the more violent type, while Netflix has a "Lesbian and Gay" category, as well as some more "risque" titles in the foreign films category.
Getting access to TV shows is something new in Ireland. At the moment iTunes Ireland does not offer access to TV shows, so the only way to get them is to get a US iTunes account, which is a "grey area". Netflix does offer a reasonable selection of TV shows, but the choice of episodes isn't comprehensive. Checking a couple of series last night I found that Dexter had only the first two seasons and while watching Scrubs season 1 episode 1 it cut me off before the end of the episode!
I've been using iTunes on my Apple TV for the last few months and I also subscribe to Sky Movies, as well as buying quite a few blu-ray and DVD as they are released (on either side of the Atlantic). So it's only natural that I'd compare Netflix with iTunes and Sky Movies. However, having said that, if you take the cost element into consideration Netflix is incredibly cheap at a mere €6.99 a month. The problem for somebody like me, however, is that the cost is only one factor. I'd happily pay more if I thought the content was worth getting, but it's probably not, so I doubt if I'll renew my subscription after the first month's free trial.
Of course the entry into the Irish (and UK) market of Netflix could have a much bigger impact on the market as a whole. Ryanair's rockbottom pricing shook up the airline industry and Netflix has done pretty much the same in the US. Will it have the same kind of impact on Sky in Ireland?
What about the ISPs? Will the increase in people streaming TV shows and films mean that ISPs in Ireland will tighten up on bandwidth caps? It will be interesting to see how many people signup for the service and how many dump Sky as a result.
- Netflix: 'Lovefilm is no competition' (telegraph.co.uk)
- Netflix streaming launches in UK (bbc.co.uk)