By Ben Keightley
As a subscriber to Lovefilm I was curious to hear at the end of last year that Netflix would be launching their streaming service. Netflix has now been available in the UK for a couple of months and for me its clear the impact it has had on the market place.
I don’t use Blinkbox, apple, YouTube, Sky or Virgin Media and Zune, for various reasons. Blinkbox has not done enough to imprint itself on my mind (much to my loss it would appear after discovering their recent array of silent and free films). I have apple TV but don’t like the model of paying for films per film. Watching films on YouTube to me just seems wrong. Sky and Virgin Media? Well I have BT Vision. Virgin Media isn’t available in my area and I rent so having a dish for Sky is an issue. Zune? Zune I’ve barely even heard of.
But Lovefilm. Lovefilm for me the perfect rental service for the type of film lover I am. I don’t take advantage of streaming but that’s because I like receiving a physical disc through the post. There’s something in the anticipation, the excitement of awaiting that next disc which still overshadows the ability to watch films instantly. For me watching films instantly presents the same problem as a fat kid in a sweet shop – too much choice is no choice.
And then Netflix came along. Owning an Xbox I’m in the fortunate position that I can watch both Lovefilm and Netflix online. I was curious and with a free trial I decided to delve into the world of Netflix and see what the big deal was about.
Because Netflix is a big deal. Regardless of the reality of whether its a good service or not Lovefilm’s reaction has inflated Netflix’s place in the market. Now I don’t know what effect Netflix has had on Lovefilm’s subscriptions but over the past few weeks it has been disconcerting to see how aggresively Lovefilm has tried to cement its hold over the market.
It all started about a month ago when I received an email from Lovefilm asking me if I would like to sign up to 1 months free subscription. I’m against email marketing generally but I accept some brands marketing themselves, Lovefilm being one of them. But as a subscriber I don’t understand why I would receive such an email.
Then things took a turn for the worse. I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of advertising on the TV and tube I’ve seen from Lovefilm not to mention the constant radio ads. But Lovefilm dropped in my estimation when two salesmen came into my office to offer us two months free subscription. Door to door sales! Really? That strikes me as worryingly desperate. Do Lovefilm really fear Netflix that much.
Things took a upturn when I saw Lovefilm had also begun producing their own content promoting their streaming service. This is a smart move. Netflix is only a competitor of Lovefilm Instant in reality so Lovefilm producing a weekly breakdown of the best films to stream makes sense. It simplifies how to find what is available online, gives Lovefilm more of a personality and engages me with the brand more.
This reinforces what I already love about Lovefilm. I feel I can relate. The brand has personality. I feel it is run by people who love film for people who love film. Beyond any other element of Lovefilm’s service I love how akin the brand appears to be to my affection for cinema.
So all the advertising and the door to door sales seems to me (a brand advocate) to have sullied their reputation. This action may be a result of now being owned by Amazon. But Lovefilm should stick to what they do best. Being the most indispensible place for film lovers to go.
So how does Netflix compare? Initially are a quick scan and becoming addicted to Breaking Bad I thought Lovefilm might need to worry. But on closer inspection Netflix really has little to offer. Their TV selection is great and a number of my TV cravings will be satisfied over the coming months (Breaking Bad/Firefly/Arrested Development – recently recommissioned by Netflix) but for the most part the film selection is poor. Some classics are included and there are a number of films I haven’t seen which now I can.
The problem with Netflix is its so impersonal. A look at its website reveals this. Where’s the personality, the passion. For me this reveals Netflix approach to the market. They might be planning to build this up over time but they will also need to build their offering. Anyone with the knowledge and passion I have for film will soon run of films to watch. It might be easy to use; the Xbox app certainly outshines Lovefilm’s but really what I’m looking for depth of quality and personality.
Ultimately Netflix’s introduction to the UK could be the shot in the arm Lovefilm needs to ensure it offers its customers a service they deserve. Their model for Lovefilm instant is good but there should be moe films available across a wider range. Netflix seems to have scared Lovefilm and they may become more liberal with their releases offering a better service. Which, as far as I’m concerned is great news.