Netflix: a user evaluates the Canadian experience

By: Tim Teatro

August 30, 2011
Author Tim Teatro is still using Netflix

Author Tim Teatro is still using Netflix

A word from Tim Teatro …

The review of the Canadian Netflix experience that appears below has generated some passionate discussion.

In it, I complained that Canadian content was noticeably absent from the Canadian Netflix library. Users have made points both in support of and in condemnation of Netflix’s Canadian offering.

WhatsYourTech.ca’s readers poll on the Canadian Netflix experience turned out quite well for Netflix. Of those who responded, 18 percent love Netflix and 32 percent think it’s OK.

That means 50 percent of total respondants like Netflix. Only 13 percent said they don’t like Netflix.

It also means that 63 percent of our poll respondants have used Netflix, and the majority of those like it. Fourteen percent use other online sources, and 23 percent don’t watch movies online.

Still there are dissenters. “Sam” who commented on my review said that it and the comments it received deterred him from signing up for Netflix. I would still encourage users to sign up for the free 30 day trial.

“Anon” pointed out,

It’s not that Netflix don’t want to pay for the licensing, its that in Canada streaming is locked up with ctv.ca, global.ca and the other one (can’t remember). Netflix can’t get any of that content until contracts with these companies expire.

I think it is the valid point that CTV is perhaps not selling the rights to Canadian content or may have some exclusivity on american content.

Anon’s sympathetic perspective doesn’t seem to be shared by most of the other readers. Regardless of the obstacles faced by Netflix, it is clear that they must expand their database before they will find mass appeal in Canada.

I’m still using Netflix. Even though the value Canadians receive is shameful compared to the American service, I still find that I enjoy the old movies enough to make it worth it. I still sincerely hope that pressure from consumers will force Netflix to expand it’s Canadian library.

To the reader’s: I’d like to hear opinions on the anti-competitive climate in Canada, with internet providers imposing bandwidth caps on users, and offering their own “on-demand” services.

Here’s my original article …

Netflix

So where's the Canadian content?

By Tim Teatro

Last month I signed on with Netflix to check out their Canadian offering. Here’s what I’ve found.

Getting Started…

The experience started well. After signing up, my wife and I had a wonderful time going through and rating hundreds of our favorite movies so that Netflix could learn our preferences. We spent two hours getting psyched up by the prospect of watching our old favorites: Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Star Trek, E.T., (… okay, admittedly these are my favourites).

Ready to watch!

After such a gratifying first impression, I was extremely let down by what was to come. Once we were ready to watch, it took me at least an hour before I could access my new service. First, Netflix doesn’t work on Linux due to the lack of Microsoft’s Silverlight support. So I figured I’d try it on my X-Box 360—how could you get more Microsoft? By some stroke of stupidity, you have to have an X-Box Live Gold membership to download the Netflix app. I actually had a subscription waiting to be activated, but I refuse to pay Microsoft a toll to access a service I’m already paying for! Thanks Sony, for the PS3; I finally got it working without paying any more money.

Classics

With a well earned feeling of satisfaction, I pointed the remote control at my entertainment system, and clicked ‘Ok’ to begin my Canadian Netflix experience. By that time, too late to take in a new movie, I thought I’d watch one of the classics I was craving.

Disappointment struck again when I went in search of any of my favourites! I could scarcely believe that anyone would offer a streaming video library without the likes of Star Wars, E.T., Ghostbusters, Iron Man, the new Star Trek, League of Their Own, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, Frequency… I could go on all night.

At first glance, the Netflix library contains a discombobulated assortment of B-movies, box office flop outs, peppered with the odd popular pick and a few gems to justify the claims of having popular movies. Most strangely, it contains a lot of sequels without their predecessors (eg. Terminator 2 without Terminator, My Girl 2 without My Girl, Aliens without Alien, Iron Man 2 without Iron Man). When it can’t offer you the movie you wanted to see, it offers some often suitable alternatives.

I do find Netflix’s suggestions to be helpful. It’s actually amazing how accurately it predicts my star ratings for movies. It often suggests very good movies that I haven’t seen before, and I quite like this. Maybe my favourites aren’t there, but it does help me find some new favourites. I think this really makes the value in the Netflix offering.

New movies

You’d be hard pressed to find any new releases on Netflix. I think this is a problem in general, both in Canada and the US. It takes a few months for Netflix to get the rights. The film companies don’t want Netflix to impact movie sales. They still haven’t gotten it into their heads that the Internet has changed their business model. People will just continue to download (illegally) for free unless you give them a reasonable alternative to overpriced DVDs and Blu-Ray disks. The music industry went through the same growing pains back in the days of Napster.

With Netflix Canada, I wouldn’t count on seeing your favourite movies—even a few months after they are released. In the month I’ve had my Netflix Canada account, they’ve been far more interested in getting a lot of inexpensive licenses (things most people wouldn’t want to watch), rather than forking out for the popular stuff. This includes a lot of kids content. It’s been really disappointing. Check out the recently added list to see what I mean. Hopefully, you’ll disagree with me.

TV shows

Not much that’s popular here. No House, Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, Grey’s Anatomy, or anything else that one tends to find on prime time television. The most current show I saw on the menu was Breaking In, which they probably got cheap considering the show was cancelled midway through the first season.

Again, I seriously get the impression that they don’t want to pay money for licenses.

Canadian content

Netflix Canada—they must have someone in charge of Canadian content, right? I doubt it.

Canada produces some awesome TV shows, like Rookie Blue, Flashpoint, and Warehouse 13 but none of them are available on Netflix Canada. They are available to Netflix customers in the US.

Without getting into details, most of the things that are not available to Canadians are available to American subscribers. The images below are taken from the US Netflix website. Very few of these movies or shows are available to Canadians.




The Verdict

The selection of favourite movies can seem quite limited, and the options for popular TV shows are nonexistent. However, because of the intelligently selected suggestions, based on your likes and dislikes, Netflix presents and opportunity to discover new favorites, and that’s where I really find value in the service.

With a free free 30-day Netflix trial, there’s no way to lose, and the cost of the service is only CAD 7.99/mo after the end of the trial. I think it’s well worth the price, but the same money in the States gets you a lot more. I invite anyone from Netflix to explain why this is, since I can only speculate.


29 comments

  1. michaelrjones58@yahoo.com.au'
    Michael Jones

    Can you comment on the quality of the video image with the reduced downloads?
    Thanks

  2. lee@whatsyourtech.ca'
    Lee

    Earlier this year, Netflix announced it was switching to lower-quality video streaming in Canada. Maybe that’s nice if you are worried about data caps, but I’d say like Tim’s point that Canadian content is somewhat lacking in comparison, so, too, the overall Canadian service.

  3. timtro@gmail.com'
    Tim Teatro
    Author

    Hi Michael,

    It will depend somewhat on your connection and available integrated bandwidth (data cap). That is to say, you may experience lower quality if your connection is not very fast. You may actually want lower quality if your ISP will charge you for downloading over a certain amount (as all do these days)

    I have a rare thing: an unlimited data plan. I also have a fiber optic connection, so I can download at ~1.5 Mb/s. I get DVD quality out of Netflix.

    I can say however, that the odd time there are glitches such as improper aspect ratio (i.e., the image is stretched or squished because the video is incorrectly encapsulated or encoded), and on some things, the dubbing goes out (voice is out of sync with the video). But that is rare.

  4. timtro@gmail.com'
    Tim Teatro
    Author

    Good point Lee. In fact, this is something I really wanted to talk about in the article. There are serious anti-competitive issues with Rogers On-Demand due to the bandwidth caps.

    I should also note that every Canadian citizen with Internet access should sign up at openmedia.ca to fight the bandwidth caps and protect our privacy.

  5. rulesofplanetmars@hotmail.com'
    Loulou

    Totally agree, I am a netflix client for 3 months but I seriously consider to stop my membership, the main reason is the lack of content and the frustration to see that most of the movies and series that I want to watch are restricted to US only. The selection for the Canadians is way to weak.

    About the video quality I am very happy, I play the movies in HD (I have 100Go cap per month for a 25Mbs dl limit) and the picture is very good (except for dark scenes when you can see the limit of the compression that they use).

    I don’t really like the web interface, you cannot save some ‘favorites’ or make a list of movies that you want to see, it’s hard to scroll the movie selection.

    I will probably come back to netflix later when (if?) they will have a better selection and movie catalog.

  6. mike2487@hotmail.com'
    Michael Sweet

    Again a poor carbon copy of what is available in the US. Netflix US is popular because it’s awesome, why is it so poor here. $$$$$$
    They don’t want to spend the money, like most services not available in Canada or not good enough.

    So frustrating, I agree we produce a lot of great shows, but for whatever reason Netflix Canada isnt working hard enough or spendingthe money to give us Canadians a quality service equal to what our friends across the border have been enjoying for years!!

    If you agree let Netflix Canada know your opinion!!! See if it makes a difference,,,,

  7. nextwavecs@gmail.com'
    Scott

    The biggest thing for me was that I couldn’t watch the service with linux. Why then is there hardware boxes available to watch netflix that run linux ?? This doesn’t make any sense. The Roku is available, and is linux based. There is absolutely no reason then why linux desktop users can’t stream netflix. Bring Netflix to linux!! just my 2 cents..

  8. joe.toryn@rogers.com'
    Joe

    A couple of notes:

    As far as Canadian content is concerned, I was introduced to “Republid of Doyle” which currently airs on CBC and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it shows up on Netflix less than 48 hours after its original airing on CBC.

    I too was a bit disapointed to find the sizeable content difference between the US and Canada, but having spent alot of time researching the situation, I cam to realize that Netflix is up against major pushback by the traditional Canadian content providers.

    That being said, $8 permonth is a small price to pay for access to a considerable amount of content which has never failed to entertain me.

    Netflix will eventually get more access to the canadian rights for alot of the movies which show up on their US site, but the opposition from entities like Rogers and Bell is fierce.

    Overall, I giv Netflix a thumbs up.

  9. mrloewen@hotmail.com'

    I couldn’t find a complete list of everything available on Netflix, so I’ve just created a blog where I’ll keep the current Netflix Canada list updated (I’ve got a few “shortcuts” that will help me keep it updated). If I had access to the U.S. site (or an American Netflix subscriber interested in helping), I could get the U.S. list going as well.

    Take a look and let me know if it’s useful to you.

    netflixcanadacompletelist.blogspot.com

  10. wd@facebook.com'
    wendy

    I’ve spent alot of time waiting for things to be retrieved.It’s annoying and time comsuming.I hope they can work out the bugs.

  11. sarpedon@ca.inter.ca'
    jojo

    as usual, Canadians get the short end of the stick. The choices are atrocious and extremely limited. Don’t get suckered in. Hold out until they give us the same service as the US. That will take a long time because of the protectionist spirit that pervades the Canadian mentality.
    EVERYTHING is controlled in our “great” country. All BS.
    And who the hell wants to bring up canadian conmtent ? PLEASE…the most boring TV can be found in Kanada. So leave that out.
    Netflix Kanada – a big ZERO for now,,,,,,,,,

  12. asdf@asdf.com'
    SAM

    Pathetic selections. Old or new, you don’t get very many movies. 90% of what I searched for was not there. I can’t understand why Netflix would even start in Canada if they weren’t ready, and NO, they’re NOT ready as is. Get Canadians all the movies the U.S. has or get lost.

  13. gordmetcalfe@gmail.com'
    GM

    I went for the 30 day trial and cancelled it in less than a week. terrible selection. This business model is unsustainable.

  14. cestino1@eastlink.ca'
    Adrian

    As other posters have said, Netflix Canada primarily has a collection of B-movies, “want nots”, and box-office failures. The US version is DRAMATICALLY better. US-Canada licensing issues?? What that really translates into is money. Netflix Canada doesn’t want to spend the money for licensing here… Its not some canadian regulatory board that’s preventing an “Internet release”. Why buy the rights for it here when people are paying for the crap that’s there? There’s a few flicks to watch. If it doesn’t improve in the next few months, we’ll stop subscribing. If enough people do this, maybe they’ll get the message.

  15. poorlittlestudent@gmail.com'
    Lydia

    Just wanted to post a big THANK YOU to the author and the posters for the comments–I had been thinking of subscribing but was wondering about the Netflix site having pretty crappy offerings on their main pages. I thought maybe I was just crazy, given all the rave reviews elsewhere (usually USA).

    I am especially thankful for the heads-up regarding XBOX gold membership requirement.

    In addition to improving offerings to Canada, I think the company needs to provide more information on their site. It makes one weary of subscribing (even for a free trial) when you’re not allowed to access a full catalogue or details about equipment required without beginning an account.

  16. bellysenator@gmail.com'
    Anon

    I use these illegal watch movie online sites and decided to sign up to Netflix to watch movies “legally” because I feel inclined to do the right thing. But right netflix has no good movies.. So I still ended up using the black market sites even though I’m paying for service to supposedly watch them legally. In a way thats irony on its head. Netflix Canada doesn’t even have Ghostbusters.

  17. tara---32@hotmail.com'
    anon

    It’s not that Netflix don’t want to pay for the licensing, its that in canada streaming is locked up with ctv.ca, global.ca and the other one (can’t remember). Netflix can’t get any of that content until contracts with these companies expire.

    Also, of course US netflix has more content. They have been open for business since 1999. Do you think it was like it is now right out of the gate? I don’t think so.

    I have netflix and like the writer said, I have discovered plenty of new content that I haven’t seen before. Lots of tv. And the kid shows…I would pay $8/mth for that alone. My 2 and 4 year old love it. Its all they want to watch.

    They are getting better. Be patient.

    Back to top

  18. timtro@gmail.com'
    Tim Teatro
    Author

    @Anon, Hmmmm, I’m not sure what you mean by global and CTV having ‘streaming’ ‘locked up’. Streaming is simply jargon for sending bits of a video in order so it can be watched as it downloads. That’s not really something that can be locked up in it’s own right. In terms of licenses (for which streaming can be locked), I’ve never read anything about these companies having exclusive licenses to stream blockbuster content, and I doubt that they would buy exclusive rights to stream blockbuster movies over the net.

    As for having started in 1999, that’s not a fair comparison. In 1999, US Netflix started as a DVD by mail service, not a streaming one. Can you imagine if Netflix started in the states as a streaming service with the same serious lack of content they have in Canada? They wouldn’t be around today, I’m quite sure.

    I’m not trying to invalidate your point, but show you that others have points too.

  19. duffyhallberg@teus.net'
    Jeff

    My big beef with Netflix is the streaming platform they use (Microsoft Silverlight)which doesn’t allow for full HD. Watching movies with black borders at the top and bottom of the screen is a real drag.

  20. tara---32@hotmail.com'
    anon

    You’re right about not being a fair comparison because it did start out as a dvd option only business. It didn’t start streaming til 2007 but with only 1000 titles. I’m sure canada had way more than that when it started. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get more content.

    when i mentioned streaming rights, i did mean licenses. Global, bell, rogers, ctv etc.- it all depends on who has the distribution rights of the shows. then they can call netflix up and say i will sell (or rent)you the rights (somewhat to that effect) how much you gonna pay me. netflix can then give an offer.

    but since they are all scared of netflix who knows when we’ll get more content. same goes for movies – the movie network, superchannel etc. has those distribution rights for now.

    BTW, i’m not worried about anyone giving counterpoints to my opinions, they are just that (with a little fact) – listening to critiques and others opinions is how we learn. =)

  21. fafafa888@gmail.com'
    Jon

    Well, the Canadian version lacks many tv shows like Mad Men, American Dad and etc.

    I’m using the U.S. version right now and it blows me away.

    Basically, you will need a Virtual Prepaid U.S. credit card and a proxy service to allow you to sign up and watch Netflix outside USA.

    More details from this blog http://www.unotelly.com/blog/?p=72

  22. satusatok@gmail.com'
    Satusatok

    I have been with nexflix Can for about 6 months now.
    The selections are really poor compared to the US. Recently netflix Can was having streaming issues with their server and I got a credit of 10%. At times it’s slow to load the titles and/or categories. I have stayed with them given the fact that I like watching classic movies and it’s not expensive. However I would be willing to pay more if they had a better selection and more recent block busters (say within the past 6-8 months).
    I am waiting for zip.ca to have streaming online, it’s not up and running yet but I heard it’s coming soon. I will definitely go with zip.ca even if they charge more but for better choices of movies.
    So Nexflix, you better pay some serious attention into putting more selections as I am one customer that will definitely look elsewhere.

  23. al@yahoo.com'
    al

    sad that Canadian people accept mostly that it is normal to have worse quality than in the states. No, $8 a month is not a lot… but if there was a general boycott of it… maybe they would try to make it better. Worth a thought, no?

  24. argento2665@sympatico.ca'
    argento2665

    When Netflix made the deal with the studios for Canada, there were two BIG setbacks: 1) Warner didn’t sign on (and Warner has 40% of the movie/TV market share) and 2) there would be an 18 (EIGHTEEN!) month window for new material. That’s a year-and-a-half, a lifetime in the world of entertainment. I’m trying the free trial right now but I watch almost exclusively classics (pre-1970) and there is nothing, no Casablanca, no Gone With the Wind, no Wizard Of Oz, you get the idea. Without any improvement on these fronts, I don’t see Netflix being around long in Canada.

  25. samuelwfraser@eastlink.ca'
    sam

    I have been reading comments trying to decide weather to sign up or not. I don’t think as Canadians we are getting a good deal with so little choice. Thanks for helping to make up my mind.

    Back to top

  26. visionsend@persona.ca'
    Greg

    Netflix Canada is pathetic at best. It makes no sense why the American version is so much better but what ever the reason it is certainly bullsh*t! I find it very frustrating that Canadian internet users are censored from American content, being unable to view US TV content over the web or get the same Netflix content. The internet is no longer the world wide web, it’s more like the intraweb we find at our work with our jerk bosses saying what we can and cant look at lol!

  27. ecsacme@gmail.com'
    Mitch

    Thank you for writing this article. For the longest while I have been intrigued to try out Netflix; however after reading your article and providing insight as to a new user, I have decided to wait until all the kinks have been rectified whether that be 1mos, 6mos, a year or however long they can around to providing what they state. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *