On Monday Netflix launched their £5.99 per month streaming service for the UK and Ireland, placing it straight into competition with LoveFilm. For those who know all about Netflix’s US operation, this was hugely exciting news. So having landed on these shores, how does it measure up?
Long story short: it measures up damn well. There’s no DVDs by post (so if you want that then stick with LoveFilm), Netflix UK is a purely streaming service. But the streaming it delivers is far more advanced than that which Sky on Demand, LoveFilm or anyone else is offering right now. A huge number of titles are available in HD with 5.1 surround sound, to people like myself with HD consoles and a rather meaty sound system this is great news. The HD streaming itself is of amazing quality, so much so that some of my family members struggled to believe it was a streaming video and thought a DVD was playing. Compared to what UK customers are used to at this price point, this is a most welcome improvement.
After registering, Netflix asks a surprisingly deep number of questions about your viewing tastes. Filling out the preferences allows Netflix to offer up suggestions for what you may like from its library. Particularly impressive is that the service is constantly learning more about you as you rate movies on its five star scale. So as you use it more, it gets to know you better. Creepy maybe, but pretty cool.
When registering Netflix asks if you want to link your Facebook account. You can then see what your facebook friends are enjoying and find some inspiration. It’s not especially necessary and you don’t have to link the two accounts. Though it is quite amusing to see what some of your friends have been watching. Don’t want something shared? No problem, there’s an option to turn off sharing of a particular title once it starts playing.
One thing that is so striking about Netflix is how flexible the whole thing is. The service runs on your laptop, game console, iPad or iPhone seamlessly. Films or TV shows can be started on one device, stopped, then playback resumed later from the exact moment the last session ened. Take for example my experience watching Madhouse’s 2009 anime Summer Wars. I started viewing on my PS3, then finished off the film at the train station the next morning on my iPhone. This feature is going to be so handy for watching through a season of a TV show.
The current library of films and TV shows available is good, especially as the service is yet to reach even a week old. There’s a good selection of classic and contemporary movies, from every possible genre. The selection of TV shows is excellent, with everything from British comedies like The IT Crowd and The Thick of it, to American dramas like Dexter and Breaking Bad. They even have all three seasons of Arrested Development, awesome!
Browsing the titles is on the whole pretty smooth, only the Xbox 360 interface irritates slightly. Navigating though the 360’s app feels more like a game of Guess Who with all the rows of movies flipping up onto the screen. It’s functional, just not as easy to flick through as the other apps are.
So Netflix will set you back £5.99 per month, a reasonable fee when its flexibility and library are taken into account. There’s a one month free trial right now, so there’s no excuse not to sample its wares and get stream some quality movies and TV shows. Whether the service can get you paying after the first month will depend on how its library grows. As of right now, they’ll be getting my money.