Earlier this month I started a trial subscription with Blockbuster Online, because I felt it was unfair to constantly bitch about Netflix without having checked out the competition. In a couple months I’ll be set to start an “official” comparison thread; however, based on preliminary results, here’s what I’ve found out:
Netflix carries far more DVDs than Blockbuster Online, in particular documentaries, music DVDs, foreign films, and other obscure independent titles. However, BBO carries Special Editions for many films, whereas Netflix only offers whatever version they happen to have (generally the older one.) Netflix also tends to be sloppy regarding which version they send you – for instance, occasionally I’ll get a pan & scan DVD instead of widescreen. So far, everything I’ve received from BBO has been exactly what I ordered.
Blockbuster’s queue system is a complete horrorshow. Adding something to your queue will cause the rest of your queue to randomly re-shuffle itself, and re-ordering your queue doesn’t work right…if you try and move something from #70 to #15, it will place it at #16 or #14 instead! Their search engine SUCKS, and there’s no way to tell if something’s really available or not unless you add it to your queue (whereas Netflix has a separate “SAVE” button for DVDs that aren’t currently available.) If you’re as anal about organizing your queue as I am, this is a HUGE minus.
Shipping times depend greatly on how close you are to a distribution center. For me, both Netflix and BBO are located in the same city, same zip code even. It’s close enough so anything shipping to and from the Netflix distribution site takes only one day each way – meaning, if they ship a DVD on Monday, I get it Tuesday, and if I return it on Wednesday, they get it by Thursday. There are exceptions, such as when they ship a DVD from a distribution center somewhere else in the country, which can take 3 to 5 days to arrive, and if the USPS gets overburdened or lazy the return time can take an extra day or two. IN THEORY, Netflix ships your next DVD the same day they receive the previous one…however, after being a customer for three months (especially if you’re a “heavy user”) you will find out that they will deliberately wait a day BEFORE sending the next DVD. Gotta maximize those profits, after all! :mad:
BBO ship times are all over the place. Sometimes they receive the DVD in one day, sometimes it takes as long as 3 or 4 days. I don’t know if they do this on purpose or if they’re just stupid. On the other hand, you can report a DVD missing if it’s been out for only 3 days, and they’ll ship the next one (Netflix makes you wait six days.) Also, BBO ships on Saturday; Netflix doesn’t.
I’ve heard horror stories about extremely long wait times with BBO, but so far I’ve been lucky – only about 10% of the DVDs I’ve put in my queue were on “Short Wait” or longer. With Netflix, it’s more like 3%. (What that means is, if all copies of a DVD are currently checked out, it will show up in your queue marked as “Short Wait”, “Long Wait”, or “Very Long Wait”. If the DVD at the top of your queue is on the wait list when you send a title back, they will skip over that title and send the next one.) Actual wait times with Netflix vary greatly, depending on how many copies they have and how big the demand is – typically, I’ll wait 1 to 2 weeks for a “Short Wait” title, 3 to 5 weeks for “Long Wait”, and 6 weeks or longer for “Very Long Wait”. Haven’t been on BBO long enough to compare, but so far it seems about the same.
BBO is cheaper than Netflix. For 3-at-a-time, BBO is $14.99/month, Netflix $17.99/mo. For 5-at-a-time, BBO is $27.49 vs. Netflix $29.99. My guess is that BBO is purposely undercutting Netflix to drive them out of business, so I’d recommend going with Netflix just to avoid supporting evil corporations. Besides, you get what your pay for. BBO does offer two free rental coupons per month which can be used at any of their stores (plus a coupon for “any previously viewed DVD” for $7.99, which is totally worthless.) Netflix does have greater flexibility in their rental plans – you can choose anything from 2 to 8 discs at a time, whereas BBO has only 5 plans (1, 3, 5, or 8 at a time, plus a “limited” plan where you’re only allowed to rent like 4 DVDs a month total.)
Netflix is faster, easier to navigate, and has far greater selection than Blockbuster, plus the discs come in pretty red envelopes that look really cool. On the other hand, BBO is cheaper, and gives you slightly more options when it comes to special edition titles. Frankly, I think Netflix wins out easily – I’m already planning to cancel my BBO account once I’m done watching all the DVDs they carry that Netflix doesn’t.
BTW…I’ve never heard of Blockbuster editing their movies (perhaps you’re thinking of Wal-Mart?) They are, however, more likely to carry “R” rated movies as opposed to the “Unrated” versions, and they don’t carry NC-17 titles at all, period.