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Netflix Infiltrates Suburbia

24 Mar, 2003 By: Stephanie Prange

Last month, when Netflix made a splash by announcing it had reached the million-subscriber milestone, Wall Street swooned. But it was a recent conversation with my neighbor that solidified my opinion that the online rental pioneer has something.

We were talking DVD during a suburban get together. (I often do a little informal market research at the neighborhood block parties.) One neighbor mentioned that she and her husband were anxiously watching their Netflix rental queue for a certain hit title, and were hoping they would get it soon. Like a kid anticipating Christmas, this neighbor described how she would visit her list and watch her favorite films' progress to her door. It reminded me of the early days of video, when folks would visit the local video store and pick up a second- or third-choice title when the hit they were looking for wasn't in stock. To my neighbor, these online visits were like browsing without the hassle of getting into the car.

Mind you, we don't live in the sticks. If my neighbor were to get in her car, a five-minute drive in almost any direction would bring her to a video store where she could go home happy with her desired title. But she seemed content to watch its progress in the Netflix rental queue, seemingly more interested in browsing patiently, taking second and third choices and waiting for her most-desired DVD to arrive than in instant gratification.

In a country where people shop for fun, Netflix has found a strong niche. Like the video store of yore, the service has made picking out a video an enjoyable experience. Through Netflix, folks are once again going to the video store to see what looks interesting, they're just doing it in a virtual store, and it only take a few seconds to arrive.

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