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For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option

16 Sep, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A San Francisco writer discovers a sad reality when looking for catalog movies on disc

The San Francisco Bay Area is ground zero for Netflix. It has the highest percentage of subscribers anywhere in the world. The SVOD pioneer cut its teeth in nearby Los Gatos creating the by-mail disc rental business in 1999, before turning a cold shoulder to packaged media in 2008.

That indifference reached its nadir almost three years ago this week when Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, on a Sunday afternoon at home in a clumsy blog post, announced plans to spin-off the disc rental business and rebrand it Qwikster with its own CEO and headquarters.

That decision, coupled with a 60% price hike to a popular hybrid streaming/by-mail rental plan, saw a mass exodus of subscribers (800,000) and sent Netflix’s stock plummeting 75%.

Since that debacle, which saw the Qwikster rebranding idea killed, Netflix vowed better communication, more humility and less arrogance. But its disdain for packaged media continued — despite the fact the unit delivered nearly 50% of the company’s operating profit until late last year.

This week Netflix is launching streaming service in six European countries with Hastings the toast of the media — and a thousands of miles (literally) removed from that Sunday blog.

Jon Brooks, an editor with KQED, the public television affiliate in San Francisco, recently discovered how degraded Netflix’s once-vaunted movie catalog has become when seeking an indie film on DVD.

Brooks’ story starts below with a link () to the complete original on KQED.org.

“A few months ago I encountered a dilemma I thought had been permanently solved in the age of everything/anywhere media: I really needed to see a particular movie, and I couldn’t find it for rent. I was slotted to write an essay on Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, the seminal black independent film by Melvin Van Peebles, but it was unavailable on Netflix’s DVD service, my longtime resource for such fare.

This was weird, because I had rented it once before from Netflix, in 2009. What had happened to it?”

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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