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Netflix subscription service is tops in Consumer Reports survey of home video rental services

Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Latest survey featured in the March issue finds that newer ways to rent videos satisfy readers more than most video stores do

Yonkers, NY — In these tough economic times, Americans are likely spending more time at home and in front of the TV. Despite the ever-increasing number of channels offered by cable, satellite, and phone company TV providers, video rental services continue to be a popular source of entertainment for many people. Consumer Reports’ latest survey of its online subscribers found that Netflix subscription service had the highest overall satisfaction. The service received high marks for price, selection and service. Most Consumer Reports’ online subscribers were highly satisfied with the experience of renting videos from all of the rated providers, which included subscription services, in-store kiosks, and walk-in-stores and chains. Price was the biggest driver of overall satisfaction, although convenience, variety, and flexibility are all factors in what makes a video rental subscription service appealing.

Subscription Services
Consumer Reports’ survey respondents found Netflix to be the top choice, rating it higher than Blockbuster’s competing Total Access service. With monthly payment plans starting at $5, Netflix was among the standouts for price; it was top-rated for selection and service. Readers reported that orders were filled promptly and with very few errors. The company offers more than 100,000 titles, including 1,000 Blu-ray titles. Mail delivery is supplemented by a streaming service that can deliver videos to a computer or Netflix-enabled TV or Blu-ray player with an Ethernet port.

Although Blockbuster Total Access has the only $4-a-month plan, it was generally more costly than comparable Netflix plans, and survey respondents were less satisfied with the price. But Blockbuster’s advantage is that Total Access subscribers can supplement mail delivery and returns by picking up or returning videos at one of the chain’s 4,600 stores nationwide. While the company’s DVD collection has more than 85,000 titles – about 15,000 fewer than Netflix – its Blu-ray selection is comparable. And unlike Netflix, which charges an extra $1 for Blu-ray titles, Blockbuster doesn’t charge a premium for high-def rentals.

Kiosks
Vending-machine like movie dispensers are popping up in malls, supermarkets, and drugstores. Consumers can browse the machine’s selection and pay with their credit card. Consumer Reports’ survey found that Redbox, the biggest video-rental kiosk company, got top marks for price and convenience. Movies cost $1 per night and Redbox allows consumers to reserve movies online before picking them up at a nearby kiosk. For the most part, consumers are likely to find a random selection of the most mainstream movies in Redbox kiosks. Readers rated it worse than average for selection.

Video on Demand
Despite the seeming convenience of video on demand (VOD) services offered by cable, satellite and phone company TV service providers, they trailed other options in satisfaction as far as price and selection. Additionally, Consumer Reports’ survey suggests that this option tends to be a supplement to rather than a replacement for other ways to rent movies, perhaps as a way to get the newest titles.

VOD offerings comprise movies, TV episodes, and other programs that consumers can order. Once the selection has been started, there’s typically a 24-hour viewing window during which the program can be paused, stopped and viewed again. VOD titles, generally priced between $2 and $5 are offered in standard and high definition. Most cable companies offer some free VOD titles, generally either kids programs or older movies. Cable still has the edge in VOD, but the newer, fiber-optic TV services, such as Verizon FiOs and AT&T’s U-verse, are now competitive with cable services.

For all types of TV providers, satisfaction with VOD picture and sound quality was on par with other rental options, and subscribers found it easy to order movies on demand. To enjoy VOD, consumers must subscribe to the service provider’s monthly TV service.

Walk-Ins
If in-person service is a priority, Consumer Reports recommends local independent, nonchain stores and Family Video, a walk-in chain with 550 locations in 18 states. Survey results showed that Family Video was better than average for price and that independent stores offered superior customized, customer-oriented service.

The complete report and Ratings of video rental services are available in the March 2009 issue of Consumer Reports, wherever magazines are sold. Portions of the story are available for free online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.

 
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Netflix subscription service is tops in Consumer Reports survey of home video rental services
Consumer Reports’ survey respondents found Netflix to be the top choice, rating it higher than Blockbuster’s competing Total Access service.
 
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