Turning inner space into outer space

April 23, 2016

Netflix is a good deal, even if you have to follow the rules

Netflix, showmi and CraveTV

Some Canadians are acting like spoiled children over the fact that Netflix is actually enforcing its own rules.

No, you aren’t allowed to use VPN to watch content reserved for other countries. This is in the terms of service you agreed to when you signed up for Netflix.

But many Canadians went ahead and paid for VPN service anyway, somehow thinking that it was OK to break their agreement with Netflix. I guess some of us figured that Netflix wasn’t serious, that they were just paying lip service to their own agreements with content providers.

Now it turns out they were serious after all. If you try using a VPN to watch shows on the U.S. version of Netflix, you get blocked.

(VPN, for the uninitiated, stands for virtual private network. It allows you to pretend that you are accessing the Internet from another country, thus circumventing restrictions based on geography.)

Outraged subscribers haven taken to social media to announce that they are leaving Netflix. How dare they treat us like second-class citizens.

Second class? That reasoning comes from that the difference in the number of shows offered to Americans vs. Canadians — despite being charged about the same amount. In the U.S., you get to choose from 7,000 shows. In Canada, it is a mere 4,000.

Never mind that 90 per cent of it is junk that you would dream of wasting your time on. Never mind that you could never watch that many shows in a lifetime. Apparently, there are a few gems that they get, but we don’t. It also works the other way around from time to time — but never mind that, too.

This leaves me to wonder where the Netflix quitters intend to go. There are a couple of Canadian streaming services— Showmi and CraveTV. They cost a bit more and rarely produce excellent original content of the kind that can be found on Netflix.

Cable TV is still as big a rip-off as ever, even with new regulations forcing cable companies to offer a $25 package. That’s three times what you pay for Netflix, and the shows — if you find any you like — are swamped with annoying ads. You would be further ahead, in terms of value and choice, paying for all three streaming services.

Neflix CEO Reed Hastings calls the complainers “a very small but quite vocal minority. It’s really inconsequential to us.”

I’m inclined to believe him. All you have to do is look at the data. A total of 190,000 Canadians cut the cable in 2015 — an 80-per-cent increase over the year before. The two main reasons are the high price of cable and the convenience of Netflix.