We’ve finally finished our Netflix DVD queue. Which probably sounds strange to most of you reading this, because Netflix’s DVD service has felt like a historical artifact for years now; but we were actually subscribed to it until a month ago.

And, for most of that time, subscribing was the right thing, I think? When consuming media, I try to be intentional, not just watching / reading / playing / listening to something because it’s there; and most evenings our TV is occupied by one or the other of us playing video games, so we don’t watch movies or TV much. So that means that we’re not generally in the sort of browsing mindset that streaming (or flipping through cable channels) enables.

Also, to be honest, Liesl and I are good at getting a little bit paralyzed when deciding what to watch. So having a queue, and having a queue where only the top two items of that queue are accessible to us, is arguably an advantage, and at any rate works fine.


That means that, when Netflix streaming became a thing, their DVD service was still useful to us, so we kept on using it. Netflix was the only serious streaming service at that time, so their catalog was pretty good, but their DVD catalog was also quite good. And I didn’t have to look hard to find movies, especially older movies, that just weren’t available on streaming: from the point of view of watching what we wanted to watch instead of what was easy to get, the DVD service was better.

Since then, many aspects of the above have changed. Part of what changed was that everybody decided to have their own streaming service; so Netflix’s streaming catalog got a lot less comprehensive. Of course, Netflix started producing their own shows and movies, but we almost never felt like a Netflix show should be the next TV show that we should start watching, so that didn’t matter to us.

On the flip side, though, Netflix’s DVD service started to get worse. They still bought DVDs of new movies pretty reliably; but I started to notice that they didn’t get DVDs of new TV shows as they had in the past. I don’t know what changed there: whether it was the streaming side of the company influencing the DVD side, whether their previous purchasing had depended on agreements with publishers that those publishers were no longer willing to make, or whether the amount / composition of DVD customers had changed enough so it wasn’t profitable any more for them to buy DVDs of those shows? Annoying, whatever the reason was.


Things bumbled along like that for a while. I’d be a little annoyed that I couldn’t get some stuff (mostly TV shows but also some movies), but it wasn’t that big deal. I’d watch the number of streaming services multiply, and I’d continue to not want to deal with that.

But then, over the last couple of years, things changed. Our queue actually started to decrease; I’m not sure how much of that was a behavior change on our side and how much was more movies not being available through the service. Also, quality problems started appearing: more and more frequently, we’d get movies from Netflix and they’d stutter or skip over parts of scenes.

And then at some point (I have no idea what prompted me to do this) I happened to search iTunes for Fred Astaire movies, and realized that there were a bunch available for sale there that I hadn’t seen. So clearly my mental model of older movies not being as available in digital formats as they are in physical formats was out of date; if anything, the opposite was probably true now.


We kept on burning down the queue; and, when I ran across new movies that I was interested in, I’d save a note about them somewhere else. And, last month, we finally made it through the queue.

I’m still not convinced that I want to lean on streaming services for movies, though. It’s a pain to search through them to find whatever specific movie I want; and having a bunch of subscriptions is expensive. We rarely watch more than one movie a week, and sometimes we watch movies that we already have; given that, rental costs would be $20 a month, so just defaulting to renting from iTunes is plausibly the most cost-effective approach, and certainly the simplest. (The calculus changes for TV shows, though; so we’re ending up being subscribed to whatever streaming service has whatever TV show we’re currently watching, and unsubscribing once we’re done.)

So that’s where we are: still trying to be intentional about what we watch (and I’m maintaining a list in a task manager), mostly watching either movies through iTunes or movies we already own. I’m mostly getting ideas of movies to add to the list through mentions of them on Twitter, though that has obvious problems these days. And TV shows we’re generally watching through streaming, and that is more annoying than I would like.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.