Netflix and Chill in Singapore

When Netflix announced in early January that they will be available to more than 130 countries, it came as no surprise that I signed up for the free trial. Being a huge supporter of streaming services (they will really replace conventional TV and Radio in the next couple of years), the arrival of Netflix was met with both excitement and relief (finally?).

I signed up for the plan with 2 screens + HD, as I figured that having a HDTV, iPad, iPhone, and MacBook would mean that somewhere along the way at least two of these devices would have Netflix running. S$13.98 a month for an unlimited number of movies and TV shows, now that’s a steal. It’s been exactly a month and a day since I started my Netflix subscription, enough for me to form a reasonable opinion. Herewith I disclose my thoughts:

Netflix Promotes Binge-Watching

It’s no secret that Netflix encourages binge-watching – even Netflix Originals are released entire seasons at a time. The lure of being able to watch shows at your own pace usually means that you would spend those 15 odd hours going through an entire season of a TV show. This cannot be healthy, not when sleep and diet are potentially affected. You would need an immense amount of discipline to tell yourself “Hey, maybe that’s enough Netflix for today”.

That’s tough.

Video Streaming ≠ Music Streaming

One of the things I love about my other streaming service, Spotify, is that it grants me access to an almost unlimited music library all day, every day. For the very low price of S$9.90. I use Spotify when I work, when I drive, when I’m in the train, when I work out, even sometimes when I sleep. Listening to music is a passive activity – just plug in your earphones and go about your day.

The same can’t be said for video streaming. One of the first things that bothered me was that I’m paying money for something that I can basically only use when I have free time. At best, that’s every weekday evening and my weekends. I can’t run with Netflix, I can’t work with Netflix, I can’t sleep while watching Netflix – it requires my full attention. This, for me, was a huge drawback, because that would mean that I’m not maximising the Netflix subscription. And, this also means that I’d practically have to binge-watch if I were to use Netflix to the fullest.

Limited Catalogue

No House of Cards. No Parks and Recreation. No The Flash. The catalogue of shows available in Singapore is severely limited due to licensing issues of some of the shows (Tech in Asia did a very comprehensive comparison here). The question then becomes: Why am I paying good money for a fraction of the shows that people in the US get to watch? That doesn’t really sit well with me.

However, Netflix is adding new content regularly – Breaking Bad is now available in Singapore when it wasn’t last month. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

Still Worth It

At the end of it all, I decided to keep my subscription when my trial ended. Why? Because in spite of the danger of binge-watching, in spite of the limited number of hours I have in a day to set aside for Netflix, in spite of the crippling lack of House of Cards and The Flash, Netflix is still the most bang-for-your-buck way to watch legit TV shows and movies. For S$13.98, I can watch 31 movies in a month if I watch one movie every calendar day. A Video EZY DVD rental is about 6 bucks.

Also, if anything, it really feels like Netflix is destined for greatness, as TV viewing habits change, as programming conventions change, and as technology makes streaming quality better and better. And being online, viewership numbers are that much more reliable – no longer do you need dubious sample sizes of viewers on set-top boxes, you can track viewers online the moment they click the play button.

All I need to do is be more disciplined when watching Netflix then. Godspeed.

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