Secrets of Netflix – How to Maximize your Netflix Rentals

Now, as of July 2004, over 2 million people out there subscribe to Netflix. Most probably at $21.99 per month as well (for 3 out at a time rentals). They have over 25,000 different titles, 16 million total DVDs, and they ship out 3 million DVDs per week. Netflix’s market capatilization is roughly $800M, thus each customer is worth about $400. Netflix has also changed the way of life for us DVD fanatics, not just with no late fees, but with the wide selection of titles available to peruse. But how does one get the most out of the service? Well read on…

The information in this article applies mainly to people that have a Netflix distribution center close enough so that they can get DVDs from Netflix in 1 day, and those that live close enough to a Netflix center so that Netflix receives the DVD back in 1 business day. This article is also geared towards more hardcore Netflix users, not casual Netflix fans that rent 6 titles a month. Though most people should find some use out of this article.

Getting New Releases First
Netflix ‘hides’ the upcoming new releases for the week. When you click on ‘New Releases’ on Netflix, it generally won’t show the titles that were just released or titles coming in the next week. The New Releases may show movies that were released anytime in the past two months. Usually, they won’t show you any titles that have any wait time when you click on any of their links, such as New Releases or Critic’s Picks. If you search using the search box, you can find titles that have a wait time, such as Ringu (the original Japanese version of The Ring). You will find the wait time, if any, only after you click on Add to your Queue. Just as a FYI, new DVD releases are released in stores on Tuesdays, the same day as new music CDs.

Your best bet to finding out what’s coming out in a particular week is checking out TheDigitalReview. There is a calendar in the top left corner of the page, and right underneath that, there is a DVD release list for the upcoming week. That or circulars in your Sunday paper (the Best Buy one is usually adequate) highlight some of the more popular DVD releases. Now that you know what’s coming and which title(s) you may want, type it into search bar in Netflix. Netflix carries ALL the major releases, and some of the more obscure ones as well. They definitely won’t ever have every single DVD that’s being released in a certain week, as they don’t do some of the soft ‘adult’ titles nor some of the sports titles.

What you want to do to be able to get the newest releases as soon as possible is to rank them #1 in priority in your rental Queue. Now, here’s the trick. You want to make sure you return a movie or two on Saturday so that Netflix receives it on Monday. In most cases, Netflix will ship out a new release for you on a Monday. But, if you wait until Monday to return the movie, Netflix won’t receive it until Tuesday. Popular new releases will get ‘sold out’ and Netflix may run out of that title to ship to you when Tuesday comes around. That is why you want to make sure Netflix receives your last rental on Monday.

Thus, even though the Netflix site will say Title X ‘Releases on Aug 31, 2004’, by the end of Tuesday, the title may go to Short Wait or Long Wait status. I had to wait over 2 months to get The Barbershop because it was in such demand. Netflix will not ship out certain new release DVDs on a Monday, but I’ve found in the vast majority of cases that they will ship you out a New Release movie title on Monday. Some DVD TV series, like Knight Rider or Sex in the City, may not get shipped out until Tuesdays. Sometimes you may not be sure when the New Release will get shipped out, but in most cases, Monday is the day they get sent out.

Getting an Extra Day of Rental
Netflix is closed on Saturdays. That means they don’t work at all on Saturdays, well at least they don’t process anything on their website on a Saturday. So anything you send in on a Friday, they will process on Monday morning. So… that means you can get an ‘extra day’ rental for free. How? Well, don’t return any DVDs on a Friday. 🙂 Return it on Saturday instead, and you get your extra free day, without any penalty. Yes, I know there are no late fees, but this article is about maximizing the Netflix experience, trying to get as many Netflix titles as possible, and assumes you have the time to watch any Netflix titles you get the same day.

Hard to get DVDs
Some of the titles that have long wait times are foreign DVDs. Netflix doesn’t carry 100s of a foreign title like they do for Pirates of the Caribbean. The hardest to get TV titles are the Disc 1’s of any season. I’ve heard of people waiting several weeks to get the first disc of The Sopranos or Nip/Tuck. 24, Alias, and Smallville were also hard to get at one point. When I rent a TV series on DVD, I hate to watch it out of order, as does the majority of people. Thus, the first discs are high in demand. Certain shows, like CSI, may not have as much necessity to watch the series in order, whereas it’s critical to watch 24 from first disc to last disc. If you want to preview a show that doesn’t require you to sit through them in order, check out Disc 2 or 3 of a set, as they will more likely be Available Now.

New Users Availability
Also, trial users (or new Netflix subscribers) will find that pretty much ALL movies (except perhaps rare out of print) titles will be Available Now. This is to try and keep the new subscriber as a customer. A very smart tactic from a business standpoint. Customer acquisition and retention is key to growth. So if you are new, you won’t have any problems getting any DVD you want. Your ability to get any title at any time will get lessen as time goes on, apparently. See the Netflix Allocation Study.

Netflix Distribution Centers
At last count, Netflix has 28 distribution centers. They are located in: Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, AL; Boston, MA; Chattanooga, TN; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Fort Lauderdale, FL; Greensboro, NC; Houston, TX; Lakeland, FL; Los Angeles, CA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Phoenix, AZ; Portland, OR; Richmond, VA; Rochester, NY; St. Louis, MO; San Jose, CA; Seattle, WA; Stamford, CT; Tampa, FL; Washington, DC. I notice a lot of the high tech cities, like San Jose, Seattle, Greensboro have a Netflix distribution center. Gotta satisfy us geeks! If you live within one mailing day of any of these cities, you will get your next Netflix title in one business day. I have no idea how close you have to be to these cities to be able to receive DVDs in one day.

Maximum Number of Rentals
With the three out at a time level, the maximum number of DVDs you can likely get in a month’s time is roughly 24 DVDs. This is assuming you watch your DVDs and return them the following day. Thus, the cycle would be like this:

Monday – Netflix Ships out 3 DVDs
Tuesday – you receive 3 DVDs, watch them all
Wednesday – you mail back the 3 DVDs
Thursday – Netflix receives the 3 DVDs, and ships you out 3 more DVDs
Friday – you receive 3 DVDs, watch them all
Saturday – you mail back the 3 DVDs
Monday – the cycle repeats all over again…

Thus, you could get 6 DVDs a week and 24 a month. Holidays and other postal office closures do muck up the cycle. Though technically, you could receive the DVDs in the morning, watch them throughout the day, and mail them back the same day at your post office… 😛

While this is the maximum number of DVDs you could get, there are times when Netflix will take more than one day to get you your next title. I have found that the more obscure movies (foreign ones especially) may not ship from your nearest distribution center. If it ships from a different distribution center, it may take 2 to 3 days for you to get that title, and that lowers the maximum number of DVDs as well. But $21.99 + tax in most areas for roughly 20-24 rentals is a good deal. It makes your per DVD rental price only $1. Even if you rent only 10 movies a month, it’s still only roughly $2 per DVD. And no late fees to boot! From Netflix’s own stats, with 2 million subscribers and them shipping out 3 million per week, it looks as though the average (or would that be median?) consumer rents only 6 movies a month. I have heard of people with the 8-out at a time plan getting 56 or 60 movies in a month. I have no idea how they have so much time to watch all these movies. 😛

Comparisons with Other Online Rental Sites
With Wal-Mart DVD Rentals only being $18.76 a month for 3 out at a time, and Blockbuster’s new service being $19.99 a month for 3 out plus a few free in-store rentals, the $21.99 for Netflix seems rather pricy. That is, until you try the other services and notice they absolutely SUCK. Last time I tried Wal-Mart, their selection was shoddy, and it took forever for them to ship me out a new movie. When they did, it was at least 2 days for me to get it.

Blockbuster was even more ridiculous. Their receiving center is in the same city as me, and I know they got it the next day after I shipped it. But, they didn’t list it as received on their site until 2 DAYS later. And then, after that, they still didn’t send out a new title for another day. Ugh, what’s the point? There’s my mini Blockbuster Rentals review. If you are trying to enter a new market, especially one that has a dominant player, you need to make sure your service is up to par, if not better, than the dominant company’s. Price alone really ain’t gonna cut it. Well, it may, for someone uninitiated to Netflix, but it’ll be hard to convert anyone that has tried Netflix. Still, I miss the old $19.99 price point, there’s just something psychologically beneficial of knowing it’s under $20 (one bill) rather than $21.99 (three bills!). Though there is tax for Netflix in most states as well.

Cancelling Your Account / Customer Service Phone Number
If you try to CANCEL your Netflix account online (from the Your Account link), Netflix in most cases will try to keep you as a customer by offering a lower rate for a few months. I have yet to try this myself, but I have read reports of this working and the member saving a few bucks. Netflix’s customer support phone number is 1-888-638-3549, which is not listed on their website anywhere.

My Gripes & Wish List
I have, at times, noticed that Netflix doesn’t always ship out a movie the same day they receive one of your returns. This is completely unacceptable. That’s fine if a movie is not shipped from the nearest distribution center, but there is no excuse for not shipping out another movie the same day. I have no idea why this happens, and the few times I tried emailing customer service, they basically said, “It happens” and offered no reason. I’ve had this happen perhaps once every 2-3 weeks, but still it irks me. Perhaps it is to make you wait more so they can maximize a bit more profit, but hey, they don’t work Saturdays!

Being a long-term subscriber of Netflix (over two years), I am amazed that not more DVDs are cracked or non-working when they get to me. I’d say roughly 2% of DVDs (1 out of every 50) have come to me with any problem. Usually it’s some large-sized scratch which makes parts or all of a movie unplayable. I’d like to see Netflix offer some kind of temporary extra DVD to your account when that happens. So if you rent 3 movies, and movie #3 has a problem, Netflix will send out another copy of movie #3 along with another DVD (#4) in your queue to make up for it after you tell them of the problem with movie #3. I’ve also been naughty and tried to swap a series disc with another one’s jacket. I purposely mixed two of The Simpsons DVDs on purpose (putting disc 1 in disc 2’s jacket and vice versa). It took an extra day for them to report ‘receiving’ one of the DVDs, and the other one was lost altogether and I had to report it as so. Thus, don’t mess with the DVD processing people, they don’t like it when you try to mess with them. 🙂

I noticed that Netflix now shows some movie trailers for certain movies (like The Butterfly Effect). It’d be nice if Netflix also linked to a movie’s original Web site provided the movie had one. That and an Internet Movie Database link would be nice, though I highly doubt Netflix would ever link to that, since IMDB is an property. The recommendations feature is very nice and I have found a few good movies that way. It’s amazing to me that the average Netflix subscriber has rated about 150 movies. They do make it very easy to rate a movie, which I like. I’ve only rated about 100.

I’d like to see wait time listed in expanded details of a movie. It’s ridiculous that you have to add a movie to your queue before finding out if there is a wait time or not. See Ringu (if you subscribe to Netflix). There’s no reason that the wait time isn’t listed right then and there. If someone on IRC or IM tells you of a hot movie you just have to see, you want to know immediately if you can get it in 2-3 days. Movies that have no wait time would thus have a Available Now written on the details page. It shouldn’t be hard at all to implement this into their site.

Netflix also really needs to add a Search bar in their Queue page. I believe the function used to be there, but they changed it out during their last redesign. I find it extremely annoying to have to go back to Browse just to search for a movie. Heck, ALL websites should have a search button on every

Overall, Netflix is a great service. There is a free 10 day or 2 week trial for any new members. I’ve always recommended them to friends and family and they do deliver what they promise. The selection is awesome and beats any local video store. There can be some improvements, but the service, in general, is superb in bringing you entertainment. My favorite part is the wide selection they offer, though I would like them to see add more PrideFC and UFC fighting DVDs, but they have been improving on that the last few months. 🙂


Netflix Allocation Study

Netflix Company Stats

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No Responses to “Secrets of Netflix – How to Maximize your Netflix Rentals”

  1. fuddes Says:

  2. Paul Says:

    You might want to add Gaithersburg, MD (about 15 miles north of Washington DC) to your distribution center list. That’s where mine go and I receive movies one day after sending them in to that location.

  3. dan Says:

    I think Netflix generalizes the “area” the distribution center serves, as there is none in Seattle, WA, either, but there is one in Tacoma (45 mins away by car).

  4. Manda Says:

    Another distribution center you missed is Louisville, KY. It’s been operating since April.

  5. Hacking NetFlix Says: Shares “Netflix Secrets”
    Dan at posted an interesting story entitled “Secrets of Netflix – How to maximize your Netflix Rentals.” Overall, the story is an excellent series of tips for optimizing your Netflix experience, with lots of great tidbits of information about

  6. dan Says:

    Thanks for the link, Hacking Netflix! BTW, Hacking Netflix has a updated release list for every week, plus they link directly to the Netflix page for that movie! Check it out!

  7. Marvdog Says:

    I’d suggest that long time Netflix members do not try and cancel their accounts for the lower rate. I did and did not recieve it!! and lost my account for the rest of the month! The best way to get the lower rate is to sign up for a NEW account and then cancel after the free trial is OVER, most likely you will recieve the $18.99 a month deal for six months for staying w/Netflix.

  8. Marvdog Says:

    another great deal is this… When you start your first PAID month on a NEW account, change your # of rentals to 8 out @ a time, Netflix offers the upgrade FREE for that month!!! so you enjoy 8 out a time for the price of 3 out 🙂

  9. Marvdog Says:

    one more tip!! Always know what time the mail is picked up @ the mailbox you put your dvds in! If you put your dvds in the mailbox past the time when the mail is picked up they wont get picked up until the next day!!! thus netflix wont recieve it until 2 days after you sent it out!

  10. Frank Grimes Says:

    New Kid on the Block: Gameznflix is going to do a big promotional blitz and they are spending a ton of money on a Super Bowl commercial. They do DVDs and games. From what I have seen they only have 2 distribution centers though. Can take a while to get your movies and even longer for games since they don’t have too many copies of each title.

  11. Bill Overman Says:

    When signing up as a new user, sign up first thing in the morning on a weekday that is not a holiday. That way your first three rentals should ship the same day and you get as much as possible from the free trial period.

    No knowing any better, I signed up on a Friday evening when the following Monday was a holiday. Four days of my two week trial gone before the first movies shipped on Tuesday.

  12. Richard Says:

    Not sure if anyone here can help me but noone from Netflix replied to my email about this…

    Recently they changed the way previews displays in netflix…and every time I try to watch one…my browser crashes!! I’ve tried IE, Netscape and Firefox..they all crashes. I have Java enabled…


  13. dan Says:

    Have you tried watching previews on another computer? A work computer or a friend’s? Just to see if it’s only your computer with the problem or if it’s sitewide. You could also call Netflix, I believe the number is 1-888-638-3549. Good luck!

  14. Pam Ray Says:

    I have a Netflix account. I live in SE Georgia near Jacksonville, FL. The distribution center used to be DeLand FL, then it moved further away to Lakeland, FL. Have other distribution centers moved? Lately Netflix will say a movie should arrive and it almost always arrives 1 day late. It is getting real annoying. But I guess the other companies are worse? Great guess I’ll have to deal with the slow down that has happened for me with Netflix.

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