I just got my Netflix subscription turned back on. My wife and I had been going through a bit of a rough patch, so for a few months, we jettisoned anything and everything unnecessary to us, including all the paid streaming services. We got by just fine with YouTube and things like Pluto TV (which has an entire channel dedicated to RuPaul’s Drag Race) in addition to all the games and physical media we had compiled up over the years but never actually broken into. It was actually kind of a nice change of pace, forcing us to try things that we usually wouldn’t or had otherwise put off for nearly forever.
However, things have started to get better for us, so we started signing back up for things. Netflix was one of the first ones we hooked back up. We were both super excited about the new season of BoJack Horseman, and I was excited to start streaming The Walking Dead again. And then I got even more excited because I saw Lord of the Rings in my recommended feed. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite film franchises of all time. I am even occasionally an apologist for the Hobbit movies I like the whole thing so damn much. But then I got a bit upset. Because the trilogy wasn’t being recommended to me, it was only the last two films.
For some reason, Netflix seems to have attained rights to stream only The Two Towers and The Return of the King. And after scouring the service for the first film, I started to get a bit miffed. It just wasn’t there. I then proceeded to find any information on Google about if maybe I had just missed The Fellowship of the Ring or perhaps if it was to be forthcoming only to stumble across this article about how it was cool that only two-thirds of the trilogy was on Netflix and how you should watch it right now. That was when I knew I had to write my own salty counter article.
I’m going to try not to say anything too hyperbolic here. Netflix only getting the rights to part of the trilogy isn’t anti-consumer. But it sure is inconvenient. And that’s my biggest gripe with stuff like this. It defeats the entire point of streaming platforms; they are convenient.
Or at least they should be. That is the reason that people like my father-in-law have started streaming. Because while he loves just browsing through all the channels on cable until he finds a marathon to his taste, he also has found that the ability to search up any movie or show he likes whenever the mood strikes him is a beautiful thing.
As for me, though, part of the reason I was ok with cutting the things I cut cable for is that they have started to change their priorities. Instead of offering every program to everyone everywhere, which is more or less what Netflix was known for in its pre-streaming days, they have started to prioritize their original content. And that’s great, make no mistake, some of their top programs are some of my favorite of the last decade. However, in making this change, they have not just prioritized original programing but deemphasized their focus on third party content.
It is by no means scientific or exhaustive, but I would say that two out of three times when I go to search for a random movie or TV show on Netflix, they simply do not have it. And when that starts to happen more often than not, I began to ask, why am I paying for this service?
I own the Lord of the Rings trilogy both digitally and physically, so all Netflix can possibly offer me, in this case, is convenience. And I realize that this might make me seem like a very particular use case; however, even if you have no way to view these films other than to stream them, I am willing to bet that you too want Lord of the Rings as a trilogy. Seeing just the last two films is almost like a taunt; hey, subscriber, look at this, we got two-thirds of that thing you like! Most people do not come to a series of films with a continuous narrative just to watch random parts of it. Most of the time, people like to start at the beginning.
And I am sure there are plenty of people out there who might want to defend Netflix and say this isn’t necessarily their fault. Licensing deals are big and long and complicated and very, very expensive. And I would agree. However, if you couldn’t get all three films, then why bother getting any? Or why not pay a little bit extra to get the first part and keep people watching for three films and not just two? Maybe it was the fault of the film studio, perhaps The Fellowship of the Ring was tied up in some prior contract with a previous service or something weird like that.
All of these are quite possible. But my specific issue with this particular trilogy is just the final annoying example of the problem I have with Netflix at large. It seems like, besides their originals, I am always disappointed. And if that is the case, why am I paying for Netflix? I feel like I am ready to start implementing the same strategy as some of my friends; sign up for these services whenever they have something I am excited to watch, use it for the duration of that month and then move on to another service with something I am specifically interested in next month.
It’s fewer bills to keep track of, less money spent in general, and more freedom to try different products and services as replacements rather than being stuck with the same spotty streaming service month after month. And with the constant introduction of new competitors from the company-specific ones like Disney Plus to the genre-specific ones like Shudder or CuriosityStream why not shop around a little? If you can relate to the complaints that I have laid out here, consider trying it; cut the things you cut the cable for.