Netflix removes “Add to DVD Queue” for streaming devices

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Movie and video service Netflix has done an outstanding job converting over from a DVD-by-mail service to an online streaming content service that’s available on a broad range of devices, from Blu-ray players and game consoles to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. A subscribers’ DVD queue has remained the center of many users’ experience of Netflix…but now the company is taking steps to divorce streaming users from DVD queues, announcing it is removing “Add to DVD Queue” functionality from devices that tap into Netflix streaming.

“We’re doing this so we can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly,” said Netflix’s director of product management Jamie Odell. “Further, providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality.”

Users will still be able to manage DVD rental queues using a Web browser.

The change has triggered an onslaught of customer complaints from users, many of whom note that the amount of content available for instant streaming is a tiny fraction of the overall content available for rent via Netflix (and that, itself, does not represent the full range of content available on DVD or other media.) The result is that when users search for specific content, the odds are good that the content will not be available for streaming; in those situations, the only service Netflix could reasonably provide is offering to add the content to a subscribers’ DVD rental queue. Now, the company will no longer do so: users will have to switch to a Web browser (potentially on another device), log into the Netflix Web site, search for the desired title a second time, and add it to their DVD queue.

Netflix is keen to position the change as something that benefits consumers by simplifying the online streaming experience.

Netflix has not specified what “resources” it believes it is freeing up. Although removing the functionality will free up bits of admittedly-precious screen real-estate, other possibilities include dissuading users from engaging more deeply with Netflix’s DVD-by-mail business, which is a resource-and-time intensive physical business operation that some industry watchers estimate may consume as much as 30 percent of Netflix’s revenue—and one that as often drawn the ire of the U.S. postal service. Netflix recently raised the prices for its DVD-plus-streaming subscription plans.

Speaking of content not available on Netflix’s streaming service, content from subscription-only cable network HBO has historically not been available for streaming to Netflix subscribers…and it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon. HBO has long been known for working to maintain the exclusivity of its brand, and the Hollywood Reporter last week noted that HBO has no intention of making its content available for Netflix streaming, believing Netflix’s pricing model undermines the value of its content.

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