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Another unsolicited plug for Netflix

Y’all know I’m a fan of Netflix. I think they’re generally a good company who listens to their customers and generally tries to do good by them. Now if only I’d been the one who got the three billionth DVD.

So here’s the email I got yesterday:

Dear Brendan,

I Was a Zombie for the F.B.I. was not available from your local shipping center. Fortunately, it was available from a shipping center in another part of the country. It’s on its way and should arrive within 3 to 5 days.

You’ll notice we also recently sent the next available DVD from your Queue to enjoy while I Was a Zombie for the F.B.I. makes its way to you.

In other words, even though the T&C of the service says they might send you something from a different shipping center, they ponied up and sent me a second movie just so I wouldn’t have a gap in service.

Thanks, Netflix!

{ 7 } Comments

  1. Roger Whitson | 10 June 2009 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Hey Brendan,

    While I have (in the past) been happy with Netflix’s services, I am currently somewhat perturbed with them. I’ve recently had a hearing loss and need captions in order to understand most films. DVDs have captions on them, and are pretty easy to use. However, Netflix’s “instant viewing” feature does not have captions.

    When asked about this, the CEO of Netflix gave faulty information and acted like the technology was incredibly difficult to incorporate into online players. Here is an excerpt from a blog post reporting Netflix’s 2009 shareholder meeting. You can find that post here: http://willworkforjustice.blogspot.com/2009/05/netflixs-annual-shareholder-meeting.html

    “I then mentioned Netflix’s failure to add captions/subtitles to its online streaming videos. Netflix’s “instant play” option doesn’t include captions, making its online video option unusable for many users. As a result of not offering captions, Netflix is alienating its hearing-impaired, deaf, and senior citizen customers. According to some estimates, there are 34 million hearing-impaired persons in the United States. One would think Netflix would think better than to alienate such a large customer base.

    I asked what Netflix was doing to make its website and online video accessible to everyone. Mr. Hastings said other sites didn’t offer captions, and mentioned hulu.com as one of them. He said as time progresses, captioning technology will become more widespread, and Netflix would then incorporate it into its own technology. He also said that customers can continue to receive DVDs through the mail, and most DVDs contained captions.

    Unfortunately for Mr. Hastings, I use hulu.com to watch Simpsons episodes. Except for a few episodes, every Simpsons episode I’ve watched had captions. Obviously, the technology exists to make online video accessible to everyone, so I wasn’t quite ready to let this topic pass. I gave Mr. Hastings another chance to explain how he would make his business accessible to everyone. I mentioned that hulu.com did indeed offer captions, and I said (paraphrased), “It sounds like you’re not planning to do anything to add captions to your site. Am I correct in understanding that you don’t plan on making your online videos accessible to the disabled?” Mr. Hastings said he would check out hulu.com, but essentially agreed that adding captions wasn’t an active agenda item. Now, I don’t want to go Kanye West on anyone, but it didn’t feel like Mr. Hastings or Netflix cares about deaf people.”

  2. Digital Sextant | 10 June 2009 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Yikes. An excellent point and something I’m irritated to learn about. I find it especially disingenuous to imply that captioning is a technical problem. Wouldn’t a good workaround be to offer two versions of the movie, one captioned and one not captioned? They could just create two sets of files to stream: one from the main version of the DVD, one from the captioned version. Admittedly, we’re talking about a lot of files, but as you say, we’re also talking about a huge part of their audience.

  3. Roger Whitson | 10 June 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Well, captions can usually be toggled on or off — so those who don’t want to watch them don’t have to.

    You probably have captioning available on your television (as I do). Most television shows are closed-captioning, which means that you have to enable the captions on your television to see them.

    I’m sure Netflix could do something like that, easily.

  4. Digital Sextant | 10 June 2009 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure about easily. There would have to be another data stream / track that could be toggled as opposed to a direct file that can be played. That said, they should be working to implement it, easy or not.

  5. Digital Sextant | 17 June 2009 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    The Netflix blog has a post suggesting that they’re working on the issue and it will probably be resolved in a year or so. Not ideal, but goes to my comment that the company responds to its customers.

    http://blog.netflix.com/2009/06/closed-captions-and-subtitles.html

  6. Documentary Site | 17 June 2009 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Netflix just sent me a similar note about Honeyboy, which I hoped they would have and they do, just not in the nearest center. :)

    Captioning is a political and an access issue. Most of the major motion picture DVDs come with captions, yet not all PBS DVDs do. Many independent documentaries don’t. I want to say that all of YouTube doesn’t, either. BBC broadcasts of its parliamentary procedures didn’t at one time (this may have changed), yet C-Span’s broadcasts of it do. Some captions even are filled with grammar and usage errors.

    The lack of standards and the lack of consistent usage makes this quite an issue.

  7. Digital Sextant | 17 June 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that many PBS docs don’t come with DVD captions, but if you turn on closed captioning, they have the CC captions.

    I think with news programs and the like, people using stenography machines are doing the captioning and they don’t have time to fix the errors. I’m completely guessing here, though.

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