Dale Dietrich
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Netflix Launches in Canada–With the Cupboards Bare

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This week, Netflix launched its long awaited and much coveted Netflix Canada service. Unfortunately, the content selection cupboard is mostly bare.

The limited offerings (and lack of DVD service) explains the $7.99 Cdn per month price. The minimum monthly fee that Americans pay for their Netflix service is $9.95 U.S.. For that they get a DVD-by-mail service and a substantially broader array of on-demand offerings.

Limited Launch Offerings:

Browsing through their movie and TV offerings, it appears that there are only about 100 older movies available – too many of which are third-rate movies. There are no new movie offerings.

There are only 18 TV series available at launch, with Heroes seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 constituting four of the 18.  Mad Men seasons 1, 2 and 3, but not any of the current Season 4, make up another three of the 18. Several of the available TV series I’ve never heard of (Hoarders, Paranormal State, The Boondocks, Drop Dead Diva?). Aside from Heroes and Mad Men, there are no other past or present broadcast or cable network prime-time hit TV series available at all.

Happily, the service is not chock-a-bloc full of the made-in-Canada TV content that riddle the Canadian versions of the Apple TV & Xbox 360 on-demand services. In fact, there isn’t a single made-in-Canada movie or TV show available through the service.


Hardware Access Options

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To access the service in Canada you will need any of a PS3, Wii, PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The service will be available through the Xbox 360 “soon”. Surprisingly Netflix is not offering the service through the popular Roku device in Canada. Nor will it be available through TiVo as it is in the U.S.

No DVD-by-Mail Service

Canada’s Zip.ca (a rather poor Canadian alterative to Netflix) will be breathing a huge sigh of relief this week. Netflix will not be offering the DVD-by-mail service that made them a hit in the U.S (see ZNF for more details). In my opinion, this is just as well. Getting content via shiny disks whether through retail or the mail is set to go the way of the buggy whip.

netflix canada 1 month free trialOne Month Free Trial

Until December 31, 2010, Netflix Canada is offering a 1 month free trial to new members. Click on the picture to the left to read the details or go to the Netflix Canada website for more info. There’s no real rush however.  This promo will likely be repeated in the future as it is frequently repeated and available to new U.S. customers.

Competitive Services

Both AppleTV Canada and the Xbox 360’s native movie/TV show on-demand services available in Canada offer substantially more content than does the initial Netflix Canada offering. Sony has still not launched a PS3-based on-demand video service in Canada. The native Rogers, Bell etc. made-in-Canada Internet-based on-demand services are poor by comparison, consist mostly of made-in-Canada content and/or are only accessible via PCs.

Canadian ISP Bandwidth Cap Issue

In the U.S. a typical ISP offers 200+ Gigabytes of bandwidth per month. In Canada the typical Bell/Rogers/Shaw/Videotron monthly bandwidth cap is set to 60 GB or less. If you purchase the typical Canadian higher-end (and more expensive) offerings you can get from 90 to 120’ish GB a month. Medium to high usage of Internet-based on demand video services such as Netflix will quickly eat away into your available monthly broadband caps. Canadians that exceed these paltry bandwidth caps face per GB overage fees. Watch your monthly Internet usage meter closely.

Possible Throttling Issue

Canadian ISPs may throttle video-on-demand services such as this. Most now throttle Bittorrent traffic through peak-usage hours – typically between 5pm to 2am – the very hours that Canadian consumers are most likely to use on-demand video services. If this happens, the quality of your picture may degrade substantially or the service may not be reliably available at all during these times.

In fairness, I have not, yet, faced this problem with Apple TV nor the Xbox 360 on-demand services. But video on-demand services like this compete with the cable and Internet-based video offerings of Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Videotron etc. Canadian ISPs therefore have commercial incentives to make the Canadian consumer experience with competitive services such as Netflix a poor experience. Unless and until Canada adopts net neutrality regulations, this will remain a significant possibility.

Hope for Improvement

At launch, there isn’t a single movie or TV show available through the Netflix Canada service that I haven’t seen that I’d want to see. For the time being, Apple TV still provides the most comprehensive, Internet-based, video on demand to the TV service available in Canada.

But, Netflix is an amazingly adaptive company with a terrific best-in-class service in the U.S. I’m delighted to see that they have entered the Canadian market and  look forward to their Canadian offering becoming comparable to their U.S. service over time.

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