In the lead up to Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service ending this week I’ve read several articles noting it’s pending death and marveling at the 1.5 million that still subscribe to the service. Can you imagine *waiting* for a movie to arrive?! Why would anyone do that with today’s myriad of choices offering on-demand access to nearly any title you can imagine?
Some have pointed to the fact that Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service offers a wider selection of titles than their streaming side does. This is certainly a draw as they aren’t hindered by the licensing agreements (or lack thereof) that have carved up the streaming landscape into a hodgepodge of walled content gardens. Titles are usually visible on the DVD site as soon as you hear of them on a late-night show or read that they won an award at a film festival.
Others have speculated that the remaining subscribers must be fearful of change or unable to successfully stream video for some reason. While this less and less the case, these users surely still exist with high-speed internet still not universally available.
For me, there is actually one killer feature that is so overlooked that we have to excuse the writers for missing it, as even today’s streaming services have failed to recognize it’s greatness – the queue. A queue is more than just a list. It’s an *ordered* list that can be curated both for content and sequence. The queue is what enabled Netflix to slay the video store as it eliminated the need to wander aisles looking for what to watch that night. You setup your queue and the movies you wanted to see were sent to you as soon as they were available.
Today’s streaming services typically feature a list you can add titles to, but few-if-any offer the ability to prioritize your queue. What’s worse is that many of the most popular services are actually making your list harder to find, instead pushing the latest releases or suggestions their algorithm has come up with.
In the rush for each content provider to build out their own streaming platforms, they have all failed to center the user’s experience in their design process. With competition starts to thin the streaming provider heard, I suspect the first one to refocus their efforts on the user will again rise to the top. Time will tell.