Overview Of The Netflix Streaming Service

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Image of the Official Netflix Logo. Image provided by Netflix

It seems like Internet Streaming is taking over the World, at least in terms of TV viewing, as more and more people are "cutting the cord" and letting their DVD and Blu-ray Discs collect dust, and who actually records TV shows anymore onto VHS or DVD?

When we think of streaming TV shows and movies, the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is Netflix, and for good reason, it is now the dominant source for streaming TV shows and movies.

What is Netflix?

For those that don't remember, or never took notice, Netflix started in 1997 as a company that pioneered the concept of "renting DVDs by mail" with the innovative concept of charging a flat monthly fee, instead of charging by each DVD "ordered" and, as a result, the corner video rental store phenomenon started to die, and by 2005, Netflix had a loyal 4.2 million DVD-by-mail rental subscriber base.

However, that was just the beginning, as in 2007 Netflix made a bold announcement (at the time) that it was, in addition to its DVDs-by-mail rental program, going to add the ability for subscribers to stream TV shows and movies directly to their PCs.

Then, in 2008, a very interesting thing happened, Netflix partnered up with LG to introduce the first Blu-ray Disc player that also was able to connect to the internet for streaming Netflix provided content. Blu-ray Disc playback and internet streaming in the same box (the network Blu-ray Disc Player was born)- now that was not only convenient, but provided a way to suck in DVD and Blu-ray Disc fans into the streaming alternative.

Needless to say, it didn't take long for Netflix streaming to become available on the Xbox, Apple devices, and a growing number of TVs. In fact, today, you can even watch Netflix on many smartphones! As of 2015, Netflix has over 60-million subscribers.

How Netflix Works

As mentioned above, Netflix content can be accessed through many internet-connectable devices, including Smart TVs, Blu-ray Disc Players, Media Streamers, Game Consoles, Smartphones, and Tablets.

However, Netflix is not a free service (Although a free 30-day trial is available).

Netflix is a subscription-based service that requires a monthly fee. As of 2015 its fee structure is as follows:

Individual Plans (allows up to HD-quality viewing on two devices at the same time)

$7.99 per month for existing subscribers (until 2016 - goes up to $9.99)

$9.99 per month for new subscribers.

$7.99 per month for new subscribers that only want SD resolution access only.

Family Plan

$11.99 per month (Allows viewing on up to 4 devices at the same time)

Once you have access to the Netflix service, an onscreen menu displays on your TV screen that allows you to navigate through hundreds of TV shows and movies via clicking on icons (look like DVD covers), or via a search tool. It is important to note that the appearance of the Netflix onscreen menu varies slightly depending on the device used to access it.

What You Can Watch Through Netflix

Netflix offers hundreds of TV programs and movie titles - definitely too many to list in this article - and additions (and subtractions) are made on a monthly basis. However, to give you an idea of what to expect, here are some examples (as of 2015):

ABC TV Shows

Lost, Marvel's Agents of Shield, Once Upon A Time

CBS TV Shows

How I Met Your Mother, Hawaii Five-0 (Classic Series), Hawaii Five-0 (Current Series), Mash, Star Trek - The Original Series (Originally Aired on NBC, but now owned by CBS),

FOX TV Shows

Bob's Burgers, Bones, Fringe,New Girl, X-Files

NBC TV Shows

30 Rock,Cheers, Heroes, Parks and Recreation, Quantum Leap, The Blacklist

WB TV Shows

Arrow, Supernatural

AMC TV Shows

Breaking Bad, Comic Book Men, Mad Men, Walking Dead

Other TV Shows

Sherlock, Sons of Anarchy, Star Trek - The Next Generation, Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Netflix Original Shows

House of Cards, Daredevil, Lilyhammer, Orange Is The New Black, Marco Polo

Movies (Some Currently Available Titles as of 2015)

Hugo, Marvel's The Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hunger Games - Catching Fire, The Wolf of Wall Street, Twilight

However, as much as Netflix offers, there are some limitations. First, as noted above, not only are programs and movies added each month, but after a time (or a decrease in popularity), content is also "deleted" from the service as well. Unfortunately, Netflix does not post that information on their service menu, but it is available through third-party sources. Also, Netflix does post a listing of upcoming additions for their original content, which can be accessed via the PR portion of their website

Also, another important thing to point out is that although Netflix offers a lot of TV shows, if they are currently running, and are a multi-season show, you only have access to past seasons, not the currently running season.

For example, if you missed the latest episode of your favorite TV show, you need to go to that shows specific website to see if that episode is available for streaming directly. In many cases, the network that the show is on requires verification that you are a cable or satellite TV subscriber. For Netflix to provide access to that episode, you will have to wait until the entire current season has concluded.

Netflix Hidden Genre Categories

Another interesting thing about Netflix is their extensive hidden genre category list system. As you use Netflix, the TV/Movie selection menus that are displayed begin to conform more and more to what it thinks your genre preferences are. However, that content offering system has tendency to box you in with limited choices, and as a resuilt, you end up using the Search tool to find what you want.

However, you can access dozens of additional categories directly using your PC (or your Smart TV if it has a built-in Web Browser) by typing in special url codes into the browser address bar that can take you to additional niche categories, ranging from categories such as "Movies for ages 8 to 10" to "New Zealand Movies" and lots more. For all the details, including the entire code list, check out the report from Mom Deals

Netflix Is A Streaming Service, Not A Download Service

It is important to note that Netflix is a streaming service - In other words, when you press the icon associated with the program or movie you want to watch, it starts playing - However, you can pause it, rewind, fast forward, and even finish watching it later. Netflix keeps track of what you are viewing, what you have viewed, and even provides you with a list of suggestions based on your past viewing experience.

In most cases you cannot download Netflix content or record it. However, there are software programs available that do allow your to record Netflix (and other streaming content) onto a PC, and a service called PlayLater is a paid subscription service (paid annually) that allows you to record select streaming media content for later viewing.

3D and 4K

In addition to streaming traditional TV and movie content, Netflix also offers a limited 3D content selection, as well as an increasing number of programs being made available in 4K (mostly Netflix in-house produced programming). The 3D and 4K listings are only visible is the Netflix detects that you are viewing on a 3D or 4K compatible video display. For more details on what you need to stream Netflix in 4K, read my companion article: How To Stream Netflix in 4K

Also, for those that don't have 3D or 4K access, many Netflix TV shows and movies are offered in 720p and 1080p resolution, as well as Dolby Digital Surround Sound. However, Netflix automatically scans your internet connection and if your broadband speed can handle the 1080p signal, the resolution will automatically be downscaled. For more details, read All About Internet Speed Requirements for Video Streaming and How To Avoid Buffering Problems When Streaming.

Netflix Recommended TVs

Netflix is available through many devices, including media streamers, blu-ray disc players, and TVs. However, all devices have access to the Netflix streaming library (keep in mind that not all devices have access to 3D or 4K content), not all devices incorporate the most currently available onscreen interface, and other operational or navigation features.

As a result, starting in 2015, Netflix has provided a listing of "Recommended TVs" that must meet at least five of the following criteria to earn the Netflix Recommended TV label:

Latest Netflix Version: Your TV automatically (or by prompt) updates to the most recent version of the Netflix interface.

TV Instant On: When you turn on the TV, the Netflix App is ready to use.

TV Resume: Your TV remembers where you were when you last had it on - whether that be watching Netflix or a another TV channel or service and takes you right back when you turn the TV on again.

Fast App Launch: When you click on the Netflix App, it takes you to Netflix quickly.

Fast App Resume: If you are watching Netflix, but need to leave and use another TV function or watch a non-Netflix program or service, when you return, Netflix will remember where you left off.

Netflix Button: The TV has a dedicated Netflix direct-access button on the remote control.

Easy Netflix Icon Access: If you are using the TV's onscreen menu to access Netflix, the Netflix icon must be prominently displayed as one of the content access choices.

Check out the periodically updated Official Netflix Recommended TV's List for both 2015 and 2016 brands/models.

For a periodically updated list of all devices that provide Netflix access (but may not necessarily include all of the above criteria that TVs are evaluated under, check out the Official Netflix Device List


So, there you have it, an overview of Netflix. Of course, Netflix, although the biggest, is not the only TV and/or Movie streaming service, others include Vudu, Crackle, HuluPlus, Amazon Instant video and more... For an overview of these services and more... check out the following articles on the About.com Web Trends and Freebies Websites:

Ten Powerful Hacks To Improve Your Netflix Experience

The Top Ten Most Popular On-Demand TV and Movie Streaming Services

Watch Free TV Shows Online.

Watch Free Movies Online

For a complete rundown of available TV and Movie programs available on Netflix, as well as content offered on other streaming services that is periodically updated, check out About.com's TV Streaming Site.

Also, if you are a Spanish speaker, check out how to use Netflix in Espanol

ADDITIONAL NOTE: The Netflix DVD/Blu-ray Disc rental service is still available and actually features a much broader selection of TV and Movie titles than is offered on their streaming service. For more details, go to the Netflix DVD Rental Page.

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