So after the infamous Netflix price hike back in July, you canceled your DVD subscription and switched over to streaming only. Your well-constructed DVD queue has disappeared (grr...) and you have been left with nothing, since you are accustomed to only using Netflix Instant to re-watchyour favorite TV shows and maybe a movie here and there when you can't get to sleep.
Now, however, streaming is your only Netflix option. How do you build it up and use it to get the most out of the online-only service? We've got some tips.
1. BUILD UP YOUR QUEUE
Your new Netflix home page is just a whole lot of rows filled with movie posters, and when you click on these movie posters, you go straight in to watching the movie. This is fine if you actually want to watch the movie at that instant, but what if you want to save it for later?
There are a few ways to add movies to your queue, which now works more like a reminder of movies you want to watch and less like a delivery system. First, if you hold your mouse cursor over a movie poster, a little window will pop up. You can either click on the "+ Instant Queue" button to immediately save the movie for later, or you can click on the movie title to be taken to the film's main information page (familiar from your DVD days) where you can learn more about the movie and perhaps add it to your queue.
2. GET YOUR OLD HOMEPAGE BACK
A lot of people preferred the previous home page to the new "Gallery View"; it was easier to add movies to your queue and when you clicked on a movie poster, you went to the film's information page rather than the media player for instant playback. If you really want the old layout, bookmark this page:
It should show you the original layout, for easier Instant Queue-adding.
3. RATE LOTS OF MOVIES
One of the main complaints about Netflix Instant is its supposed "lack of selection."
"There aren't enough good movies streaming on Netflix" is the constant refrain and complaint about the service. I've found that rating lots and lots of movies really helps Netflix determine the quality of movies it recommends (and yes, it does have a lot of quality movies, if you expand your horizons a bit).
Click on the "Suggestions For You" page on the main banner and then "Rate Shows & Movies" on the toolbar beneath and go to work. It is also helpful to type in your favorite titles into the search bar, go to their pages (even if they are DVD only), and affix a 5-star rating to them so that Netflix knows what you like. The company has put a lot of effort and money into its recommendation algorithm, and in order for Netflix to work to its full potential, it needs as much of your input as possible.
Netflix learns a little bit from the movies you select to watch, but it learns even more when you rate movies and explicitly tell it what you like.
4. OPEN UP: WHAT KIND OF MOVIES DO YOU LIKE?
Yeah, it's a tacky icebreaker question, but Netflix can also give better recommendations if it knows what kinds of movies you like, too. Under "Suggestions For You," click on "Taste Preferences" to be taken through a survey of genres and movie qualities that Netflix offers. Fill out all 14 pages, if you'd like, for more specific movie suggestions from the 'Flix.
5. CHECK FOR NEW RELEASES
The "New Arrivals" page--the second option under the "Watch Instantly" tab--has both the poster view and (mercifully) the list view of the newest streaming titles, but it is sorely lacking in searchability and user-friendliness.
A few ways to rectify this: Netflix's new releases happen every Monday, but if you need a reminder, and you're using Google Reader or another RSS reader, you can get for the Netflix 'New Releases' feed here.
Also helping with finding new releases...
6. GET SOME NETFLIX HELP
Netflix, like seemingly everything else these days, has lots of third party apps and websites (apps and websites not made by or affiliated with Netflix) working in conjunction with it. A full list of the Netflix-approved utilities is here, sortable by user rating, name and release date. These sites and apps cover several categories: Mobile queue management, home theater setup, critic's reviews, etc.
Probably the two most useful one of these (in my very humble opinion) are Instant Watcher, which is a supercharged Netflix search site that allows you to rummage through the Netflix Instant catalog in a variety of awesome ways (including by seeing what is expiring soon, which is VITAL) and Flicks Watcher, a very simple and very free app for iOS and Android that updates the moment that movies become available for watching on Instant.
The popular Twitter account @queuenoodle also updates regularly with new releases on Instant. And for some great, user-sourced recommendations, check out this list of the IMDB Top 250 Films that are available for streaming on Netflix.
7. NOT INTERESTED? CLICK 'NOT INTERESTED'
Another common complaint about Netflix is that people just see the same 20 or so movies suggested over and over again. Well, if you don't want Netflix to keep on suggesting the same movie, tell them so! On the information page for each title, right underneath the 5 stars for rating, is a little radio button that says "Not Interested." If you are not interested in a movie, click "Not Interested" and it should disappear from your Netflix suggestions.
Not only will you not see that movie you didn't want to watch anymore, but Netflix has also just learned something more about your preferences.
8. CHOOSE YOUR VIDEO QUALITY
If your Internet Service Provider has put a data cap on you, you probably want to check out Netflix's "Manage Video Quality" page, which offers three options for the data-conscious.
9. GO BIG SCREEN
If you have any of the devices that can stream your Netflix onto a television, it is fairly easy to hook Netflix up for more-satisfying big screen viewing. Netflix Instant can be played over several gaming consoles, Internet-ready TVs, boxes and DVRs, and, yes, your mobile phones and tablets, with free apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7.
There is no additional charge to stream Netflix onto new devices; just follow Netflix's setup instructions and you are good to go.
10. THESE KEYS ARE HOT
Don't have a mouse with you when you're watching Netflix on your laptop? No problemo. Just remember these hotkeys for easy Netflix access. The most important ones (for me) are the "F" key, which expands the movie to full screen and "ESC," which exits full screen.
While you are in the movie:
SPACE BAR - Play/pause
'F' Key - Full screen
ESC - Exit Full Screen
PAGE UP - Play
PAGE DOWN - Pause
UP ARROW - Volume Up
DOWN ARROW - Volume down
'M' Key - Mute
SHIFT + RIGHT ARROW - Fast forward
SHIFT + LEFT ARROW - Rewind