If you wanted to watch all 236 episodes of Friends in a month, you’d have to clock around seven to eight episodes a day, just under three hours per night. Any varsity binge-watcher could easily tear through the the antics of Ross, Rachel, et al. in a few weekends.
The Friends DVD box set costs about $75 on Amazon. Or you could also stream it all — all 118 hours of Must See TV — for $7.99 through Netflix.
This is the easiest decision you’ll ever make (unless you’re one of those jabronis who still collects DVDs and arranges them in alphabetical order in a tower you bought from Sam Goody in 2001 along with a Staind poster).
Duh, Netflix is a good deal. That’s why people like it. To watch full, glorious seasons of TV each month for less than most city-dwellers drop on a single below-average cocktail is fantastic. And obviously, $7.99 for unlimited streaming is a great deal when you compare it to the relative costs of obtaining physical media or renting/buying digital copies of individual movies and shows from iTunes or Amazon. Netflix isn’t just a good value; it's like putting a dollar in a vending machine and accidentally getting two bags of Funyuns.
So why in the world aren’t we paying more? Look, don’t hate me for saying this. I don’t want to pay more anymore than you do. But come on, admit it: If Netflix raised the price of a subscription, you wouldn’t quit.
Sure, you might complain a bit. When Netflix raised the price of its most popular streaming plan to $9.99 from $8.99, the backlash online was feverish. Even with a two-year grandfather clause for existing customers, people tweeted up a storm about how incensed they were at being asked to pay an additional 12 bucks a year. And yet…do you know anyone who actually canceled their account over it? Me neither.
Anyone with a bit of disposable income (or who knows someone with some) and enjoys pop culture will be hard pressed to find somebody they know who doesn’t have Netflix, or at least access to Netflix through login-sharing with parents, friends, exes, whoever. These are people who are also more likely to be cord-cutters — ditching cable for just some a la carte streaming services like HBO Go or Hulu, buying/renting from Amazon or iTunes, or just plain illegally torrenting. Compared to cable, which is basically only a medium for watching Donald Trump say and respond to outrageous things, Netflix is a huge bargain.
“They are trying to give you lots of content for a low price, and to love them,” said Richard Greenfield, a media and technology analyst for BTIG research firm. “Netflix wants you to love them. No one loves their cable provider.” True! No one has gotten laid by inviting someone over to Comcast & chill.
But what if Netflix weren’t quite so cheap? How not-cheap could it get before you’d give up?
Netflix knows that subscription pricing is a delicate balance. The company gets lots of new users precisely because it is so inexpensive. At $7.99 a month for the company's most basic plan, it feels like almost nothing, an easy risk to take. In a fall 2014 earnings call, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told investors the company felt its pricing really was firm and that it couldn't go higher.
But Hastings made that point just prior to the debut of the second season of Orange Is the New Black, Netflix's second foray into original programming after House of Cards. Today, the company is producing even more critically acclaimed and voraciously consumed shows — Making a Murderer, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Daredevil — that rival what's offered on cable outfits like HBO. HBO Go, the a la carte streaming version of HBO (for those who aren’t just using their parents’ or friends’ cable logins) is $15/month. And beside Game of Thrones, what feels super necessary to watch on that network? Vinyl? Lmao.
And so Greenfield argues that Netflix could probably follow HBO’s lead without sending most subscribers packing. “When you have HBO at $15, it’s easy to see how a $15 price point is attainable for Netflix,” he told BuzzFeed News (Netflix declined to comment on this point or any of my other idiotic ramblings, which, fair enough).
So would you pay $15? Totally, right? But what about $20? Don’t lie, you would. Keep in mind that Netflix is adding lots more original content. The company was a top buyer at the Sundance Film Festival this year; it's also inked a deal with Disney that will add a bunch of new family programming to its catalog. Go ahead, parents, and try to tell me that you wouldn’t pay $20 each month to keep the kid quiet while you and your partner unwind with a glass of sauvignon blanc and some light chitchat about Bernie Sanders’ actual odds of catching up to Hillary as primary season winds down. That’s what I thought.
Look: I don’t want to pay more for Netflix. I hope Netflix isn’t as much of a genius as I am and never realizes that it could probably charge us more. I hope it keeps my $9.99 subscription tier in perpetuity. But I’m just being realistic here. The company's going to wise up at some point. Best steel yourself for the inevitable and maybe set aside a few clams in a rainy day binge fund. I know I am.