Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Netflix – 8 tips to get the most from your subscription

Screenshot of the Netflix home page

We’re a few months into our Netflix subscription and on the whole we haven’t been getting as much value out of it as I expected us to, which is a shame. I had considered cancelling it, as it’s not worth paying for something that I don’t use. And whilst I’m still open to that idea if we’re still not using it much in a few months’ time, I decided to rethink how we’re using Netflix rather than going for the nuclear option straight-away.

So, here are my tips for making the most of your Netflix subscription.

1. Add lots of titles to your list

Netflix has a ‘queue’ of sorts, called My List, where you can add films and shows that you want to watch. These could be films that you haven’t seen before, or TV shows that you want to watch again, or childrens’ shows that your kids want to watch over and over again. Keeping lots of titles here will mean that you avoid the situation where you open Netflix to watch something but then can’t immediately think what you want to watch.

2. Add TV shows to your list

Netflix, despite its name, isn’t just about ‘flicks’, i.e. movies/films. There are plenty of TV shows on there, and in some cases you can watch every season. So add a few TV shows to your list as well as films – that way, if you don’t have enough spare time for a whole film, then you can watch a quick half hour TV show.

3. Install Netflix’s mobile apps to add to your list on the go…

Let’s say you’re out with your friends, and someone recommends a film or TV show to you. If you have the Netflix app on your phone, you can simply add it to your list there and then. No need to write it down or try to remember it and then forget it. And then you can watch it when you have the time to do so.

4. …or to watch things on the go

Admittedly watching films and TV shows on a smartphone screen doesn’t make for a good experience. But if you have a generous data allowance on your mobile contract and nothing better to do, then why not pass the time with a quick TV show? Even better if you have a tablet with a larger screen. And it’s great for sick days when you can’t face getting out of bed to watch TV.

5. Watch films in bits

Netflix remembers your position when watching content, even if you break off and have to do something else. So if you don’t have time to watch a full feature-length film, just watch a bit of it. Then, pick it up again when you have some more time. The position will synchronise between the web site and apps, so you could start watching a film on your Roku or Apple TV, then watch a bit on your iPhone before finishing it off on the web site.

6. Build up your taste profile for better recommendations

One of Netflix’s big selling points is its ability to recommend films and TV shows to you that you may not have come across. As you watch content on Netflix, it learns what you like and, over time, its recommendations should improve. However, when you first get started Netflix may struggle to suggest anything sensible, so spend some time on the ‘taste profile’ tab on the web site to refine its suggestions. Or just browse around and rate any films and TV shows that you have already seen.

As Netflix’s recommendations improve, you’ll hopefully find some interesting new content to add to your list.

7. Find out when new releases are available using Netflix Notifier

Netflix Notifier is a third-party site which lets you create a watchlist of films that you want to see, but that aren’t on Netflix yet – and then emails you when they become available. I reviewed it in July when I added four films – of those, so far only Hunger Games: Catching Fire has become available to watch in the UK.

8. Use a VPN to access another country’s library

Because of the weird and wonderful world of international copyright licensing agreements, the selection of films and TV shows differs between each country that Netflix operates in. A way around this is using a VPN – a Virtual Private Network – to fool Netflix into thinking you’re based somewhere else. So a British user could use a VPN located in the US to watch shows that would be otherwise unavailable. Be aware that you’ll probably have to pay extra for a decent VPN connection. And bear in mind that film studios are pressuring Netflix to block access from VPNs – whilst it would be impossible to block every VPN, some of the more popular ones may get locked out.

How to work out whether Netflix is worth it for you

Netflix is basically an all-you-can-eat buffet, when compared to ‘a la carte’ services like Google Play and Blinkbox where you pay for each individual episode or season. To take the example of Channel 4 show Misfits, Blinkbox charges £1.89 per episode or £8.99 per series; if you watch four episodes in a month, then Netflix is cheaper as it costs £5.99 per month. Films on Blinkbox are typically around £2.50, or more for new releases.

So if you’re watching, say, two films, or four TV shows, or a film and two TV shows each month, then you’re probably getting your money’s worth. If not, and you’ve tried all of my suggestions above, then you may wish to reconsider whether a subscription service like Netflix is best for you. You may get better value from other sites where you pay for each show individually.

Comments are closed.