Earlier this week I closed my LoveFilm account. It’s a shame as I’ve been a customer for a long time, but I really couldn’t justify continuing to pay them £13 a month.
The LoveFilm service has two problems. A small one and a big one.
The small one is that I have a wide taste in films. This means that when they send me two random films from my list there’s a better than even chance that I won’t really be in the mood to watch at least one of them. As an extreme example, I once had a Mike Leigh film for about six weeks before I was in the right mood for it.
But that’s just a tiny problem. I could ignore that if it wasn’t for the other problem.
The second, and far larger problem, is the inherent fragility of physical media. And the stupidity of the general public.
The older ones amongst you will remember the excitement that came with the introduction of CDs. You will have seen things like Tomorrow’s World presenters spreading jam on CDs and still being able to play them (or maybe I imagined that). After decades of fragile vinyl records we finally had a medium for music storage that was nigh-on indestructible.
Of course, it turned out that this was bollocks. Sure, CDs were harder-wearing than vinyl had been, but it was still possible (easy, even) to damage them. And when DVDs followed using similar manufacturing technology, they proved to be just as fragile as CDs.
All of which means that if you lend a DVD to several random members of the public, then it will get dirty and damaged. And before too long it will become unplayable. Of course that wouldn’t be a problem if people were careful about looking after DVDs, but in my experience that’s never going to happen. The DVDs that LoveFilm get back will often be covered in smudges and scratches. And in some cases, they will no longer play.
So there’s a good chance that you’ll be sent a DVD from LoveFilm that just doesn’t work. Often it’ll just be a bit grubby and a quick wipe with a cleaning cloth will fix the problem (but it’s still an issue if it doesn’t affect the film until you’re 45 minutes into it). Other times, no amount of cleaning will fix the problem. We had a copy of Before the Rains recently which had huge pock-marks in the surface. It wouldn’t even load the disk menu,
LoveFilm say that they check all disks before they are sent out. But clearly this is a process that doesn’t scale. I suspect that actually they check a random sample of the disks. And that the problem is so bad that plenty of damaged disks still get sent out.
I estimate that over the last six months or so, about one in three of the disks that I get from LoveFilm have some problem. In most cases it’s just a case of whipping the disk out and cleaning it, but enough of the disks are proving to be unplayable that I decided I had to cancel my membership.
And cancelling your membership isn’t easy. You can’t do it over on their web site. You need to phone them up. And you speak to someone in an Indian call-centre whose job is to get you to reconsider by offering you special deals. I had to repeat “No, please just cancel my account” about four times before I got anywhere. This is a shame as it gives a bad impression of the company. And all the previous customer service I’ve got from LoveFilm (largely through their excellent Twitter account) has been exemplary.
I don’t expect to be parted from LoveFilm for too long. They already have a streaming service. But it’s only available to subscribers to the physical media service. Once they follow Netflix into offering streaming-only subscriptions, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back. A Bluray player I bought just before christmas is internet-enabled and already has a LoveFilm application installed (although it’s currently disabled).
It’s worth noting that a streaming service solves both of the problems I mentioned at the start of this piece. Not only does it do away with physical media, but it allows my to choose any film that I want to watch.
In the meantime, I’ll be getting my films at home from other sources. Probably a lot of stuff from FilmFlex . I’m considering adding Sky Movies to my Virgin Media package. I might even go back to my local DVD rental shop (although, that will still have the physical media issue).
Has anyone else left LoveFilm recently? What were your reasons? Where do you get films from now?