When Netflix first announced that they were bringing their online streaming service to UK shores, the general consensus was that it would usher in a revolution much in the same way it had in America (ie bring about the death of the rental stores...sorry Blockbusters). At the time the amount of online services for movies was severely limited, including LoveFilm which was pretty dreadful. No sooner was Netflix available however did everyone realise they has to work to keep their customers. Tesco's Blinkbox became a major player, LoveFilm finally expanded it's online collection ten fold and even Sky and BT set up rival companies.
So what can Netflix do to stand out from the crowd? Well for starters they can improve their catalogue, and I don't just mean by keeping up to date with new releases.
Netflix has the potential to become a historical archive for all the greatest shows and films from the yesteryears and yet the availability of the classics is very limited. Sure they have Fawlty Towers and Miss Marple but where's 'Allo 'Allo or On the Buses? Where's all those amazing Gerry Anderson shows that kids today should be watching or the original Hanna Barbera cartoons? How about some Carry On films or the Will Hay collection? Even some of the silent clowns like Laurel and Hardy or Mr Chaplin himself would be nice. I understand the need for licensing costs but if people knew that the great British crime shows they grew up with (The Sweeney, The Professionals, The Avengers etc) were all available under one simple subscription I'm sure they wouldn't think twice about signing up.
The American site has the right idea, offering their customers the Original Star Trek (films and TV show), Quantum Leap, Mission Impossible - but there's still so much out there just waiting to be added.
As well as tracking down long lost classics, Netflix should grab up the rights to films and shows unavailable in the UK (mostly due to low demand for physical copies). My main argument would go for the original Addams Family film which for some reason has never been officially released (despite it's sequel always being in stock). I've got a feeling this is due to a conflict in distribution rights but then why does it crop up on TV every now and then? I spend more time on the American site on account of they have films that never made it out here as well as obscure foreign classics (which actually surprised me).
Netflix UK has already done us a huge favour by streaming It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show so niche in its audience that no UK network would air it. But it would be nice to see other shows make the list. King of the Hill, one of the greatest animated shows of all time, never made it past Series 5 on DVD here so why doesn't Netflix make the most of the situation (they do in America, despite all seasons being available on DVD out there)? Why don't they license out the rights to Malcolm in the Middle (a show which people still talk about) or The Job (the police sit-com-drama that was the predecessor to Rescue Me), again both already available in the US.
What better way to attract customers than to offer them things they can't otherwise have.
This isn't a complete negative rant however as Netflix have made a positive leap in terms of getting involved with exclusive programming, namely House of Cards. Other than the fact the series is amazing in every possible way (the quality is up there with HBO), what made this series even better was that Netflix released every episode all at once for everyone. This wasn't just a one off however, with Eli Roth bringing out his Werewolf drama Hemlock Grove sometime later this year.
In addition to creating new shows, Netflix have also earned the respect of fans everywhere by bringing back to life Arrested Development. While it could be argued that the show ended at the right moment, there's no denying that the chance to see the Bluth family up to no good again is exciting all in itself. In addition to this, there's also rumours that they are looking to bring back Jericho as well as possibly Terriers (another show that never saw the light of day in the UK).
In the end, Netflix should seize the opportunity they have with the chance at building up the ultimate library of films and shows that both introduce new generations to classics as well as advertise rare and obscure titles, rather than just worry about getting the latest releases. I understand that there are some people refuse to watch anything that doesn't have a certain amount of special effects in it but the rest of us who appreciate entertainment shouldn't have to suffer as a result.