Film Uh-oh. With streaming in the ascendency particularly Netflix, I've been wondering just how long the Lovefilm outpost of the Amazon empire could survive and indeed how many people still use it.
So when I saw the subject line "Important changes to your LOVEFiLM By Post membership" on an email my heart sank to the inevitable that my ability to borrow silent films from the 1920s going to be curtailed and I'd finally be required to pay Murdoch money to watch newer television shows.
Happily it's not quite that but it's still a hit though interesting from a business perspective.
When Lovefilm was absorbed into the main body of the Amazon website and became an adjunct of Prime all but the unlimited per month offers were cancelled and the subscription charges split. So whereas with Lovefilm I was paying £9.99 per month for two disc at home unlimited plus streaming, it became £4 for the discs and £6 for the streaming.
Realising I wasn't actually using the streaming, what with not having a decent app on my television I cancelled that pretty quickly which has meant for a couple of years I've been paying £4 per month to watch on average about fifteen discs a month.
Recently I signed back up to Prime after taking advantage of a special offer and so now the streaming's back and I have an Amazon Fire Stick so I can actually watch the odd thing if I want to but that's by the by.
Charging four pounds a month for that service was unsustainable and I imagine a lot of people will have done the same as me. This must cost Amazon a lot of money, even taking into account people who subsequently signed up after the change and paid £7.99 per month for the same thing (£6.99 with Prime membership).
Now they've answered. As the FAQ page about the change describes:
What are the new plans and prices going to be?The upshot at my end is that my charge is going back up to £9.99 per month thanks to having the £2 discount due to my Prime membership.
From February 2016, customers will be able to select from three membership plans: 2 rentals per month with 1 disc at home at £4.99 per month, 4 rentals per month with 1 disc at home at £8.99 per month (£7.99 alongside a Prime membership), or unlimited rentals with 2 discs at home at £11.99 per month (£9.99 alongside a Prime membership). If you would prefer to update your plan to one of these, you will be able to do this on your LOVEFiLM By Post membership page from February 2016.
Will I still get a discounted By Post package as a Prime customer?
Yes. Your LOVEFiLM By Post plan will be discounted whilst you also hold a Prime or monthly Prime Video membership. If you have an Unlimited rental membership, your plan will be discounted by £2.00 per month whilst you have a Prime or monthly Prime Video membership. If you have a light use plan with 4 disc rentals per month, your plan will be discounted by £1.00 per month with a Prime or monthly Prime Video membership.
Even though that's a huge leap, I'm still keep subscribing.
In pricing terms it's an utter bargain when compared to actually having to buy films to watch them especially the older back catalogue titles. Netflix and Amazon Prime function well as Blockbuster Video substitutes in supplying newer films but neither of those have a copy of Josef Von Sternberg's Dishonoured available, a film which hasn't been on terrestrial television since 1994 according to the BBC Genome. A physical copy of this film which I'll probably only ever watch once is £6.18.
Psychologically, my approach is to think of it as paying for the past in the future, that having paid £4 per month for all this time and knowing full well that wasn't sustainable, I'm repaying a loan. Or at the very least all of that postage.
Beyond that, what can this mean?
Well, first that Amazon aren't ready to leave the rental disc model just yet. I can't think of another similar service now, not since Lovefilm went out and bought all of the competitors then was purchased by Amazon (always a bigger fish). Blockbuster has gone too.
But the increase in price also suggests that there's a dwindling subscriber base and so it won't last forever which again is to be expected. How long before dvds and blu-rays in and of themselves become scarce or films simply start skipping a physical release altogether? That's already started with minor releases which haven't even seen the inside of a cinema.
I give it a year or two then ... don't know. When the inevitably happens I won't suddenly have nothing to watch. There's my own collection, Netflix and Amazon Prime albeit with the slightly long wait for films to go to stream. If BFI Player+ gets its act together and actually has an app on more television platforms that looks like it could be fine.
Nevertheless, having used the service through its various iterations since 2004, it'll be a difficult habit to break.