2.03.2012

help me get rid of zip

When we lived in NYC, I was hugely into Netflix. The selection and convenience were terrific, and for frequent movie watching, the flat monthly fee was a great value.

After moving to Canada, we joined Zip... and thus began the saga.

Zip (now owned by media giant Rogers) has a good (not great) selection, their ship-times are good, and the price is decent if you watch a lot of movies. But. Two big buts.

Their system doesn't work if you have less than 20 titles on your ZipList (the equivalent of the Netflix queue). This would not be a problem if they shipped titles in your order of preference. You could simply add junk titles that you didn't really want to see to the end of your list.

That's where the second but comes in. Zip does not ship titles in any order even resembling your preference. You're as likely to get a movie from the bottom of your list as you are from the top.

Now, as you all know and are undoubtedly sick of reading by now, I watch movies for half the year, and watch baseball during the other half. Movie Season begins in November or (grumble, grumble) October, and ends at the end of March. By January, I have a short list of movies that I really want to see before April, but my ZipList is running low, so service slows down.

I then have two choices. I either add a bunch of "filler" titles to my list, and hope they don't ship, or I get movies much less frequently - which sucks, plus what I do receive is still unlikely to be any of my top choices.

When we first joined, we really struggled with this, compounded by truly terrible customer service. At that time, Zip's idea of customer service was to tell me that my problem was not really happening, and if it is, it was my own fault, and I should lower my expectations. (I wrote about it here, here, and here.)

To keep my business, a customer service manager gave me some special service: she did something to my list so that movies would continue to ship, even though the number of titles on the list was dwindling.

The following year, I contacted her again... and she again obliged. This special service - which I know some of you will not approve of - kept me a reasonably happy Zip subscriber.

It worked for four years, but now she has left the company. Zip seems to have fixed their customer service problem - they're not arguing anymore, they're polite, and sympathetic - but no one is interested in helping me with this issue. I understand that I can't expect special service forever, but I don't understand why they can't figure out how to run their business better.

Now I really want to get rid of Zip, but I don't know how to replace it. Here are the options that I know of.

- Netflix. I know many Canadians are excited that Netflix is now available in Canada, through a streaming service. However, we don't have a gaming system, so it would mean watching movies on a computer, which both Allan and I find very unappealing. In addition, I've heard from many people that the quality is very bad - sputtering, buffering, skipping. We would hate that. Unless the quality improved and there was some easy way to watch on our TV, this is not an option.

- Downloading from iTunes. Even if we can somehow work around our Rogers download cap (which is an inconvenience for Allan), we're talking $13.00 per movie. That's all right sometimes, but during Movie Season, I see two or three movies each week. Through a Netflix or Zip type of service, I can do that for about $30 a month. Thirteen dollars a pop is not affordable. Plus, the selection will be minimal.

- Pay-per-view on cable. No downloading issues, but other than that, same as above.

- Movie rental stores. Do these even exist anymore? Inconvenient, crap selection. Return to the 1990s. No thanks.

- The library. Good when movies are available, but right now, for example, there are 12 copies of Moneyball and 115 people waiting for them ahead of me. Also, selection will be spotty.

- Other services like Zip? I found something called Canflix, formerly in Calgary, now out of business, and CineMail.ca, in Winnipeg. I haven't found any user reviews yet. Their website looks so rinky-dink, I'm already skeptical, but I'll continue to investigate.

Anything else? What can I do???

65 comments:

James Redekop said...

Depending on how new your TV and computer are, you might be able to hook the computer up to the TV and watch streamed movies that way. I don't have Netflix, so I can't tell you if the service would be worth the bother, though.

But if there's anything in our collection you're interested in, you're welcome to borrow it. :)

laura k said...

Depending on how new your TV and computer are, you might be able to hook the computer up to the TV and watch streamed movies that way.

We've looked into this in the past for baseball (no longer necessary - issue solved another way), and I think it would be expensive and complicated. I'm not positive, but I think it would be kind of crazy.

Re your colleciton, thank you very much! I think our movie tastes probably have just a small overlap, but it's good to know.

M@ and his parnter S, who live nearby, really helped us a lot for the past few years.

M@ said...

I have a suggestion. It's a bit of hassle but I think you'd be better in the long run.

First, get rid of Rogers as your ISP and go with an indie like Teksavvy. We pay $35/month for DSL and our cap is 300GB. They do have cable available in some areas as well. And their customer service is fantastic.

Second, buy yourself a Nintendo Wii. They're $120 refurbished at Future Shop right now, and probably cheaper used. Your Wii connects to the router, and Netflix is $8/month. And what you pay for the Wii would probably be recouped in less than a year in savings on changing ISPs.

Like I say, hassle, but you'd get Netflix out of it. Maybe worth considering.

laura k said...

Hmmm... this is very interesting.

I floated the idea of TekSaavy a while back. I've dumped Rogers as my cell phone provider and would love to dump them for our ISP as well! I've been concerned about performance and reliability. Plus it was just a thought. I did a bit of initial research and that was all.

But this would be a real incentive. We currently get 95GB, which goes pretty fast when you do filesharing, as Allan does.

With 300 GB, I think Allan would still have to watch his downloading during Movie Season, but it would (I think) be doable.

Hmmm. Thank you! I'm definitely going to consider this.

laura k said...

Plus I'd have a Wii. I've been interested in their exercise programs, mostly from Imp Strump.

laura k said...

Also, we'd have all of baseball season to get this up and running. I've resigned myself to Zip ruining February and March movie viewing - already reserved some movies at the library, others will do pay-per-view, etc. But a multi-step process could be in place by next movie season, after the Red Sox win the 2012 World Series.

James Redekop said...

Lori & I use TekSavvy, they've been great. No complaints.

laura k said...

Lori & I use TekSavvy, they've been great. No complaints.

Oh yeah? This is looking better.

I wish I knew more about Netflix's streaming quality. I've heard complaints - but then, DVDs skip sometimes, too, and have to be sent back.

laura k said...

I notice that TekSavvy offers unlimited bandwidth for $55/month, which is slightly less than what we pay Rogers for 95GB/month. I don't know how the speed compares.

This is exactly what I faced with Rogers vs Wind for mobile phone. Either I could have saved money every month for approximately the same level of service, or for the same money, gotten much more. I decided to keep the price the same but get much more.

For 300GB, I'd probably rather save the money, but unlimited bandwidth might make Allan very happy.

So how is the speed with DSL?

laura k said...

Reposting that for better clarity...

M@'s suggestion is percolating some very interesting ideas.

Since TekSavvy has an unlimited bandwidth option, we could watch baseball on a computer.

We currently buy an MLB online package so Allan can watch games at work. But we also buy a package from Rogers to watch games at home. We've tried to combine them to cut costs, but can never come up with a way - mostly because we don't have unlimited bandwidth.

In other words, with unlimited bandwidth, we might be able to ditch cable altogether. People are always recommending I do that, but I can't because of baseball. TekSavvy might be the way to do that.

allan said...

The question is can we deal with watching baseball games on an old laptop. I'm not sure we can.

I could straighten up the basement and we could watch on my nice screen down there. Bring the dogs down for an evening "picnic".

allan said...

Well, we can always fire it up and watch an old game from last year as a trial.

M@ said...

I find the speed very similar. We went with Rogers cable in Cambridge to DSL in Oakville, and both meet my expectations for high speed Internet.

The only place I really notice speed is when I'm downloading torrents. In those cases, I find TekSavvy tops out at 450-500kb/sec. I don't remember how fast Rogers was but it couldn't have been much higher than that.

Plus, in Mississauga, I believe TekSavvy offers cable in addition to DSL. I'm sure the speeds would at least be comparable to what you've got now.

As for Netflix -- with DSL, and passing the signal from the modem to the router to the xbox to the TV, I've never noticed significant stuttering or pixellation. I would not be really worried about that -- though I haven't heard from others either way so I'm not sure.

I'm also not sure about what you might do to pass the baseball package through to your TV. If you were to use a device to do that, you probably wouldn't need the Wii. I was thinking of that as only a cheap and reliable way to get Netflix, but some kind of network streaming device might be more appropriate...

laura k said...

This is exciting. The questions:
- good speed through DSL?
- good quality streaming Netflix?
- can two people who know nothing about gaming buy a Wii, set it up and figure out how to watch games or movies through it?
- without baseball, is there any reason to keep cable? (How will I watch Coronation Street?)

laura k said...

The question is can we deal with watching baseball games on an old laptop. I'm not sure we can.

We wouldnt' have to. We'd have a Wii, and we'd watch baseball on that. What M@ is suggesting for streaming Netflix, we would also use for streaming MLB.

James Redekop said...

TekSavvy speeds seem fine. Maybe a little slower than Rogers, but not so much that it's been a problem for us -- but we aren't streaming TV, so I can't address that.

Lori is investigating over-the-air HD TV, so we can potentially drop cable. We'll let you know how that experiment goes.

allan said...

we would be blacked out of jays games, but that would mean only 6 games for me and 10 for laura. we would be at work for the others and could not have tv anyway. keeping cable to see those few games would be nuts.

mon-thurs - 6
friday - 4
sat-sun - 9

M@ said...

What M@ is suggesting for streaming Netflix, we would also use for streaming MLB.

I'm not quite sure. Netflix is an actual app that you can install on the Wii or Xbox, so it handles the content itself. You use your on-the-computer account but it doesn't take the computer's stream and display it online, it takes Netflix's stream directly from the internet.

laura k said...

AND if I could lose Rogers cable, and Netflix being only $8/month, I could subscribe to movies all year, instead of choosing between movies and baseball. That would be a really nice option for me. If there was something I wanted to see right away... I could!

laura k said...

we would be blacked out of jays games

And for that we'd have MLB Audio, which (as JoSers know) I love.

M@ said...

The devices I had in mind were things like this one. There are more listed here.

Another caveat -- Netflix in Canada has WAY less content than in the US. No comparison. You'll really want to look around it first to make sure it's sufficient for you. Then again, if you have some kind of streaming setup, you can supplement with other content from the internet.

johngoldfine said...

DSL has made a huge difference to my movie-watching. (Before we had the dedicated line, we had an antenna picking up our ISP's signal from a tower on Mt Waldo.)

Back in the bad old days, watching a Netflix stream was a labor of love. Every few minutes there would be a wait of a few minutes for buffering. A 90 minute movie might take 100-180 minutes, depending on the day and the time of day. I wasn't using streaming very much!

Since we went to DSL, back in September, we have not had a movie stop to catch its breath even once. Never. I've gorged! TV series in particular....

BTW, I watch everything on my computer screen.

Now let me ask you or your commenters something: does the MLB tv package black out RS home games all over New England?

laura k said...

it doesn't take the computer's stream and display it online, it takes Netflix's stream directly from the internet.

Ah-ha. Thanks for clarifying, that may make a big difference. Perhaps the same thing is possible with MLB, we would have to find out.

Netflix in Canada has WAY less content than in the US. No comparison. You'll really want to look around it first to make sure it's sufficient for you.

I was just noticing that as I saw your comment. :) When Netflix first came to Canada, I did a few quick searches and thought it sucked. But since so many people have it now, I assumed it had improved. Now I think not.

laura k said...

Lori is investigating over-the-air HD TV, so we can potentially drop cable. We'll let you know how that experiment goes.

I didn't know there was such a thing. Interesting. Definitely keep me posted.

laura k said...

JohnGoldfine, what you're describing sounds like the difference between dial-up and cable modem, which we went through back in the late 90s. Night and day.

laura k said...

Now let me ask you or your commenters something: does the MLB tv package black out RS home games all over New England?

I don't think anyone here can answer that for you. Of course folks at JoS can answer it in a snap.

allan said...

If it is in NESN's broadcast area, then I'd assume a blackout.

laura k said...

The devices I had in mind were things like this one. There are more listed here.

Is this the infamous Slingbox? We always hear about Slingbox when people are trying to watch baseball games they wouldn't normally get.

* * * *

Now I'm sad again. Netflix Canada is not so good. WTF. There really should be a way to do this.

laura k said...

If it is in NESN's broadcast area, then I'd assume a blackout.

I think that's the gist of it. You can't get NESN and get NESN games on MLB.com, too. It's one or the other (or in some cases, neither).

laura k said...

Netflix or no Netflix, I'd like to dump Rogers and get TekSavvy.

James Redekop said...

I'm told Netflix Canada's selection has improved, from unbelievably bad to merely terrible.

We were out in your neighbourhood (sort of) recently, picking up an computer HD tuner for over-the-air systems. We'll probably be doing some experiments this weekend without OTA HD antenna.

laura k said...

Cinemail has an "occasional viewer" and "casual viewer" level. Presumably I could get the low level in the spring and summer then ramp up to heavy viewer in the winter.

Cinemail plans

They're certainly not wasting money on a flashy website!

laura k said...

I'm browsing Cinemail's selection, and although they have fewer titles than Zip, they have more indie films, classic films, and documentaries - which is the bulk of what we watch.

I'm going to sign up with them, get the 14-day free trial, and overlap with Zip for a month or two to see how they are. If they're any good, I could get their least expensive option over the winter.

Worth a shot.

laura k said...

I'm told Netflix Canada's selection has improved, from unbelievably bad to merely terrible.

:>)

MSEH said...

I haven't read through all of the comments, but I want to echo a couple of things to which you may already have responded.

1. We have a Wii and watch Netflix through that. The quality is typically acceptable. I can't recall anything where it was a problem. Sometimes I don't like the sound, but then I don't hear well.

2. We connect our laptops to the tv - which took one cable that was about $50 - and watch via iTunes that way.

We rarely get actual DVDs anymore because either of the above will suffice. Just thought I'd share our experience - as heavy viewers.

MSEH said...

PS - We've had Netflix Canada for a while and I do think the selection has improved. At first it was great for 10YO but not us. Now we've found quite a few things worth watching.

M@ said...

I agree that Netflix Canada has improved. When it first came out I tried the free trial, and immediately rejected it. Just no way. Then a few months ago we tried it again, and it was okay. Not awesome, but okay.

There are a few decent TV shows we've watched on there, there are quite a few documentaries, and while you probably won't find a specific movie on there (the selection is too limited), you will often find some real gems. We've come across some stuff worth watching that we would have never tried otherwise.

It would be worth trying out the free trial yourself (assuming they still offer that).

laura k said...

Netflix is very low-risk to try. They do still have the free trial period, but even after that, the cost is minimal - if we can deal with the bandwidth.

So if you don't search for specific movies, how do you find stuff to try - what's your approach? Because they don't seem to have anything I search for.

(Thanks, MSEH, nice to hear from you.)

M@ said...

We usually just browse around categories and the "What's new" stuff. Often the things they recommend (supposedly according to things we've recently watched) are laughably inappropriate for us, but browsing around can be pretty successful.

hhw said...

another happy teksavvy (dsl and landline) user here. they don't offer cable in St Cath (not their choice), but I've been pleasantly surprised by the performance. this is my first time with dsl rather than cable internet.

I recently signed up for a netflix trial, which was for a generous 30 days. For the most part, it worked very well, mostly streaming via wifi to an ipad. I did not subscribe in the end because I would have wasted too much time with it, even with the more limited content. but it is still a lot less content than is available in the us. might be worth the trial to see if what they've added just happens to be what you want to watch. you can also search the listings without an account.

hhw said...

and you can disregard most of my second paragraph above since others said it all first.

laura k said...

Thanks, hhw. I have been looking at Netflix Canada without an account, but only by searching for specific movies. I guess that's the wrong approach with them.

I've never had DSL, either - only cable modem, which has been very good (despite everyone's dislike of Rogers).

I notice TekSavvy's website claims "no outsourcing". It would be nice to use a company that keeps a few skilled jobs in Canada.

laura k said...

and you can disregard most of my second paragraph above since others said it all first.

Ha ha! Nope! More information is better - more data points, more corroboration.

impudent strumpet said...

M@: Does the Wii setup let you do other stuff with the computer while you watch the streamed video on the TV screen? Or will the TV show whatever's on your computer screen? I like to game while I watch TV/movies and I only have one computer (but I do have a Wii) so I'm definitely in the market for getting streamed video onto the TV if it doesn't preclude using the computer.

For that matter, could the Wii play videos from my computer's hard drive on the TV? Or from an external hard drive?

impudent strumpet said...

Plus I'd have a Wii. I've been interested in their exercise programs

I do not recommend the Wii for exercise programs. Kinect is far superior. I use a Wii because Kinect didn't exist when I was looking for a fitness game. But now it's obsolete, which is why it's apparently only $120 at futureshop.

How will I watch Coronation Street?

If it's on CBC, the videos are likely online.

Re: Over-the-air HD, my grandmother has it and apparently the quality and selection of channels are more impressive than expected. Obviously it's not full cable, but my parents are considering giving up basic cable for it. I've ruled it out because it eliminates the option of time-shifting.

M@ said...

When playing Netflix content -- i.e. Netflix content through the Netflix app on your gaming machine -- your computer does not show the content. The Wii is actually going straight to the router and then to the internet to get the stream.

I dont know if the Wii is capable of streaming video from your computer to your TV; it was never positioned as a media centre the way the xbox and Playstation were, and I never tried it. (I recently gave my Wii away to my niece and nephew so I can't test it.)

However, on my xbox, I use either Windows Media Server or a freeware program called TVersity to stream the content. It does slow down the computer a little -- just a little, it does remain usable and it's a 3-year-old cheapo laptop -- but it's not as though it's showing on the xbox what I'm seeing on the Wii.

For the streaming and Netflix, the xbox is great. However, you need an Xbox Gold account ($5/month) to be able to use Netflix on the xbox. Old xboxes go for about the price of the Wii so I would recommend that, but you don't want to have to pay for two accounts just to use Netflix. I already get the Gold account so Netflix wasn't a big deal.

It's stupidly complicated, really. My guess is that in 5 years, this discussion will seem quaint. It'll be built into TVs, or Slingbox-type devices will be far more common.

laura k said...

I do not recommend the Wii for exercise programs. Kinect is far superior.

Oh, sorry about that. Never having used any of these and not knowing one from the other, it all blends together in my mind.

laura k said...

It's stupidly complicated, really. My guess is that in 5 years, this discussion will seem quaint.

This is part of the problem for us, and a big reason the DVD-by-mail service works so well for me - or should, if Zip was better.

laura k said...

One very important thing that came out of this thread: TekSavvy. No matter what I decide to do about movies, there seems to be no reason to stay with Rogers.

Nitangae said...

Do you include UofT library in "library." Because I used to find some interesting DVDs there.

laura k said...

Do you include UofT library in "library." Because I used to find some interesting DVDs there.

No! I never even thought of checking the UofT catalog. Thanks!

You've also reminded me that we belong to TPL as well as the Mississauga Library. We could request DVDs through them, too - although I'm sure the competition for movies is even worse than at MLS.

laura k said...

Probably not good for a librarian wannabe to admit this, but I can't see how to use the UTCat to look for DVDs.

laura k said...

You know, if it meant being able to watch internet content on our TV - which would mean we could get rid of cable, because we'd stream MLB games - I would get an XBox and subscribe to some $5/month service.

We pay $40/mo for cable (downgraded package + digital box rentals + other stupid fees), plus an additional $30/month for baseball or Zip. Each of those is about to increase by $5/month.

I see an XBox console at Future Shop for $200. The savings would be realized pretty quickly - if the system did what we want it to do.

M@ said...

I'm not 100% sure whether you'd be able to stream MLB games -- I mean, you might be able to but I've never done it. When I'm talking about streaming, I'm basically taking files that I would otherwise burn onto DVDs and playing them directly from my computer to the xbox. Not quite the same thing.

Apparently there are two media servers, TVersity and Orb, that will play internet streams on the xbox. But I'm not sure whether they would work for you. I'll look into it and see if I can find a decent answer.

(Annoyingly I sold my old xbox only a few months ago for next to nothing. Would have been perfect to let you try it out. Dang!)

M@ said...

A little more info: there are varying opinions on whether mlb.tv can be streamed directly through an xbox.

However, the Playstation 3 actually has the MLB channel on it as an app, similar to how Netflix is done on these machines, apparently. They're more expensive than the xbox, like $250, but you could probably pick a used one up pretty easily.

laura k said...

Thanks for the info! Too bad about your old Xbox - but I think we're onto something here.

Allan can also find out more about MLBTV capabilities on SoSH, his Red Sox hangout.

hhw said...

to search for dvds in the UT catalogue, you need to choose the advanced search, which lets you limit by format up front. Alternatively, you can search by title and if you get lots of results, there's an option to limit the results list by format on the left sidebar.

laura k said...

Also, the MLB Channel is not the same as MLBTV.com. We'd be looking for MLBTV.com.

laura k said...

to search for dvds in the UT catalogue, you need to choose the advanced search, which lets you limit by format up front. Alternatively, you can search by title and if you get lots of results, there's an option to limit the results list by format on the left sidebar.

Thanks. That part I knew. I just have no idea what kind of DVD holdings they have, so I wouldn't know what to search for. Searching the entire catalog by format doesn't seem like a viable option.

laura k said...

CNET video on different options for viewing internet content on a TV: here.

hhw said...

some catalogues let you do a search for * to find everything, but that didn't work in UT's; there might be some other wild card character though. There is a link on the main library page to browse new titles, and that brings up a search results list that you can then limit by format. From there I found 1000+ dvds published since 2010. This might be a stable link to that list: http://bit.ly/AqZXBA

laura k said...

It appears that the simplest, least expensive option mentioned in the CNET video supports MLBTV and Netflix! MLBTV on Roku

laura k said...

But... can you get Roku in Canada and will it work in Canada? Maybe not.

Figures!

laura k said...

Devices on which you can watch MLBTV

Roku will ship to Canada but I'm waiting to find out if it will support MLBTV here. It doesn't yet support Netflix Canada, but supposedly will begin to sometime this year.

This would be the simplest and least expensive solution. Fingers crossed.

tornwordo said...

We've had no issues whatsoever with Netflix with the exception that their site isn't very intuitive to navigate. Recently got sucked into the Breaking Bad series.