Bob Bestler

Giving up golf for a drug lord

By Bob Bestler

First there were video stores. Even in a large city, we drove several miles to find a good one, one with the most recent movies and the largest selection.

Then we’d happily scan the array of titles we could rent for the price of a bag of popcorn before making the long drive home.

Video life got better when Blockbuster came along.

What a company. There was one on every corner, it seemed, and our blue and yellow card gave us quick access to the latest movies and a huge selection.

For years we were regular Blockbuster customers, always remembering to be kind and rewind.

Somewhere along the way we started hearing about something called Netflix. Something about shopping for movies off the Internet. Sounded good, because you didn’t even have to leave home to shop for a movie.

But we were TV viewers, not Internet customers. Besides, how long could something like Netflix last? Wasn’t Blockbuster too strong, too successful?

Whoops. Wrong on all counts, as I learned in reviewing a brief history of Netflix.

In 2000, Netflix had 300,000 subscribers and offered to sell out to Blockbuster. It would get 49 percent ownership and would market under Blockbuster.com.

Blockbuster said no, thinking, I suppose, that Netflix would not make a dent in its own success story.

Four years later Blockbuster began its own online subscription service, but by then it was too little, too late. Netflix had become the big gun in the media market.

After seeing its retail business dry up and its online service fail to compete, Blockbuster, in 2010, declared bankruptcy and eventually closed all of its stores.

Meanwhile, in 2013 Netflix announced that it now had 31 million subscribers, three million more than HBO. By 2014, it had become a $28 billion business.

I can admit that I’ve been a Netflix customer for at least 10 years, shopping for a movie on the Internet, then receiving it in the mail a day or two later. No muss, no fuss – and no late fees, no matter how long I kept the movie.

In recent years we’ve become fans of Netflix offerings on our TV, first streaming “House of Cards,” then “Frankie and Grace.”

Right now I’m in the process of streaming all five seasons of “Breaking Bad,” a show I had never watched before it was cancelled. (I watch alone. The bride is not interested in chemistry professors who become drug lords.)

Only recently have I realized I have a problem.

There are 24 hours in the day (20 if you take away the hours spent with MSNBC) and I have literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of TV hours at my disposal.

I recently took steps to cut back and save a few dollars at the same time.

I cut my satellite programming in half, which meant losing The Golf Channel. A few years ago, that would have been a crushing loss.

These days, hey, who has time for golf? Netflix awaits. Oh, and did I mention Hulu? Well, that's a whole ‘nother story.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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