Win the Netflix Lottery


An accidental discovery of an invisible marketing machine

2006.04.20

What follows is a vaguely chronological tale of what I discovered about deals you get on NetFlix when you first go to their page.  

 

Realizing that we can probably live without the 1-2 hours of TV a month that we actually watch, we dropped our DirecTV, giving us $54 a month back.  But, since we watch movies on TCM or somesuch by chance every few months, I took a gander at NetFlix, and noticed the deal they have now for $5 a month, 1 movie at a time, no more than 2 per month.  With all the time we have for movies (rare evenings that my wife isn't pooped out after our daughter's bedtime), that sounded about perfect.

Odd thing is, I found that deal and 3 others while looking on my laptop:
$4.99, 1/time, 2/month
$9.99 1/time, unlimited/month
$14.99 2/time, unlimited/month
$19.99 3/time, unlimited/month

And the splash screen had "plans starting at $4.99!"

But when I went downstairs to my desktop, the splash screen was identical,
BUT it has "plans starting at $9.99!"...and the deals were instead:
$9.99 1/time, unlimited/month
$11.99 2/time, 4/month
$14.99 2/time, unlimited/month
$19.99 3/time, unlimited/month

Weeeird.  Back to the laptop, and it still said the 4 deals I saw before.  I called a friend, and he saw the $5, too. 

Okay, so I WinMerge the HTML sources.  Two lines are different:
{background-image:url(http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-999.jpg);
instead of
{background-image:url( http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-499.jpg);

Okay.  Only one other line pair is different:
&nbsp;U.S. Patent No. 6584450&nbsp;<span class="serverid">{119}</span> USA
instead of
&nbsp;U.S. Patent No. 6584450&nbsp;<span class="serverid">{131}</span> USA

Odd thing is, I had a couple of other people try it, and server 118 was a $4.99 server (if there really is any connection), and 126 (something between 119 and 131) was a $9.99 server.

Well, another guy I showed it to tried it: It's random, and you can clear cookies to find the deal you want:


"I just got:

9.99/{131}
7.99/{114}
7.99/{112}
4.99/{130}
7.99/{133}
4.99/{116}

There are image links for 4-9:

http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-499.jpg
http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-599.jpg
http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-699 .jpg
http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-799.jpg
http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-899.jpg
http://cdn.nflximg.com/us/layout/signup/home/nmhome-999.jpg

It appears that 4.99 is the lowest x.99 offer on the server."

Interesting.  They must be looking about for a sweet spot, and doing it my random server redirection.

Only 4.99 and 7.99 appear to be the lower deals; if you get 9.99, you get the 2/time, 4/month at 11.99 (maybe 12.99, can't remember, and can't be bothered to retest it).  $4.99 is 1/time, 2/month.  $7.99 is 1/time, 3/month...which I might have taken had I known about it.  Wonder if I can call and request it?  (It's NOT an option when changing services, if you're logged in).

 Note that, so far as I've been able to tell, there's no way to get a better price on the same deal.  But, you can get a different opening deal.  I probably wouldn't have been hooked in if my opening page had said "Starting at $9.99", so it's lucky for them I found a $4.99 server first.

Anyway, I'm signed up, should get my first movie today or tomorrow, and if I like it enough, I might try and see if they'll give me the $7.99 deal over the phone or something.  I may get told it's "for new customers only," which is fair business practice, as far as I'm concerned.