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A (very) bad week for Netflix fans

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Netflix customers are seeing red, and not just in their mailboxes. The company announced July 12 that it was splitting its streaming option from the traditional DVD plans, jacking up the monthly cost by 60 percent for those who want to keep snail mail as an option. (The streaming service, while popular, offers significantly fewer movies than the traditional program. And it certainly doesn’t help that Sony Pictures recently pulled down many films — including The Social Network and Salt — due to contractual finagling.) The response was fast and furious, with tens of thousands of disgruntled patrons leaving comments on the rental service’s Facebook page and clogging call lines with complaints. (A streaming outage on July 17 further fanned the flames.) ”The fact that Netflix is getting so much heat means that it’s loved by its customers,” says Bryan Gonzalez of the Entertainment Technology Center at USC. But do they love it enough to swallow this price increase? (Unlimited DVDs plus streaming will soon cost about $16 per month — up from $9.99.) There are other options: Blockbuster is taking advantage of its rival’s troubles by offering special deals to Netflix users, starting at $9.99 a month. Apple TV allows users to rent films à la carte via iTunes, but requires a set-top box costing $99, while dollar-a-day DVD vending giant Redbox is also a cheap alternative for those who want to get out of the online game entirely. Over at Netflix, they’re certainly braced for the fallout. ”We weren’t surprised [by the backlash],” says VP of communications Steve Swasey. ”We knew there would be some people who would leave the service.” The question now is: How many?

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