The splitting of Netflix’s DVD and Streaming service has me thinking. The way that we say what media we want to view and keep track of it is outdated and very walled-garden like. This adds another layer of maintenance tasks that I need to do by hand because of a lack of a unified agent for all of these sites that I use to accomplish the same task. That task… is acquiring media of various forms.

Here’s a short list of the services I use and their type.

Streaming video:

  • Netflix, $16 per month (because my wife and I have separate accounts.)
  • Hulu, free only.

DVDs by Mail

  • Qwikster, $15 per month for 2 dvds out at a time.
  • Blockbuster, $5 per month for 1 dvd out, 2 per month. I use this to get bluray discs mostly.
  • Anime Takeout. I’m not currently subscribed, but $26 per month may be a good thing to watch discs that aren’t on streaming and that neither of the other two services has.

Streaming Rental sites

  • Amazon. $2-3 per episode.
  • PSN. $2-4 per episode.
  • iTunes. $2-3 per episode.

Downloaded music:

  • eMusic, $12/month minimum, about $0.50 per song.
  • Amazon, no minimum, $0.79-$1.29 per song.

Books:

  • Baen Webscriptions, $15 per 6 books released in a month, $4 per book. ePub format (among others)
  • Borders Ebooks, various prices, ePub format.
  • Barnes and Noble, various prices, nook format.
  • Amazon, various prices, (blech) kindle format.

That’s 14 different sites all with different queueing structures, strengths and weaknesses, and differing catalogs. Netflix is now hiding things that you have in your list that are currently unavailable, so you can’t take those things and look elsewhere for them. There has to be a better way.

What I want is to be able to give a single program a prioritized list of things that I want to acquire. I want this program to then look at all of my sources, and find the optimal way to get those to me. Optimal meaning lowest cost to me, and least time to get the ones I really want.

First, look at the streaming sites. If it’s streaming, then problem solved, it adds a link to the appropriate site for the episode I’m currently on.

Second, it looks at the DVD by Mail sites, using the “availability” flag for that DVD to determine which one to queue it up on. It should queue them up automatically taking into account quirks in each service.

Third, if it isn’t available from any of those sites, find all of the streaming/rental sites it is available from and give me a price list. I may pick a higher cost site if it means I can take it with me on my PSP.

Lastly, if you can’t stream it, you can’t get it on dvd, you can’t rent it for streaming… look for a price for me to buy the physical copy and give me a price list.

Naturally, only the last one would be active for books. On Emusic it would also need to go and download songs if I still have credit in my account that I haven’t used.

The biggest challenge to this would be getting access to all of those different APIs. It’s too bad there’s no unified api that you can use to look it up on all these different sites.

(Examples of the quirks of sites… Netflix will send you the top item in your queue as an extra dvd on top of your subscription if it’s a “short wait” title that comes up as available in another region, so your netflix queue should always keep at least 1 short-wait title at the top. Blockbuster doesn’t keep track of series of discs, so you should only keep one title from each series near the top of your queue, else they may send them out of order. etc.)