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Some customers are confused as Netflix sends out disks before ending DVD mail program

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Netflix is marking an end to 25 years of mailing out DVDs in red envelopes by offering to send subscribers extra discs from their queue. NPR's Chloe Veltman says fans are welcoming the gesture ahead of the service shutting down at the end of next month, but it's also causing confusion.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: Longtime Netflix DVD customer Moe Long is a self-described film buff in North Carolina. He says there are 500 movies sitting in his queue right now.

MOE LONG: It's ridiculous (laughter). I don't think I'm going to get through that.

VELTMAN: Before Netflix ends its DVD service, Long is hoping to get to as many of those films as he can, including 1978's "Foul Play."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM TRAILER, "FOUL PLAY")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: A new comedy thriller starring Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

VELTMAN: Long says once he's done, he plans, as usual, to return the discs to the sender.

LONG: You don't get to keep the DVDs. You do have to send them back.

VELTMAN: A Netflix spokesperson confirmed the company is indeed expecting to get the goods back. But Netflix's promotional email doesn't explicitly say that. Because the company is scrapping its DVD service, many subscribers, like Leslie Lowdermilk, are assuming it's a giveaway.

LESLIE LOWDERMILK: It appeared to me that at the end of their time shipping these DVDs out, they're yours to keep. Because after all, what are they going to do with them?

VELTMAN: That's a great question to put to a company that has shipped out more than 5 billion discs to customers since launching in 1998. DVDs are not easily recyclable. Most of them end up in landfill. Entertainment lawyer Lindsay Spiller says Netflix couldn't give the DVDs away even if it wanted to.

LINDSAY SPILLER: The filmmakers and property rights owners give Netflix a license, and then they can sublicense it to their subscribers. But they can't give anybody ownership. They don't have it themselves.

MARY GERBI: They really should have made it clear whether this was a rental and what the return period is versus whether people were getting to hold on to these things.

VELTMAN: Massachusetts-based Netflix DVD customer Mary Gerbi says she hopes the streamer will find ethical ways to dispose of its massive stockpile of plastic.

GERBI: Maybe to get them into libraries.

VELTMAN: She says she just doesn't want the DVDs to go to waste.

Chloe Veltman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.