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Plot twist: Netflix lets subscribers keep unreturned DVDS for free

After September 29, you can keep any DVDs you've rented from Netflix's retiring service.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Those of you who subscribe to Netflix's DVD mail-order business have always had to return the rented discs to avoid being charged for them. But with the service soon to close its doors, Netflix will apparently look the other way if you choose to hang onto your remaining discs. And that doesn't include just one or two DVDs but potentially as many as 10.

In a Monday post published on X, formerly known as Twitter, Netflix said that it would not charge for any unreturned discs after September 29 and told subscribers to enjoy your final shipments for as long as you like. The post itself was an attempt to clarify what Netflix called all the "news headlines out there" that seemingly gave mixed messages over whether or not people had to return the discs following the demise of the service.

Also: 5 reasons why DVDs still have their place, especially for serious movie buffs

The confusion followed an announcement by Netflix that offered subscribers a chance to win as many as 10 extra discs shipped to them on the final day of the service. Visiting the Finale Surprise website and signing in with your Netflix DVD account automatically qualifies you, though there's no guarantee you'll be one of the lucky ones to receive all those DVDs.

This past April, Netflix broke the news that its familiar red-enveloped DVD service would end with the shipment of its final discs on September 29. Providing films and TV shows by mail for a quarter of a century, the DVD service was responsible for sending 5 billion DVD and Blu-ray rentals to customers since its inception in April of 1998.

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But with faster and easier streaming options grabbing more business, Netflix found it increasingly difficult to justify the efforts put into the DVD rental trade. Revenue from the DVD service declined steadily over the years as the company steered customers toward the streaming plans. In 2022, Netflix's DVD rentals accounted for $145.7 million in sales (down 20% from 2021), representing just 0.5% of total revenue, according to an April story from Variety.

People accustomed to streaming their favorite entertainment whenever and wherever they like might question why in 2023 Netflix customers continued to rent DVDs by mail. As a classic film lover and someone who's subscribed to the service for years, I have a simple answer. So many great films, especially ones from the Golden Age, simply aren't available for streaming, either through Netflix or other services.

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To quench my thirst for classic films, I subscribe to The Criterion Channel. I'm also a subscriber of Amazon Prime, which offers a fair selection of older movies for streaming, though most of them require a rental fee. I'd love to get TCM, but my limited cable package doesn't include it, and I'm willing to shell out only so much money on entertainment. That left Netflix DVDs as the best source for films, and not just older classics but newer releases.

I'll be sad to see the service fade into the sunset. I always looked forward to finding that red envelope from Netflix in the mail, knowing that a great film or TV show awaited me. But one small consolation is that I'll be able to keep my last few DVDs so I can watch and rewatch them whenever I want.

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