Netflix basics: part 1

A reader just won a cool gift, but she’s not sure how to use it:

“I won a $30 Netflix gift card as part of a raffle. I’ve heard a lot about Netflix, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’m not sure how it all works. How would I redeem it? What do I need to watch?”

Netflix is an on-demand commercial-free streaming service that features movies and TV programs. The service is so popular it sometimes takes up around half of the Internet bandwidth in use. Some of the movies are theatrical releases and some are made specifically for Netflix. The same is true for series TV. Some are shows that have already aired on television. (They have a great selection of programs from all over the world.)  Netflix is best known for its original programs like House of Cards, Stranger Things, and Daredevil.  And you don’t need to be the lucky winner of a gift card to try it out, Netflix offers a free 30-day trial for new users.  There’s no contract required. You can cancel whenever you want.


Unlike traditional TV where episodes are released one at a time, an entire season of Netflix programming is released at once. This has contributed to so-called binge-watching, where you take in an entire season of a TV series in just a day or two.

Where can you watch Netflix? The answer is just about anywhere. As long as you have a good, stable, high-speed Internet connection. You can watch it on your PC or Mac or on a smartphone or tablet. You can view on a smart TV, using an Xbox or Playstation, or by purchasing a streaming device like a Roku box or streaming stick, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and others.


When you pause a program, you can pick it up right where you left off on any of your devices.

Netflix costs between $7.99 and $13.99 a month depending on your plan.

The Basic subscription is $7.99 monthly. It offers standard definition TV and you can watch on only one screen at a time. There is no limit to the number of programs you can watch.

At $10.99, the Standard subscription gives you HD quality and you can watch on two screens at once. (It doesn’t have to be the same program. You can watch one show on your tablet and your spouse another on the TV.)

The Premium subscription runs $13.99 monthly. Ultra HD quality is available and you can watch on up to four screens at once.

In part 2 of this article, we’ll look at how to set up a Netflix account. I promise, it’s simple.




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