Netflix raises Blu-ray rental fees

If you’ve turned to the Netflix movie rental service for viewing high-def videos without having to buy pricey Blu-ray DVDs, hold on to your wallets! CNet, the Consumerist, the Los Angeles Times, and Reuters are among the many web sites reporting on Netflix’s planned 20 percent increase to its monthly Blu-ray subscription fees. Netflix’s vice president of marketing, Jessie Becker, posted to the official Netflix blog yesteday that the price hikes were necessary to help expand the company’s library of expensive Blu-ray titles and meet its growing subscriber demand for the high-def discs. More details about the new rates, which go into effect on April 27 and won’t affect subscribers of standard definition DVDs, can be found on the Netflix blog post, Price update for access to Blu-ray movies.

The takeaway: In our most recent Ratings of movie rental service (available to subscribers), Netflix was a well-regarded option among respondents to a Consumer Reports survey. (For more information, click on the player at right and watch our free video,  Netflix vs. Blockbuster Total Access.) But Netflix’s pending fee increase during these rough economic times for consumers has already touched off a firestorm of comments on the official Netflix blog. And while Blockbuster’s Total Access service has generally been more costly than comparable Netflix plans, and recently downgraded its supplementary in-store-rentals, it looks like it might now be the cheaper option for at least some people who rent Blu-ray discs, given that Blockbuster does not charge extra for Blu-ray rentals. Netflix is also facing an ever growing list of competitors—from Apple’s iTunes to TiVo and Blockbuster to possibly Amazon, all of whom are or will soon offer HD movies. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, will this price hike change your plans?