Thursday, September 11, 2014

Zip.ca's unlamented death

Zip.ca, for descriptive purposes Canada’s long time version of Netflix, closed last month. Oh, you didn’t know about Zip.ca? Join the club. I joined Zip.ca in 2005, almost as long as the DVD Internet-based DVD rental service had been in operation. How did I hear about it? From a work colleague. To me it was one of the best inventions since sliced bread or at least celluloid film. But virtually anyone I ever spoke to about Zip.ca – with a movie data base of more than 70,000 titles – was totally unaware such a service existed. Yes, folks, this was the Canadian equivalent of Netflix, before Netflix began a digital streaming service and entered Canada, which may have been the death knell of Zip.ca….Of course Netflix is nothing like Zip.ca despite a certain illusion. You could find extremely rare and sub-genre movies on Zip.ca. Want to watch Truffaut or Kurosowa or Rainer Werner Fassbinder? This was the place to find numerous of their films. Or classic comedies dating back to the 20s? You won’t find these on Netflix, not by a long shot. Netflix does carry some foreign and indie titles but this is extremely watered down homogeneity compared to what Zip.ca offered…..But perhaps Zip.ca’s time had come. After all, the world is increasingly digitally-driven and Zip.ca – an Ottawa-based firm – was still in the relative dinosaur age of shipping physical discs. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Zip.ca had previously posted on its website it was attempting to develop a streaming service but couldn’t find the right economies of scale. Now it’s closed and cineastes are much the poorer for it…..Why did Zip.ca close? The owners have been mum. I requested comment and was told by spokeswoman Jana Dybinski that “we are not interviewing.” An email to subscribers from founder and Chairman Rob Hall Aug. 18 said simply, “After more than 10 years in business and 20,570,326 movies watched in homes across Canada, we've decided to close our doors.” Media coverage has also been slim, perhaps a reflection of how poorly the service was known. There were a couple of stories in Zip.ca’s home town Ottawa-based media but they reported little more – or less - than what I’m writing here…..Despite a huge inventory Zip.ca seldom advertised though it did have a kiosk service similar to Redbox, about which I only learned in researching this post. None of these kiosks to my knowledge existed in the Windsor area.….Spokeswoman Dybinski did provide some statistics: 20,570,326 – the number of discs shipped to homes across Canada; 305,207 – the number of Zip.ca members; 70,958 - number of unique titles in its library; Kugluktuk, Nunavut - farthest place the company shipped to; Toronto – the city where subscribers watched the most movies at 2,108,647 rentals; 2,884 - number of movies watched by Zip.ca’s top renter…..So share a lament, and I still had several Fassbinder titles in my order list I will now never receive.

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