January 7, 2016 started out like any other work day. But everything changed a couple of hours later, and in quite a fashion. Netflix, one of the big video-on-demand (VOD) services in the U.S., had just become available in a whopping 130 countries, the Philippines included.

And there went my productivity.

Before that big CES 2016 mic drop, iFlix, HOOQ, and Blink were content giving us local and international content, anytime and anywhere. They thrived not only because the local telcos have their backs, but also because none of the U.S. VOD players (big or small) were here.

The situation has obviously changed. Like everyone else, I signed up for my own account on January 7, and took advantage of the one-month free trial. If you haven’t tried out the service yet, here’s what you’ll see and find out when you do.

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The basics

On the Netflix website, click on the Start Your Free Month link. Right away you’ll be asked what subscription plan you prefer. How’s that for directness?

At P370, the Basic plan gives you unlimited access to Netflix’s catalog, and the option to use one device for viewing. No HD streaming, though. The Standard plan (P460) ups you to two screens for simultaneous HD streaming. If that’s still not enough, go for the Premium plan, which bumps your monthly cost to P550 for Ultra HD streaming and four screens, just in case everyone in the family has different binge-watching preferences. Enter your e-mail address and password, and ta-da! You’re all set.

There will be two user profiles available by default: your profile, and one for kids. It’s a simple and effective way to keep show/movie selection age-appropriate. Set up up to five profiles and choose from Netflix’s catalog to help it offer personalized suggestions. It will then show you what you can watch, and in different categories: from Popular, Top Picks, U.S. TV shows, Oscar-winning movies, New Releases, to content similar to your initial picks.

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The perks

The biggest—and most obvious—advantage is that most of the titles unavailable locally (whether Netflix exclusives or as-yet unlicensed for local airing) are now a click or two away. Beasts of No Nation, Making a Murderer, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Sense8, Narcos, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Orange is the New Black, Hemlock Grove, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and Chef’s Table? Overseas favorites like Black Mirror, The Fall, Peaky Blinders, Archer, Breaking Bad, and The Blacklist? Superhero fare like Man of Steel, Arrow, and The Flash? Russell Peters and Hannibal Buress comedy specials? Bring them all on.

You’ll also see a long list of blockbusters, indies, and excellent old films you haven’t seen in years. If you’ve been itching to take a break from HBO, Cinemax, and Fox, now’s the time.

You can get Netflix from laptop to TV in several ways. Go for the easy HDMI-cable-and-browser combo, or go wireless if you have a Smart TV; just look for the Netflix app and install it. If you already own a Google Chromecast or Apple TV unit, hook them up. If you prefer watching by mobile device, you can easily get the free Netflix app onto your phones and tablets.

Netflix’s catalog, and the different ways you can watch different titles, could help curb piracy in these parts. As with Spotify and other music streaming services, I think that if given an affordable and legal option, most people would take that over illegal downloads. Much has been said about the business side (a.k.a. royalties), but for consumers it’s downright simple: give them what they want, how they want it, and at a reasonable price.

Keep in mind that streaming quality and speed will depend on your broadband connection. I’m doing just fine with a 3Mbps connection, but I’m the only one using it on most days, and with only one device. My data usage is also set to Auto, so I don’t get unwanted pauses. Visual quality’s sufficient at the start of an episode or movie, but gets better as it goes on. Larger households will need to shell out for better broadband plans and a more accommodating Netflix subscription.

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The downers

That free month also unveiled a lot of cons. First up, we’re not seeing as many licensed shows and movies on our accounts as everyone else. According to Finder.com, we have only 180 TV shows and 519 movies to choose from. Fewer pickings compared to other countries, but those numbers aren’t that bad for starters. (Hey Netflix, House of Cards. Please and thank you.)

The smaller catalog meant that VPN users could still watch content licensed for U.S. audiences. I say “meant” and “could” because Netflix announced back in January that it’ll block VPN proxies, ending the location-specific workaround. As of early February, I can still use my VPN service to access non-PH-licensed content. By the time this article comes out, I may not be able to do so anymore.

Even with that cheat, some popular content just aren’t on Netflix, like Agent Carter. Titles also come and go every month depending on licensing agreements—the most recent departures include Doctor Who. TV shows are updated by season, so Netflix isn’t your go-to for the newest Arrow and The Flash episodes. And if you’re looking for Filipino-made content, don’t cancel your other streaming subscription(s) just yet. Netflix hasn’t localized content (yet?), so no Spotify-like Tagalized categories or suggestions for you.

As for cost, Netflix’s rates are higher compared to the aforementioned local options. That can be the kicker for other users who want streaming as close to free as possible.

Lastly, I find it appalling that Netflix PH only has two listings each for Chris Evans and Domhnall Gleeson, and NONE for Oscar Isaac and Chris Hemsworth. Kalokohan.

The cue

Head on over to http://www.netflix.com to get your fix. Also: Google “Netflix tips and tricks.” You’re welcome.

About The Author

KC Calpo is a writer and editor covering the technology, business, and lifestyle beats. She is also an MFA-Creative Writing student at De La Salle University, and an occasional book blogger at The Reading Spree (thereadingspree.com). In between assignments, she likes to read, travel, and binge-watch fantasy/sci-fi/psychological horror shows and movies.