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The Netflix of ___
Lauren Murrow | Photo: Michale Byers | February 26, 2015
Suddenly, there’s a subscription for every diversion.
We’ve become a society of bingers. Inspired by the guilty gratification of House of Cards benders, dozens of startups are copying Netflix’s buffet-style subscription model— one monthly fee, unlimited access—for everything from leather jackets to Lego sets. Whether you’re noncommittal about buying art or fed up with the lines at SFO, here’s how to ’flixify your life.
Clothes and accessories
Dress rental company Rent the Runway is opening up its accessory coffers with the new Unlimited program ($49 per month). Choose your most-wanted designer pieces from the site’s 1,000 options—Balenciaga shades, Helmut Lang jackets, and Clare Vivier bags among them—and the company will mail you three items. When you tire of one, use the free shipping to swap it for something else. Competitor Le Tote includes three garments and two accessories in each of its deliveries, sourced from lower-priced labels like French Connection and BB Dakota ($49 per month). For men, Tie Society loans ties, tie bars, and pocket squares from brands like Brooks Brothers and Hermès (from $10.95 per month).
Lego sets are made for short-term fun—designed to be built, admired, and promptly forgotten. So Ranan Lachman, the dad of an avid Lego builder, founded Pley ($15 to $39 per month). Rent any of the site’s 275 Lego sets, which are categorized by size, age level, and theme. After you’ve tackled it, ship it back in the prepaid envelope for a new challenge. There’s also built-in kid insurance: Pley forgives up to 10 grams of missing pieces free of charge.
Vnyl prompts subscribers to choose from a list of “vibes” on the company’s site and then sends them three handpicked LPs ($15 per month). Choose #cooking (yes, all vibes are hashtagged), and you could receive jazz tunes from Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck, while #betweenthesheets might net you Marvin Gaye and Al Green. Send back what you don’t like and play what you do—or buy any record outright for just $8 to $12.
The Android- and iOS-compatible Oyster app features over a million e-books ($9.95 per month). Scribd, a similar service, touts half a million books, as well as extras like audiobooks, scientific studies, and self-published works ($8.99 per month). And Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited offers 700,000 titles, many of them popular new releases ($9.99 per month).
Concert films and docs
Music buffs can stream more than 2,000 full-length concert films and music documentaries on their TV or mobile device with Qello ($4.99 per month). The videos span the 1920s to the present, Frank Sinatra to Tupac. The app also lets you cherry-pick tracks from any live show to create a personalized set list.
Watch up to a movie a day—in theaters—with Moviepass ($35 per month). Just use your Moviepass card at the box office or kiosk to retrieve your tickets. The service is applicable at 10 San Francisco theaters, including AMC, Westfield, and Stonestown. (Premium subscriptions, which will include 3-D and IMAX movies for $45, are slated to roll out in the Bay Area next.)
For indecisive decorators, Get Art Up rents original contemporary art by artists like Andrew Macrae of Oakland and Chad Kipfer of Berkeley for a monthly fee ($55 to $100 per piece)—half of which goes to the artist. The works include photography, landscape paintings, and drawings, and all arrive ready to hang. Should you decide to purchase a work outright, 50 percent of your rental fee can be used as credit.
Clear off your coffee table with Next Issue, an app that gives you unlimited tablet access to over 140 major magazines (plus back issues), including Bon Appétit, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and the New Yorker ($9.99 to $14.99 per month). You can download entire issues, so you don’t need the web to browse. Competing service Magzter has a digital library of 2,000 magazines that includes international and obscure titles ($9.99 per month).
Streaming book service Epic! targets the most hard-to-please demographic: kids. The library includes 10,000 titles, popular series like the Berenstain Bears and Ramona among them, available instantly on your tablet ($4.99 per month). Kids can rate books, bookmark favorites, and earn badges for reading. Meanwhile, parents can monitor which books their child has read.
Behold the end of Ticketmaster processing fees: Jukely, a subscription that gets you into a concert a night for a flat monthly fee ($25 per month). Shows are posted online every day at 11 a.m., and you have until 5 p.m. to book a seat through the app. Though not all the city’s venues and shows are included, past concerts have featured Skrillex, Chromeo, Matthew Dear, and Tune-Yards.
Frequent fliers can take unlimited flights in-state—plus to Vegas!—through Surf Air, a members-only airline based in Santa Monica ($1,750 per month). The company pilots a fleet of Pilatus turboprop planes from San Carlos and Oakland to small, private airports in Truckee, Santa Barbara, L.A., and Carlsbad, which reduces parking and check- in hassles. A handful of new destinations will be introduced this year, including San Diego, Monterey, Sonoma, and Palm Springs.
Battle it out with PlayStation Now, which lets you stream unlimited PlayStation 3 games on your PS4, PS3, PS Vita, PS TV, or Sony TV ($15 per month). Over 100 games are available, ranging from action to RPG. Membership will launch for Sony Blu-ray players and Samsung TVs later this year.
Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco