Netflix wants you to stream, not rent, but there’s a conundrum.

Streaming has a long, long way to go.

Netflix would love to shift all of its DVD shipping business to streaming. If they did, they’d have no investment in inventory, in property rentals and far fewer employees to worry about. But if they did, they would also have far, far less to offer.

Pretty much everyone has realized how bad streaming options are. Really bad. That’s because the studios are happy to license movies for DVD use, but loathe to offer the same movies for streaming.

I think that could be because they fear that some folks might be able to save what they’ve streamed. (Why else would we so often be trapped watching the FBI piracy message.)

In fact, less then 10% of all movies and programs made are available for streaming. Much less. Ever notice how bad the Amazon offerings are? The Netflix streaming offerings aren’t much better. Because of licensing agreements.

Will they ever get better? Nope.

We have fewer options than we’re told.

I had a rude awakening a few years back when we purchased a TiVo. (We did it when we cut the cord and switched to an HD antenna for TV.) I thought TiVo would take care of all of our viewing needs, from recording TV shows (DVR function) to allowing us to stream. Not so.

It turned out that TiVo isn’t allowed to stream movies and shows that aren’t licensed for streaming — because their product is a DVR. And after talking to both Netflix and Amazon customer service, I learned that we need an additional device — one that could only stream and not record.

Yes, you can stream your Netflix or Amazon account offerings to your TiVo, but it’s just not as good as with a dedicated device.

So we bought a Roku. Turns out, since streaming is growing at a faster rate than TV production, that we use the Roku far more than the TiVo. (Wish I’d saved my money and bought the least expensive DVR instead …) And there’s less and less on TV that we care about, which is pretty much all that the TiVo is good for.

But, back to Netflix. We’ve been DVD rental customers from Netflix’s early days. And we continued with DVD plans even after they began offering streaming and we signed up for that as well. However, Netflix has a very poor inventory of DVDs — not a lack of titles, a lack of inventory on their DVD titles. So we always have a very long queue of movies we’re waiting for. Have you found that?

Yes, lots of the films in our queue are “critics picks” and audience favorites. But, Netflix would far prefer that we choose from their streaming offerings.

However, most of what’s available via streaming is pure, utter crap. Yes, we hardly typical TV or movie viewers. We immediately write off anything that relies heavily on CGI since that’s only step removed from cartoons … oh, sorry, animated movies.

Do we really want to watch someone’s video game? Hell, no. You can keep The Hobbit films, etc., etc.

So, we are stuck waiting for the good stuff. And waiting, and waiting, or searching for long periods through Netflix streaming, Amazon streaming, etc.

And it’s astounding how many truly bad films are out there. Something that DVD watching and streaming has brought about: straight to video. Movies are being made that any serious, self-respecting producer would normally laugh at. (E.g., all the mind-numbing Jason Statham “action” movies with plots as thin as the icing on glazed donuts — with the exception of the Guy Rictchie movies which actually had plots)

The result seems to be that expectations are being lowered, while the audiences are being conditioned to accept less. That results in the rest of us having to wade through muck.

We do our best to find things that are watchable via streaming. But that list is far shorter than our DVD wait list.

So, what, exactly, is Netflix playing at? Are they planning to abandon DVD rentals all together?

It’s time: Netflix needs a competitor.

Netflix has never been stellar at service. While we pay for “two at a time” DVDs, we’re more often without anything than with. Why? Watch a movie on a Thursday, return it on a Friday and it won’t be replaced until Tuesday or Wednesday. Then you’re back in the weekend black hole.

That’s because Netflix does no processing over the weekends. So whatever ships on a Friday won’t be logged in as returned until Monday or Tuesday. Then they have to locate and ship a replacement DVD.

That’s the reason we’ve always kept our two-at-a-time DVD plan. But the best laid plans … we often get two movies on a Thursday. And then a visit to our queue shows that most titles are listed as either “Short wait” or “Very long wait.”

Somebody’s getting those DVDs. But not, according to their customer service slip-up, the kinds of customers we are. Someone who’s new to Netflix gets served first. So years of loyalty, fast rental return and no lost DVDs seem to count for nothing.

Doesn’t that seem backwards to you?

You can’t e-mail Netflix. Clearly by plan. And when you phone them (the only way to contact them) you learn that the Netflix staff is much more about crisis management than customer service.

Problems (“we have no DVDs …”) seldom get solved. Mostly they provide excuses delivered as if they’re talking to kindergartners. Obviously reading off scripts and prompts.

What, exactly, is Netflix playing at?

One almost feels as if they don’t really want DVD customers at all?

Somebody must think that we’re a worthwhile audience. Heck, Blu-ray fans even pay extra for their DVD plans.

There’s a business ready and waiting for some entrepreneur who can actually take on Netflix. Redbox is not it, because their movies are B and C-list movies. Pretty much the junk that’s available via streaming. Their idea is a cool one. Their offerings are not.

So there’s a giant hole left between the release of quality films and the ability to view them at home. Netflix was supposed be the company that would cover that hole. But they seem to be backing away from that commitment.

Clearly it’s time for competitive offerings.