Netflix Debacle

| by Ken | in Soapbox, Technology Add comments

It’s old news by now, but I still wanted to weigh in with some opinion on the whole Netflix thing. (I was a little more timely with my Facebook comments which I’ll reiterate here to start.)

When I first got an e-mail from Reed Hastings, my initial thought was: “This is nuts. The slight a number of people felt about the previous change didn’t really bother me. And while the change in pricing made it more expensive to keep doing what I had, I changed my service to something cheaper based on my current needs. But the split of the services is truly crazy. One of the great things about Netflix has been my ability to manage my queue in one place. Splitting it up is going to make it harder to keep track of.” And I concluded with: “I look forward to another e-mail shortly that starts off “I messed up again”.”

Within days as the world turned against Netflix, it turned out that not only was the name chosen for the separat service stupid sounding but Netflix didn’t even have rights to the Twitter account with that name. It was instead owned by a stoner with a weed smoking Elmo as his avatar. I suspect that Netflix could have wrestled the Twitter account away from him by plying him with some cash, despite the Twitter TOS. But still, is that really the first impression you want for your new service?

Hot on the heels of Netflix’s stupid decision, Facebook decided to change their site and led to many comparisons. I didn’t see it though. The Netflix change would be like if FB decided one day that they were going to split off all games into a separate web site that was called Facebook and if you wanted to play games, you’d need to go there and manage your friends list for games separately; the original Facebook would be renamed Turdswallow…. That’s a big change. Conversely, if Netflix changed their site the same way FB has, it would be like Netflix deciding to combine your queue with both streaming and by-mail entries – which they had already done a while ago. That’s not a big change. The degree to which FB is part of one’s life is clearly playing a factor in one’s distaste for the changes. But everyone needs to remember that FB is free! (The inability to control your own destiny is a big part of why I kept my own blog running rather than shutting that down and shifting to FB entirely.) Netflix, on the other hand, is a paid service and fearing that I would lose what I had been paying for was a legit concern.

Of course, as everyone knows, Netflix reversed course and will keep the services together with no Qwikster at all. But in the interim, they got a lot of formerly content customers pretty well riled up. Their stock took a hit. And at the same time, Amazon started pushing their video rental service. Netflix may have had some potential competition from the likes of Blockbuster and Walmart through the last couple years but the way Amazon does business, Netflix should be worried. And what did they do? They pushed people away.

For me, though, the most important point is that I fundamentally disagree with the original thesis of separation. Netflix figured that the future of the video business would eventually be all on-demand with no physical media – I doubt anyone will dispute that. However, their immediate conclusion was to push people there ASAP. But if I think about the people I know who are comfortable using Netflix, there’s a large percentage of them who do not have devices capable of streaming a movie to a TV. But even if that were the case, the content isn’t there! I currently have a Netflix Queue of128 movies.  Of those 128, only 28 are available for instant viewing with streaming.  So on a recent weekend, when I decided I would try streaming something just to say that I use it sometimes, none of the stuff I really wanted to watch right then was available.  I settled for something a little offbeat and different which turned out fine but still not what I was hoping for.  So is the world ready to be pushed into streaming only?  Of course not and how could Netflix be so stupid.  Boggles the mind.

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