Yesterday Netflix posted a new blog about their Qwikster service. For those of you who don’t remember, Qwikster was set to be a separate site that users would have to go to in order to use the mailed DVD portion of the account. It would also be charged separately, boosting the price to twice what was originally paid for less content and more effort on the part of the customer.
It was, perhaps, one of the stupidest and pointless ideas to be introduced since Colonel Gaddafi asked the United Nations to dissolve Switzerland.
The backlash was already pretty severe, and a large number of customers through in the towel and either canceled or reduced their account. No amount of PR or “Look, this is a great idea!” on the part of Netflix made any difference, and the mobs just became more angry at every turn.
Now, Netflix came out and said that they won’t be doing Qwikster after all.
“It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs,” they said in their press release. They also promised “no more price changes”, which means they seemed to realize that a doubling of the pay rate in a month was enough.
They do, however, maintain that the price hike was “necessary”.
What the company did not seem to expect was that consumer opinion would not just go back to normal. Their stocks have still dropped, plenty of people have walked away, and not customers are pissed off all over again. Enough that I have read literally dozens of calls for the firing of CEO Reed Hastings.
“Reed step down, you blew it. Name your next company Trickster…” Tim Moore, a commenter on the original blog post, said.
“Sorry, Reed… you’ve already screwed yourself in my eyes,” came the very painful sounding reply from Geoffrey Sperl.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why it is that people are angry. I am a Netflix user and I have watched the service get worse and worse over the last year. Now, with less selection and more website issues, I am paying twice as much for half the value and about a quarter the entertainment.
If I were to give my summary in two words, it would be: It sucks.
But the sheer level of outrage people show online whenever something changes never fails to amaze me. You can complain, and doing so is actually a positive. That point was proven with this whole Qwikster fiasco, as Hastings listened and put things back to the way they were…sort of.
The problem comes when people refuse to be happy with anything. Yes, you are annoyed that Netflix is becoming the same money grubbing corporate farce that every other seems to be. But this is still new technology that is in an adaptive phase, one that is even more unstable from a business view point.
Think of it this way:
Companies like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and XFinity are brand new boys on the block. The medium they are taking on is a niche that has been covered by TV and cable for ages. The digital television has the established platform to stay ahead of the game. But they don’t have the capabilities or potential of online streaming services (hence why Comcast is putting so much into XFinity to begin with).
There are literally no rules when it comes to setting up one of these online companies. They have gone it alone and changed along the way. Netflix is the oldest, and so they have been in the forefront. But they have to stay ahead now that the competition is biting at their heels, and this was an attempt to do that.
Was it a good attempt? No. I think Hastings must have been high when he decided to make so many questionable steps all at once, while losing contracts with companies like Starz and bumping up the price to such a degree.
Is it the end of the world, or a reason to cancel the service? No, not now that he has shown he is listening to what customers say. I might have switched to the cheaper Instant Only package, but I am keeping my account active. The only real alternatives are Hulu and Prime, and they just don’t match Netflix.