Hey Netflix, If It Takes You 13 Paragraphs To Explain Your Service Changes, You're Doing It Wrong

by Kevin Jagernauth
September 19, 2011 7:04 AM
8 Comments
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Company Splits In Two; Creates Qwikster For DVDs, Keeps Netflix For Streaming, Makes Users Sorely Confused



Good Lord, Reed Hastings. What were you drinking last night?

The Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix bombed subscribers' inboxes this morning with the most baffling email users have received from the company ever, putting a cap on what has been a tumultuous 2011 for the video service. Earlier this year, Netflix, who reported having 23.6 million subscribers in April of this year, jacked up prices in a hugely controversial move that scared Wall Street when it was revealed late last week that the service was expecting to lose 1 million subscribers as a result. This caused a nearly 20% drop in stock prices for the company. Panic! The solution? Splitting the company in two with one half now dedicated to streaming only, the other to DVD-by-mail. Yeah, we know. You might want to break out the aspirin.

So this is how it will break down: Netflix will now just be for streaming content only, with the newly unveiled Qwikster (awful name) for your DVD needs. That's right, before where you could get all your movie needs under one roof, now you'll have to deal with it from two separate places. Great work, everyone. Here's what Hastings had to say in his email:

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated.

When exactly this transition will happen isn't clear, but seriously, making users manage two services instead of one is a massive #customerservicefail. Will you be able to move your Netflix queue over to Qwikster? What if one month you're going to away to the cottage and just want DVDs, will you be able to switch over for that month? So few answers in Hastings' overly long email (and video) and so many more frustrating questions that remain to be addressed. But in the history of poor communication with customers, and terribly integrated service changes, this Netflix/Qwikster debacle has to be near the top of the list. If you can't explain it in less than 13 paragraphs, don't expect us to understand it, Reed.

All of that said, from a business world perspective, this all makes perfect sense. Hastings has long seen streaming as the future of the business and their current dealmaking and power plays have pointed toward growth in that arena. You can bet the company's recent pick up of the David Fincher/Kevin Spacey series "House of Cards" is going to be a major anchor in their streaming biz and will just be the tip of the iceberg as Netflix flirts in the world of being a cable company. Also, DVD mailing as a business will only be financially viable for so long and splitting those costs/expenses/etc into two companies means they can budget accordingly and if/when that service is eventually phased out it won't be at the expense of the more lucrative streaming entity.

So here we are, six paragraphs from where we started and still befuddled by Netflix's bull in a china shop approach to change. Here's the video of Reed Hastings talking about the future of the company. We have to admit, it's so cringeworthy and embarrassing, we couldn't make it through the whole thing.

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More: TV Networks, NetFlix

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8 Comments

  • Mikey M | September 20, 2011 7:50 AMReply

    No subtitles on Streaming. I am hearing impaired.
    Canceled streaming.

  • Chuck | September 20, 2011 3:47 AMReply

    Erik, do you work for Netflix? Nobody believes this is good for consumers. Oh, and it isn't just the sound that's awful in this video. So is Reed Hastings' shirt.

  • Rick | September 19, 2011 12:44 PMReply

    I don't want streaming only if it's not in blu-ray quality, both picture and sound, and also if there isn't any special features. The reason I keep both is because there's some good gems on streaming, but I also want the quality and special features of blu-ray.

  • greg | September 19, 2011 11:51 AMReply

    Forget about the weird business decisions. What about the awful sound in that video? They're supposed to be a movie business company. Shoddy from every angle.

  • MDL | September 19, 2011 10:23 AMReply

    I agree this confuses things a bit. [I actually did not receive the email. I heard about it on the net]. The thing is, though, I am not sure all these changes could be explained in less than '13 paragraphs' so the idea was to get out in front and make a broad statement. Then, later, the details will come.

    If a great number of people are still confused once the move happens then he and NetFlix deserve criticism.

  • jeanpierre | September 19, 2011 10:16 AMReply

    Look Erik, I agree that maybe we shouldn't deride this bullshit in print, but this is some fucking bullshit!

    I am a poor, lazy film student and I don't have time to keep track of all this bullshit.

    My only hope is that everything is available via stream before summer next year.

  • Christine L | September 19, 2011 8:53 AMReply

    I agree with what you wrote completely. It's pretty evident the guy stayed up drinking one night and threw this mess of an idea together. Instead of rushing to find a final product, take the time and figure out the needs/wants of the consumers. 1 million people ended their service due to confusion and annoyance, and this is their solution? ajsdklfj what??

    Reed is obviously a smart guy, he created something ingenious. Now it just seems like he's driving it into the ground.

  • Erik McClanahan | September 19, 2011 7:43 AMReply

    Kevin, you're great man, but I gotta go with the Filmspotting mantra here: I hear what you're saying, but you're completely wrong :)

    I found the email to be earnest, upfront and the model makes sense to me. I get your questions, but why so reactionary and hyperbolic? Netflix has been providing a premium service at an incredibly cheap rate for more than a decade. They have the right to change their model and rates, just as we have the right to say 'fuck off Netflix'.

    I think Reed Hastings and co. have a better handle on things than you're given them credit for. Just sayin...

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