It is becoming increasingly clear that everyone at Netflix has lost their minds.
No, I'm not speaking metaphorically — I think they have honestly lost their collective minds. While raising their prices wasn't all that unexpected — in some ways, it even makes sense, if they want to speed the demise of the physical DVD service — this whole Qwikster debacle makes me wonder if they have any clue what they're doing.
The idea of splitting Netflix in two, with Watch Instantly streaming remaining as Netflix and the mailed DVD service going to the new Qwikster site, just seemed to come from out of the blue. You could almost see what they were trying to do, but the idea of consumers managing two separate accounts and queues was insane. Consumers love convenience, but for those who use both sides of the service, this was was going to be anything but. One of the best things about Netflix was being able to say, "Oh, I can't watch this right now, but I'll just drop it in my queue and have it in a couple days." If things went according to plan, an unavailable title would've required a whole new search on a separate site with separate logins and queues.
Saturday Night Live did a pretty accurate job of summing up just how crazy this whole thing sounded on their October 1 episode. (Sorry to our international readers, Hulu was the only place you could find the clip)
While the occasional corporate slip-up of erroneously misjudging consumer reaction to an offering is somewhat excusable, Netflix is practically turning it into an art form. (Can you imagine Microsoft or another dominant tech player repeatedly announcing, then yanking plans, complete with apologies?)
At this point, Netflix announcements have become laughable. Every time they get ready to unveil a decision now, you want to start a countdown clock for when they'll reverse it. Even worse this time around, they teased us with video game rentals. (Notice the Xbox 360 controller in the image up top?) At one point, they thought this was viable, but now it suddenly needs to be explored more in light of Qwikster's demise? If it was worth pursuing before, why the change?
The sad part of this string of flub-ups is that I actually like Netflix. I very regularly use their Watch Instantly streaming service, so I have an interest in seeing the company healthy and doing well. But when they make very public mistakes, especially with several new competitors on the way, it worries customers. And even worse, it makes stockholders nervous. Netflix shares fell 4.8% today, likely in response to concerns about CEO Reed Hastings flip-flopping in his decisions. This brings the total drop in share prices to nearly 63% since July, when the company announced a price increase.
Not that the company is a dead man walking — far from it as it still enjoys over 20 million subscribers — but they do need to be far more careful with their decisions from here on out. So Netflix, stop with the constant cycle of "announce and retract" and lay your plans out better in advance. Then when you're done, and you've thought of every potential scenario, stop and think it through again.
This may sound like a rant from a hater, but I'm actually a fan — one who wants to tell people how much I love this service. All I need is for the company to stop making it so hard for me to do so.