Are you really that mad about Netflix? Really?
Are you going to cancel your account and go use another (read: barely existent) service instead in a huff? I bet you don’t. [Oh yes, I WILL] No, seriously, you probably won’t. In fact, I bet you’re upset primarily because you don’t know what else to do, and that’s ok, but let’s keep things in perspective. I don’t want to disregard anyone’s feelings, but there’s also a bigger picture here.
First of all, I completely understand that some people need to keep both a DVD plan and a streaming plan. Perhaps you have kids and you need those DVD-only movies. Perhaps you just need to see the latest and greatest as soon as it comes out. I get it. Really, I do. And Netflix gets it, which is why it’s making terrible decisions on spinning off and rebranding its services.
See what I did there? All in one fell swoop, I made everyone feel better about everything. But seriously, that name is horrible, and we all know it, and making people go to two different websites to do what they previously did nicely on one is terrible, horrible UX and someone should be punished severely for it.
But Netflix doesn’t care. Sure, Reed wrote us all that nice letter, but realistically, the company is making a huge play here, and we all need to understand what it entails. It’s straddling two very different distribution strategies; one with a viable future, and one that will eventually (possibly sooner than you think right now) die out. Hollywood’s asinine licensing agreements are not making anything any easier. To its credit, Netflix has been able to do what very few others to date have been able to: take insanely valuable content and create a business around it that didn’t involve the massive overhead a previous venture would have entailed. Think about it – Netflix wasn’t giving away DVD players to get into homes – it was cutting deals with hardware manufacturers to put streaming in as many places as possible. The infrastructure is the hard part, and it pulled a trojan horse maneuver on a litany of devices while everyone just watched.
But this isn’t meant to be a third-party apology for Netflix’s insensitive choices as of late. That pricing thing was handled poorly, as Hastings admitted, and Qwikster, well, let’s just say that if you want to guarantee a product’s demise, name it like a late 90s sitcom neighbor.
The bottom line is that Netflix is doing something that takes balls. Balls that other companies don’t have because they’re hedging bets and burning money on dying ideas. These are Apple balls. It’s the kind of attitude that understands and accepts that bridges will be burned, but sees a bigger picture that analysts and the immediate outcry will miss. I canceled my DVD plan months ago, after watching a single disc sit unwatched next to the TV for over a year. Am I completely satisfied with the streaming plan? Hell no, but it’s good enough for me now, and it can be safely assumed that given its trajectory, it will continue to get better. In fact, my biggest gripe with the streaming service has nothing to do with Netflix at all – it’s that I can queue up movies one day, and then since some labyrinthine license agreement has run its course, with no notice to me, those movies vanish, possibly never to return to that format.
So if you’re really going to get good and mad, make sure you’re leveling those barrels at the people who deserve your fury. Hollywood is afraid of change, and instead of embracing it and working to make a better distribution system with a company like Netflix who so obviously gets it, they’re including digital copies of movies with expiration dates with plastic discs in stores. They’re making sure you have a hard time enjoying what you’re more than happy to pay for by punishing you for waiting too long to watch the things you want to watch. That’s worth being pissed off about.