I’m proud to say that I was a Netflix fan from the beginning. It seemed like such a simple idea that I was sure they would botch it, and yet they didn’t…at least not until recently. I’ve been a loyal member for almost nine years, and I’ve survived their embarrassing blunders because, at the end of the day, it’s a hell of an idea and a great product. However, with each passing day, I’m less and less certain I’ll make it to ten years.
As I said, I’ve survived some mistakes on the part of Netflix, but not the ones you’re thinking of. Everyone flipped a collective shit when Netflix announced that they were starting up Quikster (easily one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard) and doubling the rates by charging separately for Instant Viewing and for the actual discs. Honestly though, that didn’t bother me a ton–I ended up paying about a dollar or two more per month than I originally did, but that wasn’t a dealbreaker. They rolled out the idea in the worst possible way and the public relations side was a disaster, but again, it didn’t kill Netflix for me.
What bothered me was that stupid decision to eliminate the “Friends” tab, which allowed you to see how your friends rated movies. Apparently, less than two percent of customers were actually utilizing that feature, and so Netflix eliminated it so that they could devote more resources to making movies available instantly. This seems harmless, but it was actually a really damaging thing to do. I get that if it’s only being utilized by a small portion of your audience it might be best to cut costs, but there was no customer service involved and it seemed like a relatively easy program that kind of ran itself.
But the worst part about that move was that the two percent of customers using that function were the loyal, long-time users of Netflix. And this approach became the calling card of Netflix: Make a rash decision, don’t think about the consequences, and give no advance notice.
And now Netflix has made another dumb decision. According to several outlets, Netflix has announced that the company is stepping up the original programming because it is “Netflix’s natural direction to be bundled in an ordinary cable package someday and provide an ordinary sampling of cable offerings.” In other words, Netflix wants to become HBO.
This is depressing. I mean, I love Arrested Development even more than the next guy, but changing the entire business model that made you successful is the dumbest thing since those awful Miller Lite commercials (You know what the third unmanly thing you did today was? Drink a Miller Lite).
Look, it’s easy to forget just what a game-changer Netflix was when it came out. It’s not quite the iPod and definitely not Tivo, but I think what I loved the most about Netflix was the simplicity of the idea: Let’s mail out dvds and then have people mail them back to us. From the moment that iconic red envelope arrived in the mail, I was absolutely hooked because this was a new, innovative approach to movies. Hell, before Netflix you were stuck going to Blockbuster with their crappy selection and their ridiculous prices. Netflix changed that, and suddenly you could rent countless dvds for one low price (and the number of dvds I bought dropped dramatically).
Now it wants to be just another premium channel.
Look, Netflix, because I love you, I’m going to give you one of my Million Dollar Ideas. Ready?
One word: NetfliXXX.
That’s right–go for the porn.
Stop trying to pretend you’re some company with principles and values; you stream and mail movies. That’s it. Open the floodgates and go for broke with porn. It’s not really my thing, but I certainly wouldn’t drop my subscription if you did. Hell, due to your awful sense of what people will and will not accept, pretty much everyone who was going to drop Netflix has already dropped it. Set up NetfliXXX as a separate part of your company, throw some passwords on there, and you’re good to go.
Look, I’m sure some version of this exists somewhere else, but now you would have the Netflix brand backing it up, along with the discreet red envelopes. It’s perfect! Just slap a warning on there to not have kids rip open the envelopes without parent supervision, and chat up the importance of personal responsibility. Again, everyone who is going to leave you has already gone–now it’s time to win a few back.
Do it, Netflix. Then take the obscene amount of money you’ll make off this (you know you will), and throw it at those companies who won’t let you stream their content anymore (Showtime, Starz) or who never did in the first place (come on, HBO). Suddenly, you’re back on top, because people realize, “Hey, if I hop back on the Netflix trend I can enjoy adult entertainment as well as Game of Thrones.” It’s perfect!
Look, there’s still time to turn this around, Netflix, but you need to go back to what you do best: Take a simple idea that no one else is doing well, and then knock it out of the park.
I still believe in you.