Well, who wants to be Netflix CEO Reed Hastings right about now, eh?
A couple of months ago, Senor Hastings announced that Netflix’s streaming and DVD-by-mail services would split into separate plans come September. Because of this, what was once a minimum of $10 per month would now be $16. Many answered by swearing upon the Torah that they were mad, and would be converting simply to the streaming plan. Those couple of months went by with little official word from the company other than, “Yeah, we figured people would leave. Whaddaya gonna do?” You’d think he owned Kruger Industrial Smoothing.
While many jumped out of their skin over the thought of a possible $6 a month increase, others were calmer, and said that, hey, prices will rise, and look at all the content you were getting for next to nothing, so boo. And though the price hike did come from left field, it wasn’t like the cost tripled. And if you weren’t really using the DVDs, then you could drop that part easily, and actually save a couple bucks. So, a small silver lining in some way.
But Messr Hastings, after all this time, finally decided to answer back about the outrage. You know, in a timely fashion some two months after it was announced. And on top of the delay, he releases his letter in the middle of the Emmys, on a Sunday night. (Really, this couldn’t have waited 12 hours until Monday morning?) Regardless, his letter was an apology for how the plan split was handled, and that maybe he could have been more forthright. Fine. Like his decision or not, like his timing or not, at least he’s apologizing. But, there are two things I’m really not happy with here:
- The need to split the divisions into two separate companies. Reedy-pie says it’s to help foster the strengths of each division, but I still don’t see how it’s necessary that the company split in two. Look at Amazon: they sell physical items, downloadable music, on-demand video, e-books, and the device to read said e-books. Though they are all discrete sections of their website, it’s all still called Amazon. I’m not saying Netflix isn’t allowed to branch off, I’m just wondering about the justification of its necessity.
- QWIKSTER?! This is the best name you could come up with, Reed? Even “Qwixter” seems marginally better than the “ks” in the middle. You took one of the most iconic names in recent business memory, and changed it to something that sounds like a third-tier Marvel villain. “We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery.” Also because it was where the dart hit. And it had to sound like Friendster, which was TWO social-network generations ago! That’s like naming the DVD service “VHS Land.” Even aping MySpace would be acceptable, but Friendster? C’mon.
Again, I’m not disagreeing with the idea of splitting the company into two separate businesses. (Wait, wasn’t that the mission in Inception? Whatever.) Unnecessary as it may be, it’s Reed’s prerogative. But the half-assed handling of the backlash, and the quarter-assed naming of the new company, has really shaken people’s faith in what was once a bulletproof company. Am I abandoning ship? No. I dropped the DVD service once the split was originally announced, and am honestly willing to see if any new DVD plans are introduced in the transition that may work for us. But I’m not sure if I’d want Reed Hastings handling my crisis PR after this whole crapfest.
Though it’s the hip thing to do, sometimes a CEO blogging directly isn’t the best way to go. This is what press people are for.