Crazy Odyssey of Netflix: Equivalent of Lighting Your Shirt on Fire?

by Friday, September 30, 2011
0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 0 Email -- Buffer 0 0 Flares ×

Just Another Day in the Burbs.

My friend Sara, a pharmacist who lives in the midwest, posted last week on Facebook that a customer came to the counter at her store and set herself on fire.

No, I only wish I were making this stuff up, but I’m not.

Sara watched in horror as the woman brought a lighter to her chest and set her shirt on fire.  My friend told her, “be careful!”  Then, just as quickly, the woman snuffed out the flames with her fingers.  Sara shrugged the whole thing off as one of those crazy “life in the hinterlands” moments.

Parallels to Netflix

As crazy as it sounds, this moment at an obscure pharmacy in one of those middle states reminds me of what Netflix just did to itself. I’ll admit (as a Netflix subscriber) I wasn’t happy when earlier this summer, Netflix announced that which had previously been 2 services (discs in the mail and streaming movies to my TV and computer) but charged as 1 fee, were now being treated as 2 services and billed as 2 services…. and oh yes, prices were going up, by a LOT.

Netflix endured nearly two months of blistering abuse from its customers all over social media.  I was puzzled to see in my Facebook newsfeed how many friends were suddenly clicking “Like” on Netflix, only to then read their negative comments posted on the Netflix fanpage.  (Then many of them clicked “Unlike.”  Time for that much requested “Dislike” button!)  Those in Twitterverse lambasted Netflix for this seemingly idiotic move.  Bloggers went into overdrive… how could Netflix do this to us????  It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Yes, it does seem a bit like setting your shirt on fire at a pharmacy counter.  Netflix had given itself a self-inflicted black eye (or hari kari), and not without repercussions… subscribers dropped their Netflix service in droves, and Netflix stock was tanking.

Then, almost two months later (but just a few days before Facebook announced its big changes), the CEO of Netflix sent an email to its subscribers apologizing for what it had done.  He also announced they were spinning off the discs-in-the-mail business and calling it Qwikster.  This move spawned one of my favorite Oatmeal cartoons I have seen in awhile… click here to see it.  You know you’ve got problems when Oatmeal is lampooning you.

So maybe this WAS like putting out the fire on your shirt.  Or not… perhaps it was a bit more like fanning the dying embers on the shirt… after all, people were over their outrage and moving on to whatever was the latest outrage. This just reminded subscribers of how mad we once were.

The A-Ha Moment

But what if the lady at Sara’s pharmacy counter had a bigger plan?  What if she was hoping the security cameras were filming her moment of lunacy, and she would wind up an Internet sensation (a la “Fountain Lady”… who wound up twice on Anderson Cooper’s Ridiculist)?  For a good laugh, watch Fountain Lady’s nomination to this ubiquitous list here and here.

Obviously, Netflix had a plan and was not simply committing corporate suicide just for the heck of it.  As Mark Zuckerberg was announcing all of these massive changes to Facebook at the f8 Conference on September 22, he then introduced Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix (whom I had never heard of until I received his apology email days before).  And then the big news: Hastings announced that Netflix was going to be making its streaming division available to Facebook.

Aha!  So THAT was why Netflix had done all of this! Essentially, as a Facebook user, I could read in my newsfeed that Sara had shared that she was watching “Firestarter” with Drew Barrymore on Netflix.  All I would have to do is click on that link and then I too could start watching “Firestarter” right there on Facebook.  The experience would be similar to how Facebook users can currently watch a YouTube video on Facebook when their friends post the link, simply by clicking on it.

One big caveat… this feature will be available in 44 out of 45 countries where Netflix is currently operating.  And guess which country is that 45th one?  You got it, the United States!  Turns out that we’ve got something called the Video Privacy Protection Act, as Hastings explained it.  But don’t worry, it’s in the process of being reviewed and it might even be overturned.  I’m sure Netflix has a bunch of lobbyists crawling all over Capitol Hill even as we speak.

I hope Netflix’ big move works out better for them than the lady at Sara’s store… so far, she hasn’t shown up on Anderson Cooper’s show, and I’ve only heard of her through Facebook.  Let’s hope she doesn’t get a lawyer.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 0 Email -- Buffer 0 0 Flares ×