It seems like Netflix has dropped off the radar a bit since the uproar last year over them splitting their DVD service from their streaming service and the resulting price hikes that made them start to resemble the ever-price-hiking Pay TV industry that they were becoming a viable alternative to. I was reminded of them though when I went to the Post Office and burst out laughing the minute I walked through the door because the “Local Mail” and “Out Of Town Mail” mail slots that had been labeled that way as far back as I can remember have recently been changed to “Out Of Town Mail” and “Netflix.” 😀 I hope I didn’t tick anyone off given the financial struggles the USPS is going through, but times change, and business models with it, and the USPS isn’t the only business out there that’s in a change or die situation. 😛
To an extent, though I wrote some fiery Facebook notes about the Netflix price hikes last year in the days before launching this blog, we can’t really blame Netflix for everything that happened last year. Often these video entertainment companies are merely puppets on strings, and the ever-delusional Big Content industry is the puppetmaster holding the strings. What happened with Netflix last Summer isn’t all that different from what happened with cable in my neck of the woods at the beginning of the year when the local cable company had to change things up a bit because of retransmission fee issues with studios and broadcast stations. Netflix last year merely got its first taste of what the industry that preceded it has been dealing with all along.
That being said though, even if the price hikes last year hadn’t happened, there would still be some things about Netflix that would’ve ticked me off anyways and still do to this day:
No Quality Toggle Switch On The Video Player: Seriously, has anyone at Netflix ever watched a video on YouTube?! Ever?!! Why do I have to stop what I’m watching and go to the account page to change my streaming quality?! Unacceptable!!! It’s nice that they give bandwidth estimates on that page so I can crunch the numbers and see that their lowest quality setting lets a cord cutter with AT&T DSL basically never have to worry about blowing the bandwidth cap for the month with Netflix videos, but even the latest update to the UI still doesn’t have a quality switch yet. When will these people get with the times? One should be able to start watching a video and if they’re not too thrilled about it but want to see the rest of the content they should be able to drop everything down to the minimum quality to conserve bandwidth to avoid a nasty phone call from their ISP or overage charges since some of the more annoying ISPs want to treat wireline broadband like cellular broadband. >:-\
No Surround Sound: This also goes for every Flash video site out there, but Netflix is allegedly all about movies movies movies. It’s one thing if Joe YouTuber doesn’t record his video blogs in 7.1 surround, but for streaming movies….. this is sound we’re talking about here. Would it REALLY balloon the filesizes too much if streaming movies were “in surround sound where available”? I have heard about Netflix working on incorporating surround sound into some of its streaming titles over the past year or two but this shouldn’t even be a discussion – it should be standard. If we even have to discuss multichannel sound on this hot new streaming business they want to replace their disc business with when multichannel sound has been on DVDs and Blu-Rays since Netflix launched, let them not wonder why the disc part of their business hasn’t died off as quickly as they thought it would.
Their Ever-So-Underwhelming Search Box: I realize Amazon’s a competitor to Netflix these days, but can’t these folks play Monkey See Monkey Do with them in this one respect? Why can’t I select when I search Netflix for my search results to be either discs, streaming, or all? Take Jim Carrey’s movie The Cable Guy for instance. If I search for “The Cable Guy” I get Larry The Cable Guy in the results, but not the Jim Carrey movie. I know Netflix has it, but because I don’t have a disc subscription it never even pops up, not even as an advertisement to try to entice me to add disc service to my account! Who thought that was a good idea?! Here’s the stupid part. I can Google Search “Cable Guy Netflix” and get an advertising page on the Netflix site geared towards non-subscribers telling me to subscribe to the disc service to see that movie “and many others” but I can’t search for it directly and get any message or advertising from Netflix trying to get me to upgrade my account. Do these people even care anymore, or have they slipped into the “treat customers like cattle instead of human beings” nonsense some of the larger incumbents in the video entertainment industry often do? 😛
Redbox Exists: There are few things in business that bring on the facepalmery for me more than businesses or even entire industries that exist solely because of the failures of some other business or industry. Satellite TV is one classic example. I honestly think Satellite TV providers wouldn’t even exist if cable providers hadn’t screwed up along the way, but that’s another discussion for another day. Redbox, however, is the Satellite TV industry of Netflix. Seriously, DVD rental kiosks. Why didn’t Netflix ever try that even as a supplemental way of providing more convenience for their customers even during the heydays of the DVD service? I would LOVE and maybe even be willing to pay for a disc subscription on top of my streaming subscription if Netflix did something like issue a credit-card type card which would let me pick up one disc at a time from a kiosk somewhere and then return it in a Netflix envelope or return it to the kiosk. What’s one of the biggest annoyances with the Netflix disc service? Waiting for the disc to come in the mail and waiting for it to be tagged as returned when you send it back. Anything that could cut down on that annoyance would only make things better for Netflix. Given that the disc business hasn’t died off as quickly as Netflix thought it would maybe some kiosk activity might have been a good idea somewhere along the line instead of letting new competitors like Redbox spring up. Heck, even Blockbuster has been playing with kiosks a bit. I’d still say it’ll be interesting if there ever is a service that combines Netflix with Redbox, or maybe a merger between the two might make things interesting, but they definitely missed a decent opportunity there. 😛
Self-Denial And Non-Aggression Pacts: Netflix’s leadership again and again and again likes to deny what their service effectively is for people and claim that they’re not out to compete with Pay TV. Hogwash. What do they think has caused Netflix video to end up being 1/3 of Internet traffic during primetime? The better pricing and convenience compared to traditional video entertainment services of course. It’s nice just being able to click on something and *BAM!* there’s the movie instead of having to mess with programming a DVR then making sure the cord doesn’t get kicked out while it’s recording or something, and for less money per month to boot. 🙂 I’d even forgive a lack of content for that lower price and I’m sure many cash-strapped Americans in this crappy excuse for an economy would agree with me, but this playing nice with the industry that they’ve shaken up needs to stop. The Verizon-Time Warner Cable Non-Aggression Pact was bad enough for an industry that already doesn’t have enough competition to begin with. Netflix should get aggressive about what they do and present themselves as a change agent in an industry that should’ve pulled itself out of the 80s 20 years ago. Markets create winners and losers, and if Netflix doesn’t want to be a winner here, why are they even still trying?
I’ve recently started reading The Business Model Innovation Factory: How To Stay Relevant When The World Is Changing by Saul Kaplan on my Kindle and although the book is very-heavy on the business-ese and corporatespeak, the underlying real world concept of business models being disrupted by the march of technology still very much applies in our day and age, and Netflix has been no stranger to this phenomenon. Heck, Kaplan even uses the company as a verb when talking about businesses being “Netflixed.” I’d still say at this point that Netflix’s future is uncertain despite their incredible first several years in business before the mess that happened last year, but despite what may happen, if Netflix ends up in the history books it’ll have no one to blame but itself.
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