Recently Netflix drew the ire of the incumbent cable and broadband industry by admitting that the deteriorated service experienced by customers of certain ISPs actually came from their end, with the noble goal of helping folks not blow through data caps. Like many supporters of Net Neutrality, I was taken aback by Netflix going to bat for consumers in the war against nickel-and-diming ISPs here in America, yet stomping on consumer choice via this little scheme of theirs. I was thinking of ending my long-running Netflix subscription after several years, but for now I’ll check out Fuller House while mulling the possibility of dumping this service for good.
Despite The Consumerist running damage control on Netflix’s behalf, there is some betrayal that has taken place here with supporters of Net Neutrality. Despite Netflix being an optional service versus a mandatory ISP, the whole point of Net Neutrality was that consumers should have their experiences online affected only by network conditions such as congestion, or issues that would have happened anyways. Essentially despite many opponents of “net neutrality” supposedly supporting free markets, Net Neutrality essentially sets an electronics free market for web traffic as the standard for how things are run online.
Even if done for pro-consumer reasons, Netflix’s actions betray that very idea that we choose how we want to experience online content, with network limits caused by our activity being the only potential issue. The entire Net Neutrality debate began because of the possibility of service providers screwing with our experiences behind our back, arbitrarily, and perhaps offering us the option of paying an “extra little fee” for them to start doing their job again.
The past 5 years, however, have shown that Netflix is not to be trusted. The first and principal betrayal of consumer trust happened in 2011 when CEO Reed Hastings decided to split Netflix from being an all-in-one service into separate subscriptions for discs versus streaming. Big surprise – the disc business has tanked since then and the streaming catalog has dwindled too. Time and again you’ll feel like watching something on Netflix, go looking for it, and find out that you can subscribe to DVDs to actually see it, or pay a little more for Blu Ray. Whether you think paying at least the equivalent of a World Of Warcraft subscription for a service that once was less than $10/month is worth it is up to you, but should be plainly obvious here that it probably isn’t, especially as their catalog continues to shrink. 😛
Netflix continues to not take hints from sites like YouTube, with even basic things like the ability to change quality while watching on the fly still not being part of the Netflix UI even though I called this out among other things back in 2012!!! So they’re worried about bandwidth caps, yet you still have to back out of what you’re watching and go to your account settings pages just to change quality settings instead of just seeing what it looks like as you watch?!!
Netflix is a dog with fleas. It was revolutionary at one point. These days, however, Netflix is just waiting to essentially turn into an online equivalent of a TV channel with their recent hyper-obsession with original programming. Despite their brand recognition, I see no future for the service as anything distinct from what it once sought to compete with.
This makes me wonder just when Google is going to get serious with YouTube Red. Forget screwy ideas like scaring PewDiePie. YouTube has the brand recognition, infrastructure, and most importantly – UI. It could kill Netflix movie streaming if it offered a subscription option of its existing a la carte movie rentals option. Seriously, what are they waiting for? Amazon Prime is already making Netflix look a little dated these days. Imagine YouTube having something resembling Netflix streaming for X dollars per month in lieu of the a la carte rentals they already have available on the site.
Netflix continues to exist on borrowed time. I loathe but sadly look forward to the day when we’ll hear about a “Netflix channel” in a cable package, because I know it’s coming. Let this current deterioration of service and emphasis on original content continue, and I’m sure within 5 years tops the “Netflix” of the 2020s will bear little if any resemblance to what we’ve known them for in this past decade.