As a once satisfied Netflix customer, the company’s recent decision to nearly double the cost of its monthly subscription plan hit hard. For 10 bucks a month, I could watch as many DVDs or Blu-Rays as I wanted, albeit one at a time, along with an unlimited number of movies and television shows streaming from the comfort of my laptop or PlayStation 3. Sure, the streaming movies weren’t the newest and the wait for the best and newest movies always seemed to stretch on for weeks, but I didn’t mind. The warm feeling I felt when the bright red envelope arrived in the mail made it all worth it.
However, there is a reason my satisfaction is a thing of the past. Once the calendar struck September, Netflix separated the DVD and streaming services into two separate plans. Rather than paying $10 a month for both, they now wanted customers to pay $8 per plan. 16 bucks to watch my movies? Suddenly the poor streaming selection and long waits began to annoy me more than ever.
Apparently I am not the only customer to agree. Netflix is reporting that by the end of this month, the company will have 600,000 fewer U.S customers than it had in June. Similarly, since Netflix announced the price hikes this summer, Netflix’s stock price has plummeted more than 40 percent.
In addition to this move, Netflix recently announced that the company was rebranding its DVD business: “Quikster”. While the Internet streaming component will still be known as Netflix. Again, I believe Netflix swung and missed with this move. By relegating the DVD section of the business to a new, practically unknown name, they are dooming it to failure.
One may argue that leaving the DVD section of the business behind and choosing to focus on the Internet streaming instead may be a good idea, in order to take advantage of new technology. However, whoever says that clearly hasn’t used Netflix’s Internet streaming feature, like I have. Instead of new releases and blockbusters, the list is filled with small indie movies, TV series and a surprising number of Steven Seagal action movies. Now don’t get me wrong, all three of these types of film certainly have their place, but in its current state, it poses little competition to the DVD section of the business.
The only way Netflix, or Quikster, or whatever it decides to call itself next, can survive, is if it makes tremendous strides and a severe increase in the selection of streaming. If new releases find their way to the online queue in a reasonable amount of time, this model can work. I’ll be the first one to admit that Internet streaming is the future, but only if it can rival the speed and selection available on DVD.
Netflix seems to have dug its own grave, but it’s still holding on tight. Now that the characteristic red Netflix envelope will no longer find its way into our mailboxes, or at least one that actually says Netflix, the future looks grim. Maybe they can surprise, maybe Netflix will turn its Internet streaming into first-class entertainment. But if they don’t, it very well may head in the same direction as Blockbuster.