One of the nice things about mocking Netflix's horrible year is that it's one of those rare times a corporation's public shaming isn't connected to something utterly horrible they've done. It's not BP poisoning the Gulf or Lehman Brothers guaranteeing none of us can ever retire: Netflix is just a company that sends out DVDs in the mail. Well, they used to. Pretty soon, they're going to split the company in two and name the DVD-delivering part Qwikster, because apparently their brain trust has mathematically come up with the dumbest name possible for a movies-by-mail service.
To review, over the summer Netflix revealed they'd be splitting their subscriptions plans into DVDs-only (for $7.99 a month), streaming-only (for $7.99 a month), and DVDs-and-streaming (for $15.98 a month), getting rid of the old $9.99-a-month rate for discs and streaming. The theory, as has been suspected from the beginning of the year, is that Netflix really, really wants to get their customers hooked on streaming since that's the future of their business. It backfired: Netflix announced on Friday that they're expecting to lose a million subscribers in the next quarter after the new plans went into effect September 1. That's brutal.
But Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings knows what to do. He's going to double-down on the company's "screw DVDs" plan.
In an email sent out last night -- personally addressed to each Netflix subscriber even! -- Hastings was very apologetic about the company's lack of "respect and humility" in their announcement of the new price plans. But don't worry, because now he gets it! Those price plans are staying, mind you: He just wished he'd done it differently:
For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something — like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores — do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices.
And then came the real news...
It's hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to "Qwikster". We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name "Netflix" for streaming.
But as many have pointed out, the fact that Netflix is staying the name for the streaming site indicates which service the company really values. (Also, they don't even own the Twitter name Qwikster, unless they intend their mascot to be a stoned-out-of-his-gourd Elmo.) Now there will be two separate websites. And if this makes us pathetic very valuable DVD-only customers feel like second-class citizens, well, we shouldn't! We've got our own CEO looking out for us!
Seriously, did you watch that whole video? We can only assume this will be the same faintly condescending, reassuring-but-not-really-reassuring tone we'll hear from our children when they sit us down and announce they're putting us into a home. You know, for our own good.