Unable to kill its DVD business by separating out into Qwikster, Netflix seems to have stumbled on a new strategy to wean new customers off their shiny disc addiction: make it pretty much impossible to find a way to sign up for a subscription. When Netflix realized it had made a mistake separating out its DVD and streaming services under two names -- Netflix and Qwikster -- it claimed it understood the value of of both services united. That doesn't feel accurate. It still wants to push members away from the "dying" $1 billion dollar business of delivering red envelopes full of movie goodness because when it recruits new members or urges quitters to come back, Netflix doesn't really mention the "old fogey disc" part. Those determined to give Netflix their money to rent DVDs face a truly challenging hunt through its website.
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We were pointed to this Netflix conspiracy by AllThingsD's Peter Kafka, who posted the following "please come back" e-mail, noting that Netflix only pushes its streaming arm.
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To clarify: That $7.99 price refers to Netflix's unlimited streaming package. Note how it reads: "Instantly watch...." DVD delivery costs another $7.99 a month. But beyond forgetting to publicize a $1 billion part of the business, Netflix also makes it hard for first-time customers to sign up for DVDs, and nearly impossible to gift a DVD subscription.
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Here's what we mean. We tried to give our technophobic moms a Netflix DVD subscription for Hannukah. After clicking "give" on Netflix.com, we got the following page.
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No DVD option. (See: exclamation points.)
As for those trying to gift themselves a decadent Netflix subscription, DVDs included, the website, where people tend to sign up for things, makes that difficult, too. Currently, Netflix offers a month free trial of streaming for new members. It's the only way to sign up for the service, at least that we found, which makes sense because no sane capitalist would trade a free-month of anything for a paid one. In exchange for the gratis month, Netflix asks for credit card information. Then, after those 30 days of glory, Netflix will automatically charge the subscriber for the $7.99 of unlimited streaming. If one wants DVDs one has to check a separate box, which we didn't even notice until we looked for it.
But people mindlessly signing up for a free month of streaming might miss this.
Then, say post-free month of streaming, one decides he wants DVDs because he wasn't satisfied with the sparse streaming options and heard once upon a time Netflix had a ginormous physical DVD collection. The membership automatically rolls over to streaming. A potential DVD subscriber has to go hunting on the Netflix website. That extra $7.99 for Netflix is buried under 'Your Account & Help" in the upper right hand corner and then "change plan," where someone can finally pay Netflix for something it wants.
Even after putting the two services back together, CEO Reid Hastings has made his plans clear. "DVD will do whatever it’s going to do," he said at the UBS media conference. "We’re going to try to not hurt it, but we’re not putting a lot of time and energy into doing anything particular around it." DVDs just got negged at Netflix.