Who IS this guy?!

'Niceguy' Eddie

Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, aired on RainbowRadio from 2015-2017.

Feel free to contact me at niceguy9418@usa.com. You can also friend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and Tumblr, and support my Patreon. Also, if you don't mind the stench, you can find my unofficial "fan club" over HERE. ;)

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fuck Netflix

Sorry. I've been away, so this is pretty much old news by now, but 've got to put my two cents in about the recent price hikes at Netflix.

Now... Let me assure you that this is not about the mere fact that they raised priced.  That's cool, and it's hardly the first time. (Thought they've never been this dramatic!) But I'm all for companies doing whatever they need to to make as much money as possible.  That's Capitalism, after all. That's the free market. And as Liberal as I am, excepting those few services that I do not believe should be influenced by a profit motive (medicine and incarceration leap to mind, for example) I have seen no other economic system that will bring us the goods and services that we was as efficiently and effectively as Capitalism. (Call me a Free-Market Liberal, I guess.) And this was a company that at one time impressed me enough that I put them in my Hall of Fame!  So if they need to raise a little more revenue? Hey: Who am I to complain?

Well...

I'm a customer, for starters.

And one who was at one time so impressed with them that I put them in my Hall of Fame!

Now... WHY did I do that?  What made them different from so many other companies that I've had satisfactory dealings with over the years?

Well... for starters, like I said when I originally inducted them, they slew big blue: The Bankrupted Blockbuster.  And I HATE, HATE, HATED Blockbutser with a seething passion!

But it was the WAY that Netflix evolved that was what really impressed me.  It was the changes they brought about that really made me believe they could be different.  For one? No bricks and mortar, at all. And they came about at a time when very few companies managed to pull that off successfully.  eBay and Amazon managed it, as did a couple of search engines, but overall, even today, a large portion of online commerce still happens at the websites of stores that still actually have stores.  They proved that there was yet another business sector that could succeed as an entirely online company. That's an accomplishment worth acknowledging.

Another way in which they were different was in the amount of customer focus they had... at least... up until about six months ago, or thereabouts.

Netflix.com allowed Netflix MEMBERS to write reviews for movies.  Sure Amazon did this as well, but Netflix created what felt like a close community. A group of people who were ranked according to their similarity to your own tastes in an effort to help you discover movies that you might not otherwise had, and to steer you towards those that should hold a particular appeal to you.

What's more, they relied on this community to drive their content. Not just on their website, but in their inventory. It is because they realized just how wide and varied people tastes were that they built the largest selection of titles anywhere in existence - at one time 50% larger than Blockbuster online's, and FORGET about the Blockbuster STORES.  You think you could walk into a Blockbuster and find any Kurosawa Movies? Or European Films? Or obscure classics? Or Anime? (Other than fucking Dragonball?) The only thing I could ever find at Blockbuster was a series of shelves with hundreds of copies of the same handful of new releases, with every single one of them out. Yaaaay!

Netflix realised the potential that can be tapped when you truly consider the desires of your entire customer base, rather than just following what the bean counters in the boardroom would consider a wise investment. ("Why should get this movies that only 100 or so people would even want to see? Who the fuck is this Kobayashi guy, anyway?!)  Blockbuster made us wait for the latest Hollywood garbage. Netflix DELIVERED fims and series that we wanted to see.

And that is what this latest move by them so perplexing.  They say it's about new technology, and the digital future and all that, but... Well, I just don't get that.  It seems to me that their not only ignoring their customers to an almost George Lucasian extent, but it seems they've thrown out ALL boardroom logic as well!  I wish I could just chalk this up to greed, but I can't. This is just... stupidity.

Lemme splain...

Remember that whole thing about bankrupting Blockbuster?  Yeah, you see that's an impressive achievement even putting aside my boiling, acidic, venomous hatred for them.  It impressive because I can think of no other industry that had been so dominated by a single company that the home video industry had been by Big Blue.  Sure there were still the occasional mom-and-pop stores, and Hollywood Video, but nothing and nobody could hold a candle to Blockbuster's market share or profitability.  The were a giant. No: They were GODS.

And along comes some kooky little company that has nothing but a websites and a focus on their customer base of film geeks and they BANKRUPTED THEM.  So, let me ask you something: If you have a business plan that successful enough to knock off one of the most dominant monopolies in the history of American Commerce... WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU EVER CHANGE IT?!

And yeah... predictably their customers are PISSED. And they've lost millions of subscribers. Not me. Not yet.  But show me some who offers the same thing for less? Shit, I'll leave in a heartbeat now. And I've not only been a loyal customer, I've been a CHEERLEADER for them!  I've advertised and advocated for them! They've been my absolute bloody HEROES and I have not been shy about telling people about it!  And I don;t only feel ripped off, I actually feel BETRAYED, as these Red Bastards start acting like the very same Blue Bastards they knocked off!  And WHO am I to go to?

Well, I don't know.  There's nobody that's really there yet. (I'll cut my own leg off before going back to Blockbuster!)  Netflix achieved something close to a monopoly, and they KNOW it.  But here is where some of that Boardroom mentality might have come in handy.  Not only do their higher prices drive away their current customer base, but hey help bring about the very competition that will eventually bring them down, they way they did to Blockbuster! They are becoming the engineers of their own royal screwing!

Consider this...

You want to start an online movie rental business.  But the current going, market rate for this service is $16-$18 for three movies out a time as well as streaming.  And you're thinking, "No way. Without that massive, existing customer base, I could never get my infrastructure off the ground at that rate!"  And no doubt a lot of people were thinking that. Otherwise, it stands to reason that someone other than fucking Blockbuster would have been creeping up behind them by now.  But if that going rate, for that exact same package, is suddenly raised to $28 a month?  Holy shit, did they just do you a HUGE favor!  Because THAT? Is a price you can beat!  And if you can beat and get even close to that $18 (say... $20?) and offer movie rentals AND streaming?  Well now your kicking all ass, because they only offer these services separately now, for anything close to a reaosnable price: 2 movies at a time from "Qwickster" -OR- streaming movies from Netflix. (Or pay $28 dollars a month to keep both!)

And that's what so STUPID (not greedy, stupid) about this: It's not only pisses off their customers but it throws a life-line to any potential competition out there! WHY would you EVER want to do that?!  How can you seriously expect to make MORE MONEY taking that path?!

So... for their blatant stupidity in these matters,and so blind a disregard for the will and voice of their customers, I'll be taking Netflix out of my Hall of Fame.  It's really an embarrassment now to have it there.  I can defend eBay more easily than I can defend Netflix, and that's saying something!  So when I get around to doing the Gold Star's this month, they'll be out.  I'd take them out now, except that I haven't figured out who to put in their place yet.  If they return to sanity sometime in the future?  Meh... maybe they'll go back in.  But I doubt. I don;t think I'll ever be able to see them as anything but just another blind and stupid corporation anymore.

3 comments:

  1. This is what happens in a world in which a handful of corporations dominate.

    Your story about Blockbuster is incomplete, Eddie.

    Before Blockbuster, the movie rental business in the U.S. was made up of independently-owned businesses--almost 100% of it. I owned one of those stores myself for a few years. Those early pre-Blockbuster days were glorious. The stores actually had to compete to stay in business. Shelves were packed with an insanely wide array of movies. You came to know your customers, and consciously tried to get things they'd like, and things that would draw more people. Going to a video store was, to a film lover, something very special indeed in those days. Even if you were after something in particular and couldn't get it, there were a slew of other movies that also looked great, often ones you'd never even heard of. Word of mouth would get around about the particular gems. Sometimes, you'd find one yourself. It was great.

    When Blockbuster turned up with its 100 copies of whatever came out that week, neither I nor any other indie store could manage that, but my pissant little shop had a wider selection of movies than any Blockbuster I've ever seen. It wasn't even close. The same was even more true of at least four of the other six indie video shops that had operated in my hometown in the course of about 25 or 26 years. Over time, they accumulated HUGE libraries of movies.

    People turned their backs on the huge libraries of movies, though, and on the whole video store experience. They wanted the 100 copies of whatever came out that week, instead. Corporate bastards like Blockbuster, Hollywood, and Movie Gallery--all of whom were directly or indirectly creatures of the big Hollywood studios--wiped out a thriving business community.

    Under the hegemony of the corporate stores, public expectations with regard for the business were radically altered. This was done on purpose. People came to expect to be immediately able to get new movies so they could watch them then let them sit on a table for a week or two without having to take them back. These changes in expectations were born of cutthroat practices the corporate stores enacted to bury all competition, and it worked, but, in the end, it's what ended up burying them, too. The problem is that it also buries any hope of any return of the sort of competition that once existed. Small indies can't meet those expectations. It took another big dog with lots of big bucks to knock off Blockbuster. It will take another big dog to knock off Netflix. And on and on.

    You know what Blockbuster was (and you can fill in the other corporate chains on that line, too). You describe it pretty well above. They weren't gods, though. When they could dictate terms, what you got is what you will ALWAYS get in such a situation: very limited selection, inflated prices, and complete indifference. Now that Netflix is in BB's previous position, the same is happening to it. If another huge company comes along to bump them off--and it will always be another huge company--it will be the same.

    I run into my old customers a lot. They tell me they miss my store. A lot of them even rave about it. The memory of it seems to get passed around like some sort of local legend, and its only 5 years since I closed it. I can't get near a place that sells movies, or I'm besieged by requests that I pick a good flick for So-and-So for his birthday or for Christmas, or just to have something to watch that night. When BB and the other corporate stores folded, I sort of doubt anyone was left feeling that way about them. When Netflix goes, no one will mourn them, either.

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  2. I didn't really want to dignify Blockbuster's cancer on our culture, but I'm so glad that you posted your story here, becuase I think it's exemplary of what happened to Netflix - only with Netflix they did it entirely to themselves.

    In the begining, Netflix managed to bring back some semblance of that mom-and-pop environment to video rental. It wasn't the SAME, of course. (And, very unfortunately, I doubt that will ever exist again, at least in the business sense.) But it made for a interestingly close online paralell: People with similar tastes in movies shaping my recomendations and sky's the limit as far as selection. (Yeah, the more personal touch was missing, but that's a symptom of our brave, new [online] world.)

    And it was this customer focus and customer CONTRIBUTION that gave them their competetive advatage. They let the CUSTOMERS drive the expections, rather than shape them artificially the way Ballbuster did. And you're absolutely right: THIS is what happens with monopolies / oligopolies - Dilbertesque decisions from people that seem to have never met one of tehir customers, that leave customers scratching their heads. (Or pounding their fists.) I actually figured they hired some managers from BB, but sad to say that the original management team is mostly still in place. I don't know what theyre smoking, but... crack kills, you know?

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