Netflix: thumbs down?

Before I crawled out of bed yesterday, I checked my email and saw a message from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. The contents of the email are similar to this blog post by him.

I didn't mind the recent price hike referenced in the post – it's easy for consumers to only look at things from their perspective. Offering unlimited streaming is a big freakin' deal. Add on that it works really, really well (thanks Silverlight!) and I really didn't mind it. Hell, I often eat up bandwidth leaving a movie on for streaming while I fall asleep.

But the news that the DVD part of the business will be forked off to Qwikster is another matter. Sure, the name's stupid but more importantly the idea of not being able to simultaneously browse both the physical and streaming collection and to seamlessly manage my queues is really making me think about dropping Netflix or the impending Qwikster. But I probably won't due to two reasons:

  1. The enormous selection. I don't watch many new, popular movies and Netflix/Qwikster has a damn good selection of streaming and DVD titles for the kind of stuff I watch. I don't know if there are good alternatives out there – including Amazon, etc. – but I guess I'll now be investigating further.
  2. If Qwikster has a similarly cool API as does Netflix – er, at least in it's current form – then it's only a matter of days after Qwikster launches that someone will write an application that will let me manage both accounts from one interface.

I guess what really bugs me is the hasty-ness of Hastings' communications. It's probably not a good idea to serve up a controversial chaser after a glib apology. And I can't help but think they're just trying to separate their DVD business so it can be sold off.

As of this writing there are over 20k comments on the blog post, including this gem by one Bryan Thompson:

This is great news! My dentist just did the same thing. It's so much better. Now when I have cavities on my top row of teeth I go to one dentist, and when I have cavities on the bottom row, I go to the other dentist across town. Sure it's frustrating that sometimes they can't access my dental records that used to all be in one place, and yes I admit that it seems strange that they now charge me almost twice as much for the exact same dental care I received six months ago … but they are innovators!

Anyway, I'm going to wait and see on this one. If Qwikster doesn't have a cool API that allows for item #2 (above), then there might be a serious problem. In fact, whoever writes that app (and I'm sure there will be many variants) could potentially be saving Netflix's rear end – at least in the short term.

When the day comes where there are no DVDs that can't be streamed – along with all special features and language/subtitle options – then Netflix's decision will make sense. But right now, I'm not sure it does.

And yes, I probably don't have the rights to use "thumbs down". Sorry, Roger.

Update, October 11, 2011: Well, it looks like Netflix won't be splitting into Netflix/Qwikster after all per their blog post here.

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