Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Netflix Splitting is a silly move

Here I am in Italy on my honeymoon, and while taking a brief pass through my email looking for something important, I see an email from Netflix about the separation of their businesses into a physical DVD division (Quickster) and a streaming video division (Netflix).

From a business perspective, I understand this completely. They want to isolate that business from the streaming business so that they can optimize the businesses separately. It will help ensure profitability on both halves (incidentally, that's also part of the reason they split up billing a month or two ago, it was a telegraphing of their moves). It may also help them limit and isolate each business from licensing terms so that they can only affect one and not both.

But from the perspective of the consumer? Well, as a consumer who didn't much care that I was paying an extra $5/month for the service (I definitely get my money's worth of 2 dvds out with unlimited streaming even at $20/month), not having the sites integrated actually pisses me off. When browsing through videos, I would usually check whether the streaming version has subtitles (my wife speaks English as a 2nd language, and finds subtitles easier to follow than spoken dialog in movies, especially British films), and if not, request the DVD. Or, when streaming wasn't available, directly request the DVD.

My interaction with Netflix is defined by video availability and feaures in the two formats in which I consume content. To separate them into two different sites makes it *more difficult* for me to choose media in a reasonable way. Three years ago, I wished for a web site that knew about my memberships to all the different sites I wanted to consume from, knew what I watched, what I wanted to watch, and told me where I could get it. Netflix is going in the opposite direction.

Remember back when they tried to remove profiles (that little feature where different people in a family could have different viewing preferences, recommendations, and number of DVDs they could have out)? You know, a practically useful feature? They ultimately kept it because so many people spoke out about it. I don't know if enough people are going to recognize how awful this recent move is and complain, but it would sure be nice to be able to know whether a movie is available in DVD and streaming without visiting two sites and jumping between them.

I've heard the stories about Netflix, about how awesome their benefits, pay, etc. are. Heck, I've even received recruiting emails from them. But you know what they need? They need to hire people who tell the upper management "no". One of the greatest bits of engineer and business productivity that we've cultivated at Adly is the ability for people to say no. We have management with great vision and ideas, a founder who can get us new designs overnight, and an engineering team that can do it almost as fast. But when you move too fast, when you are only concerned about the *right now*, you lose sight of where you are going. By saying no to daily updates, we focused on longer-term goals and company progress. Netflix needs people to say no, not because they are moving too fast (as was our problem), but because they are making decisions that make their customers angry. They need an actual customer advocate working for Netflix. Someone who talks with real customers.

I know, customers don't like change. People don't like change. We saw it continually at YouTube. But there are some people, who you have to contact and cultivate, who understand change is necessary, and who will tell you that your changes are good when they are good, and suck when they suck.

Netflix, I'm willing to be that guy. I'll do it for free: this multi-site thing sucks. Stop it.

1 comment:

  1. Note taken - moving to fast, easily get lost in finding exactly where you should be going.

    I did this once, I was making an info product and was going to sell it for very cheap and then I slowed up and looked at competitors and saw that my competitors market would actually use my product for fold for something of high benefit - that the market I was positioning my product too would probably of not.

    So I stopped completely and re evaluated.