I’m old enough that I remember the introduction of “New Coke,” when the soda pop manufacturer decided to make their formula taste closer to that of Pepsi, which I find is most useful as a scrubbing agent rather than a thirst-quenching beverage. It was April 23, 1985, and while it was a little late to be included in all of the Orwellian weird events of 1984, it certainly can still be grouped into the moments we all would love to forget about the 1980s—big hair and scrunchy socks notwithstanding.
There was actual public outcry. People poured the redesigned drink into the streets, and Coke executives were floored. Soon, there was “Coke classic” on the shelves of grocery stores again, and we all breathed a sigh of relief, even as we muttered to ourselves about stupid executives. Quietly, some time later, Coke pulled the new formula altogether.
Sometimes products fail because they become obsolete, or fail to see what trends are on the horizon. Blockbuster went down in flames because they refused to acknowledge that then-upstart Netflix had a novel business model of no late fees. If folks wanted to pay a monthly subscription rate to sit on the same copy of Howard the Duck, or Zombie Strippers, that was their problem. By the time Blockbuster came around to DVD rentals, it was too late and they collapsed into bankruptcy, $1 billion in debt.
Now I receive an email in my inbox telling me that my Netflix subscription is going up, to cover the costs Netflix says have risen. Where once they offered me “unlimited” movie streaming as an addition to my DVD rental plan, now they’re splitting each into its own service and billing (more) them separately. I have been a Netflix customer since 2002, one of their first, actually. Yes, I’m close to being a Netflix early adopter. But now I’m considering walking away from them altogether.
Netflix may be making a very bad decision here, in thinking that its streaming service is more attractive than it is. It’s prone to the sudden buffering slowdown, and as they have a different licensing structure than say, iTunes or Hulu, users need to wait a little while for movies and television shows to be released to Netflix. I can haz access to the television lineup better, on average, through Hulu or the networks’ Web sites themselves, than I can with Netflix.
Netflix also has disappeared movies from its streaming service before, even if I’d just watched them—or part of them—the previous day or week. I’m looking at you, Spartacus: Blood and Sand. I can’t believe I just admitted publicly that I’m a fan of that.
Again, public outrage from Netflix’s 23 million subscribers. Like me, people are talking about quitting the company altogether. I’ll probably just forgo the DVDs and keep the streaming, looking to fill in the content gaps in other ways, and I say this as a very not big fan of iTunes’ 24-to-watch-the-movie setup.
Put it this way, Netflix’s pricing structure change is about as appealing as Microsoft’s WebTV. As sturdy a concept as the Pinto. Who knows? Maybe by next week they’ll say it was all a gag, or mistaken reporting, like the dissolution of the Oxford comma.