August 16, 2011

Dear Netflix:


Ball’s in your court, Netflix.

I remember when you first came out. You sent me unlimited DVDs in the mail each month, three at a time. Then you offered cheaper plans with fewer DVDs. Then came streaming videos — for free! — to compete with Redbox, free online streaming websites like Hulu and Fancast, On Demand content that comes with cable, and other streaming video rental applications like Vudu and Blockbuster On Demand. Life was sweet.

And then you dropped the ball. You decided to separate streaming content and DVDs or Blu-rays by mail into two different plans with, oh yeah, a price hike if I want to keep both.

What are you smoking?

OK, maybe you wanna move people away from DVDs and Blu-rays by mail because there are a lot more costs associated with this service — postage, packaging, actually purchasing enough hard copies of each video to keep customers off giant waiting lists, etc. Streaming content costs next to nothing, except licensing fees, and is as convenient as it gets.

I get it.

But here’s the thing, Netflix. Your library of instantly available content sucks! What you call “new” has already been out on DVD and Blu-ray for months. Chances are, I’ve already seen it — I rented it from the Redbox at ShopRite, I forked over the five bucks to watch it on Xbox with Vudu, or I actually went to the theatre. I’m not about to pay $7.99 to stream a movie that’s weeks away from the $2 bin at Kmart.

On the other hand, I’m not shelling out $7.99 a month for one DVD at a time, either. Sure, I can get as many as I can watch in a month — providing you have the “new releases” to keep up. But unless I can watch more than eight DVDs in a month, I might as well shop at the nearest Redbox.

Netflix, Netflix, Netflix. If you want to move your customers away from DVDs and Blu-rays in the mail and into the digital age with streaming content, you gotta pump up your offering. I want new movies, and I want them now. And if you can’t give them to me, someone else will.

Someone like Blockbuster. You may be ignoring all of the hate mail on your Facebook page, Twitter, blogs and other social media outlets, but Blockbuster isn’t. Having lost many customers to Netflix once upon a time, the once mighty retail outlet chain is determined to capitalize on your blunder. It’s using its own website to convert your disgruntled customers into users of Blockbuster Total Access service. And to give this particularly vocal group of cranky customers a place to spew their venom, Blockbuster created #HelloBlockbuster. Check it out. It isn’t pretty.

But there’s a bright side, Netflix. While Blockbuster’s patting itself on the back for being all up-to-date and integrating Twitter into a customer acquisition campaign, you actually have an opportunity to regain lost ground. Blockbuster provided a forum for your customers to tell you why they’re leaving — or have already left — and what it would take to get them back. I mean, a lot of people would pay someone (like AB&C, a full-service marketing communications agency) to run a bunch of focus groups, and here’s your competitor handing you this valuable information on a silver platter!

So here’s what’s gonna happen: At the end of August, after I and the rest of the disgruntled holdouts have finished our desperate attempt to ravage our Netflix accounts before the price goes up, we will sever our relationship with you. By September 1, you’ll look at the record number of account cancellations and Blockbuster’s stellar focus group results and figure out that, yeah, you really did piss off a lot of people. You’ll try to lure us back with lower prices, better offerings, whatever. Meanwhile, the blockheads at Blockbuster, complacent in their visions of regaining market dominance, will have neglected to add anything of value to their service. They will have forgotten to persuade people not to switch back to you. I mean, let’s face it, you do offer a combination of services that I can’t get anywhere else. And in the end, while once-loyal Netflix fans will never love you the way they once did, you can triumph.

Ball’s in your court, Netflix. Now’s your chance to smack one into the bleachers before you get tackled. Or whatever. I don’t watch movies about sports.

But you know that.

Yours truly,

Kat Simon