19 September 2011

Eight Netflix Thoughts

Wired: Epicenter | Mike Isaac | Meet Qwikster: Netflix Spins Off Discs-By-Mail from Streaming Video

(1) I don't like the idea of having to work two different interfaces on two different websites with two different sets of reviews. That seems counter to the way the tide rolls on the web, with increasing integration. (Many people, myself included, installed things like Greasemonkey scripts to more tightly link Netflix with IMDB or Amazon for just this reason. It seems like the Stack Exchange team has spent most of the summer trying to link up user accounts on their various sites.)

(2) I can only assume this is the preparatory step to spinning off the DVD business, which has possibly peaked.

(3) Users' personal rating of movies are one of the most valuable things Netflix owns, together with the Cinematch algorithm to process them.  If there will be two sets of independent ratings for New-Netflix and Qwikster then I guarantee they are looking to sell Qwikster and are probably already in the process of doing so.

(4) As with the pricing changes this summer, Netflix can do whatever it wants. This isn't some sort of moral affront to users.

(5) Reed Hastings knows more about how to run an internet movies service than I do.  If I was a stock-buying man I would put some money down on $NFLX now.  They know what they're doing, and even if they don't I think people are over-reacting.

(6) The only time I think Netflix has really disappointed me was last winter when I discontinued my DVD service to save some money. I assumed it would be like when I had previously suspended my account, in that I could still read and edit my DVD queue. I could not. I think I should have been warned about that beforehand so I could save a copy. For all I know it has been entirely deleted. I'm not paying to get DVd service back to find out. I assume that if it has not been deleted already it will be once they transition to Qwikster.

(7) Seriously? "Qwikster"? That would have sounded dated in 2002.

(8) I see a lot of talk about how the Kindle is "killing" books (and bookshelves). I am more interested in how digital delivery is "killing" DVDs. I've never been one to buy DVDs. My home has at most a couple of dozen, and most of those were my wife's. My motivation to re-watch movies I've already seen is very low, even for movies I really like. I used to have friends with hundreds* of DVDs in their collection. I wonder if they, and people like them, still grow their collections.

* Several thousand, in one case, but that's only because his father regularly traveled to the Pacific Rim on business and would bring home stacks of discs for him — of dubious-at-best legality of course.

[Update: Julian Sanchez agrees that streaming may primarily displace DVD sales rather than rentals.]

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