Open Mic

Ding! Ding! Ding! We Have a Winner! We Have a Winner! Who's the Company or Person Exhibiting the Most Insane, Self-Destructive Behavior in the Past 12 Months? No, It's Not Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan or Anthony Weiner. It's Reed Hastings and Netflix

Chuck Ross Posted September 20, 2011 at 6:33 AM

Paging Dr. Drew. Paging Dr. Drew. Please, someone -- anyone -- do an intervention before our once beloved Netflix is gone forever.

First, let us pray. Gather around all your co-workers or your family. Dear God, please stop whatever has caused Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix -- and a man we don’t personally know -- to go crazy, nutso, bonkers, daft, mad, bananas, loopy, berserk. Barring that, how about locking him in a room somewhere where he can’t communicate with us, for we fear that he must not know what he says.

As of this moment, there are close to 23,000 comments in response to Hastings' latest ill-advised blog entry that was only posted two days ago. Most of the comments that I’ve read are negative. It’s astounding how quickly he’s pissed off all of us.

Here’s a recent post from a Larry J. Verna, and trust me, it’s typical of the comments:
“Mr. Reed Hastings, you are a moron. Your ability to destroy all that was great about Netflix in a matter of months is staggering…Unlimited streaming and one disc out at a time should still be made available from one site and at a reasonable price. Anything less than that and you will not have me back. Period.”

Hastings, once on a pedestal, has become such a loser in the public’s eye that Comedy Central refuses to roast him. A bunch of us here at TVWeek gathered to blow Hastings a group raspberry, to give him a Bronx cheer, but we stopped, realizing that we’d be insulting raspberries and degrading those in the Bronx.

Mary Ann Hillier posted this: “Netflix has gone completely mental. I've loved the service for years but make it more cumbersome by splitting the service without any benefit? (Video game rental? Please.) And charge more? The love is gone and so am I.”

Let’s quickly review what Netflix has done for us lately. First, out of the blue Netflix announced that if you received DVDs by mail and used its streaming service, your bill would be raised an astonishing 60%.

In three months it lost at least 600,000 subscribers and its stock is dropping faster than “Ishtar” did after its opening weekend.

Then, two days ago, on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011, in a blog post that will be a Harvard Business School model for folly for years to come, Netfilx CEO Hastings began “I messed up,” and then proceeded to mess up even more.

You’re drawn into Hastings' entry because you think he’s gonna do a mea culpa and say my gosh, what was I thinking, and then rescind the price increase.

No such luck. The only thing he says he messed up was in not explaining the price increase better to us. No, Mr. Hastings, we really got that. We’re actually pretty good when it comes to understanding the fleecing of our pocketbooks.

He goes on in the post to say that Netflix is splitting up into two services. The streaming one will be called Netflix. The one where you get DVDs by mail will be renamed Qwikster.

The worst part is that the two services, though still owned by Netflix, will be run completely separately and not integrated at all.

So what was once a great service, where you could manage all your video wants and needs -- both streaming and on DVDs that you’d get by mail -- will be obliterated.

Oh wait, I get it. Make it much more difficult for me to manage something in my life and I can’t wait to do it.

On Netfilx’s site, a David H. Jansen commented on Hastings’ blog entry: “Why disintermediate yourself from yourself? Why separate queues for disk and streaming? This removes a great convenience and adds a time consuming confusion factor. I am already warn out imagining switching back and forth to see what is in the disk queue and then logging on to another site to see what is in the streaming queue, and then analyzing what I might be able to stream vs get by disk.”

Here’s the comment by a Michael Smith: “Jesus Christ, who are you getting your marketing plan from? It's like you don't want to have customers!”

Kyle Harris commented, “This is the stupidest thing I had ever heard of. Splitting the company into 2 separate entities makes no sense what so ever. The way it was before you announced the price increase was fine.”

Lauren Bitar, who identifies herself from the University of Florida, commented, “My grad school CRM [Customer Relationship Management] class spent 20 minutes of lecture talking about what a bad move you made….[A]re you so stupid to not see the attachment we might have to Netflix? It just changed from a company who wanted me to have whatever movie I wanted pretty much whenever I wanted to a company who is trying to segment its business to make as much money off of us as possible. Gross. You're going to lose more than 1M customers, and even more money from those of us who don't want to renew our DVD subscription.“

I’ll end this rant with a comment on the Netflix site from Karl Geiger, who identifies himself from USC. He’s actually come up with the only explanation I have seen that will keep any of us sane people from insisting that Hastings go straight to the loony farm: “I get it, Mr. Hastings. You shorted your stock.”#