"I've messed up."
This is the extremely ironic start to an email that Netflix subscribers received from CEO Reed Hastings this morning. He's referring to the way he handled the communication of the recent price hike, but he might as well be talking about the email itself. That, and the announcement last night of a ridiculous decision from this once innovator of modern home video rental. Soon Netflix will be further divided into separate companies. The streaming service will still be named Netflix while the original Netflix, the DVD-by-mail part of the business (now to also offer video games by mail), will be called Qwikster.
People are qwik to make fun of the name -- personally it makes me think of Nesquik meets Napster -- as well as the fact a pothead kid has the Twitter account for @Qwikster. Someone please outbid Hastings by paying this new Internet celebrity, Jason Castillo (who still hasn't reponded to his sudden increase in followers from 19 to 1000+ overnight), not to sell out to the company. If he's a fan of independent documentary distributors (though he's very likely not), he'll be with me in not helping them out.
The new company's website tells us it will be launching soon and to "start popping the popcorn." But it seems this corn is already burnt before it even begins heating up. If you're curious what Qwikster.com was like before Netflix scooped it up, by the way, you can find the old version easily on Archive.org. It appears to have been a person site for a guy posting photos of car shows and dirtbike races. I hope he ended up making money off the domain transition, too.
You can read Hasting's email and see the thousands of (mostly angry) comments to it at the Netflix blog. Hastings and Qwikster CEO Andy Rendich also explain for the illiterate in a video below. I've also rounded up commentary from the blogosphere and Twitter for today's installment of The Conversation. Let us know what you think of the decision by dropping us a comment.
Is everyone happy now? Anyone? - Caroline Bankoff, Vulture
It’s ironic that in trying to apologize to customers for trying to sell the new pricing scheme as a something wonderful, Netflix is once again trying to spin a negative into a positive. - Matt Goldberg, Collider
This is literally why most companies do not allow their CEOs to talk to actual human beings. Because it always comes out WEIRD. Are we really supposed to believe that because Reed Hastings himself is going to take some time acclimating himself to the new Qwikster logo (which, that name, MORE LIKE UGHSTER!) that somehow he gets us? I think that’s what this is supposed to be! We are all in this together, man. - Gabe Delahaye, Videogum
Like a multitude of other failed companies, the name ends in “ster” - Alexia Tsotsis, Tech Crunch
My irritation and confusion is, for Netflix, collateral damage. They don’t care about me, for the moment, but a more nimble structure for their streaming company and the customers they’ll gain in the future. That’s fine. I get it. But don’t couch what is a long-term business decision in the guise of an apology to existing customers that doesn’t even address the pricing change issue that was the source of most customers’ complaints in the first place. - Scott Macauley, Filmmaker Magazine
The company is doubling-down, quite literally. They say they're doing it to grow, but is offering consumers two companies to boycott instead of just one really going to make things any better? - Seth Abramovitch, Defamer
Netflix expects its customers will now maintain two queues, with no interaction between them, so that they won’t automatically know (as they do now) whether a movie in their queue for by-mail becomes available on streaming? On what planet is this a good idea? - Maryann Johanson, Flick Filosopher
Netflix is hoping that you’ll eventually do what I did some months ago—abandon the DVDs for the streaming service. While the depth of the offerings is nowhere near as good, it’s only going to improve and grow. And Hastings is banking on where the business is going to go instead of hanging onto the past. That’s something many newspapers and movie studios and theater chains would do well to emulate. - Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood
Here's the obvious downside. While they're both owned by the same corporation, they'll be operating as two different companies. Which means two websites, two accounts, two charges to your credit card, etc. Also any ratings and reviews you post to movies will only work on that specific website (if you review a movie on Netflix, it won't show up on Qwikster). - Mike Sampson, JoBlo.com
With the increasing importance of Twitter as a corporate communications tool, it seems strange that Netflix didn't acquire the rights the the @Qwikster account before announcing the new name. It seems the account is run by a rather interesting person that is about to get quite a bit of attention... - Hacking Netflix
[The Twitter account issue] seems like a prime example of the sloppy way Netlix is changing all of this. No matter how apologetic the tone of Hastings's e-mail today, it still seems like Netflix is trying to double their profits by cutting the baby in half. They've completely owned DVD rental AND streaming in recent years, but the messy split into two companies seems like an easy opportunity for another, better organized company to swoop in and take over both. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
@TedNope: "We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery." Correction: it refers to qwik delivery.
@mattsinger: Most surreal line from the Qwikster announcement: "Another advantage of separate websites is simplicity for our members."
@JustinRamone: Whoever runs Netflix is fucking high all the time obviously.
@Lessien: When Hastings invoked AOL dial-up and Borders stores in the Qwikster announcement, he said everything you need to know about its future.
@thechrisleroux: Also, Qwikster? Really? Does it come with a hotmail account and ship laserdiscs?
@dordotson: Genuinely curious: what company does Netflix work with for their market research? #NotMine #ThankGod
@techinsidr: From a marketing perspective, "Qwikster" might be one of the lamest mainstream brand names ever.
@scottEweinberg: Someone out there now gets to say "Hi, I'm the CEO of Qwikster. Please take me seriously."
@MikeDrucker: If Qwikster hires @Qwikster to write their movie descriptions, I will subscribe to Qwikster.
@MattDudleyTN: Imagine if @Netflix and Qwikster combined services... unlimited DVD rentals and streaming. Now THAT would be awesome.
@erictufts: In a parallel universe, long-time rivals Netflix and Qwikster are merging for streamlined operations & better user experience
@jesseburton: why don't restaurants bill me separately for my appetizer and entree. THEY ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT FOODS. #qwikster
@MaxScofield: BREAKING: Netflix to start offering chocolate-milk-by-mail service with new site, "Qwikster."
@Adam_Wolinsky: #Qwikster? Sounds like an illegal peer-to-peer network for downloading children's breakfast cereals and strawberry flavored syrup.
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to be a part of The Conversation