Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

Summary: I mean, us Americans? Self-absorbed? Who invented Twitter? Facebook? Foursquare? No, we're not self-absorbed.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
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I hate Netflix. Many have accused me of hating Apple, which I don't. I just want Apple to stop its predatory practices.

Netflix, as far as I can tell, doesn't have much in the way of predatory practices, and yet I hate them. Bile, yelling at the TV, arguments with the wife -- that level of hate.

The difference is that Apple angers me professionally, where Netflix ticks me off personally. While I hold Apple's feet to the fire where it's warranted, I seethe whenever the word "Netflix" is uttered.

Why do I hate Netflix so much? Interestingly, that's harder to answer than it might seem. It has to do with Battlestar Galactica, MacGyver, Netflix Watch Instantly, DVDs, and Blu-ray disks.

Before I go into more detail on my absolute hate-hate relationship with Netflix, a quick backgrounder on Reed Hastings and why he's in such hot water.

Hastings is Netflix CEO, and yesterday, he opened his mouth and inserted his foot. Netflix is now available to Canadians in an online-only version. The service costs $7.99 per month. The lowest Americans pay is $8.99 per month. You can start to see where this is going.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, which I think took place in Toronto, Hastings was asked:

Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?

To which Hastings replied (watch, now, as his foot rapidly accelerates, going straight for his chompers):

How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It's something we'll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.

He actually said "Americans are somewhat self-absorbed." But enough about Hastings. Let's talk about why I don't like his company.

I have a number of grievances.

They're grievances because it's reached the point that I'm driving my wife crazy. That's when a complaint becomes a "grievance". Anyway, to whit:

  • The online version of Battlestar Galactica 1980 made almost all of the episodes available online, but not all of them. Why not? You had to order the disk for one episode. Why?
  • Right in the middle of watching the entire MacGyver series on-demand, it went away. That sucks!
  • Half the time when we got a Blu-ray, it didn't play all the way without a problem. There's nothing more frustrating than watching half of W. Now I don't know how the Bush Administration turns out!
  • We have similar problems with DVDs, but not nearly as often!
  • We pay $50 a month for Netflix [we actually don't, and my wife patiently points this out each time I rant] and we don't watch the movies for weeks. It'd be cheaper to buy them! [It wouldn't. She's right.]
  • If you're a secondary user of Netflix, you don't have access to Watch Instantly. This drove me nuts! [My wife finally insisted, to insure domestic tranquility, that I get my own account.] So, now we have to pay double! Why?
  • Watch Instantly often fails or requires me to re-activate the service every single time I watch!

That last one has gotten much better in recent months, but the others are actually reasonable complaints if you sift through the bile. The biggest two are the poor quality of Blu-rays (we actually dropped that service because it was so bad) and the fact that programs that are available on Watch Instantly go away after a while.

I assume the reason that Watch Instantly programs go away has to do with the same movie industry idiocy that pervades everything. This practice does, in fact, make me crazy, but there's really probably nothing Netflix can do about it. Crazy movie industry policies will have to stop if online distribution is to be a long-term viable media without constant consumer aggravation.

Speaking of bile, let's get back to that "somewhat self-absorbed" comment that's got Reed hiding under water and breathing out of a tube.

Next: Netflix and Americans »

Sometime, shortly after his interview aired, someone in his marketing department (or his mom) told Mr. Hastings, "Um, you can't be saying that. It may be true, but you just can't say it."

I mean, us Americans? Self-absorbed? Who invented Twitter? Facebook? Foursquare? No, we're not self-absorbed.

Follow me! Follow me at @DavidGewirtz! Wonder what I'm going to have for dinner. Do these pants make my butt look fat? Look at my shoes! Oh, man, you have to check out the paint job on my car! No, seriously, I do think you should care about what I ate for breakfast. I'm at Gate 22 in SFO. We just bought a baby bed. I'm about to go to class. Wow, I'm just so tired today. Palm Bay sucks! Nobody better say anything bad about my Yankees!

No, Americans aren't self-absorbed. Nah. Not at all.

In fact Americans are so not self-absorbed that when they found out Hastings mentioned that we're somewhat self-absorbed (not even completely self-absorbed, just "somewhat"), certain totally-not-even-self-absorbed people went ballistic.

Hastings had to write a mea culpa. In it, he basically apologized, told Americans (and I'm quoting here):

I do not believe that one of the most philanthropically-minded nations in the world (America) is self-absorbed or full of self-absorbed people.

Because, no, Americans aren't self-absorbed. In fact, Americans are so not self-absorbed that if you read the comments to his apology, you won't find a self-absorbed statement in it.

No, the guy who said he'd accept Hastings apology only if Netflix offered Watch Now for Linux wasn't self-absorbed. The guy who called Hastings an a-hole because the friends feature isn't there anymore isn't self-absorbed. The fifteen people who claimed they canceled their movie subscriptions (thereby freeing up much more of their time to lurk on comment boards) aren't self-absorbed. The guy who claimed he searched out Netflix customer support to vent his anger about the comment wasn't self-absorbed. The guy who called Hastings arrogant wasn't self-absorbed.

And the guy who wished Netflix would go out of business and stop providing a service to 15 million people and hoped all the company's 2000+ employees would lose their jobs because the CEO stuck his foot in his mouth, that guy, too, isn't self-absorbed. Nope. Not at all. Just because his feelings were hurt (or, more likely, he just wanted an excuse for a rant), this troll wanted to see the destruction of the entire Netflix ecosystem. That's most certainly not self-absorbed!

In fact, virtually all of the commenters were so not self-absorbed that they didn't notice why there was a price difference. Americans pay $8.99 per month because we get a DVD by mail. Canadians don't get the DVD. They get less and so they pay less.

Let me be clear. I love America and I love that we're self-absorbed. We wouldn't be nearly as great a nation if we weren't so incredibly selfish. Enlightened self-interest drives innovation, progress, and success, and self-absorbedness is at the heart of enlightened self-interest.

That's not to say that I don't still hate Netflix. I do.

But I think Hastings deserves a break and we all need to lighten up. The idea that we all have to be perfect is a fallacy. We all make mistakes. Honestly, Hastings was speaking the truth. Americans (or at least many of us) are self-absorbed. His comment boards proved that. But we need to cut each other some slack, and chill out -- both on the Netflix comment boards and in real life. We all need to take a chill pill.

But back to me.

Hastings, I know you're reading this, you self-absorbed, CEO, bleep'n-bleep-beep. Bring back my Watch Instantly episodes of MacGyver.

Or else!

P.S. My incredibly patient and tolerant wife, after enduring years of my various semi-irrational rants about Netflix, was genuinely amused to see I was working on a somewhat positive piece about Netflix. She wanted to be sure I recognized the irony. I do, Honey, I honestly, honestly do!

Update: A couple of people asked why the second account without Watch Instantly was a problem. Yes, we could watch my wife's Watch Instantly queue on our TiVo (when the Watch Instantly worked). But on my Netflix Queue, there was no indication of whether a movie was Play Instantly or not. So that meant I often wound up waiting to get disks for movies that I could have watched instantly, had the Netflix queue on the second account reflected it.

Shameless complaining aside, I think that the fact that secondary accounts don't have a Watch Instantly option (even though we're paying for it), don't reflect any Watch Instantly information in any searches or in the Web interface, and effectively require you to give other family members your password if you want to let them use Watch Instantly is a failure on Netflix' part.

Update 2: Had to add a link to this. Pimples. Really?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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104 comments
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  • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

    Maybe its $7.99 Canadian which is like $15 USD?
    :p
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @Loverock Davidson maybe you should see the selection on netflix.ca it's pathetic, basically a ripoff for $7.99 compared to the $8.99 USD with a much wider selection of movies.

      edit: just realized your sarcasm there .... LOL..
      emilgue
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @emilgue
        It was supposed to be a joke. I don't know what the actual conversion is from USD to CAD, I just know things are higher there.
        Loverock Davidson
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @Loverock... the exchange rate is actually pretty close to 1:1, actually I think there was a point in 2008 where the Canadian dollar was worth more than they American dollar.

        Just checked today's rate, and the rate is .02, which means for every USD you get 2cents Canadian.

        Back around the Clinton Administration the exchange rate was about .5 at the highest, and about .2 to .3 on average. So lets say if you bought into Canadian currency back in the '90's at .5 so for every $100 usd you would have received $150 Canadian, and if you were to have exchanged it back now it would be pretty close to a 1:1 exchange meaning a 50% profit.

        Which is how the money market pretty much works.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • Really?

        @JM1981
        Just checked my currency exchange gadget. $7.99 CDN is worth $7.79 USD.
        Wolfie2K3
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @emilgue

        False. Rate is still about 1.25:1
        jameel.aboulhosn@...
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @Loverock Davidson
      Actually, $7.99 CAD is about $7.79 USD.
      Proof here: (<a href="http://tinyurl.com/33e5wlg">Link!</a>)
      Maybe we really are too self absorbed to notice things outside our own country.
      ezrabones@...
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @Loverock Davidson Check the exchange rate pal.....almost parity....your economy still sucks

      nt
      ColdFusion_z
  • Wow..

    That was a long rant. I have to say, I have received over 150 movies with Netflix (blu-ray and dvd alike) and had my share of instant streaming. I have had a couple problems with streaming, but only 1 bad dvd with in-mail movies. So, I think the problems are a) all in your had or b) you are just having bad luck.

    I will agree with your statement on Hastings though. That was definitely foot-in-mouth disease.
    Izzmo
    • Oh no, he called Americans Self-Absorbed.

      @Izzmo... By making a stink over it, you only prove his point. And yes I am an American.
      Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @Izzmo

      Have to agree, for the most part I've had very little problems with DVDs.

      Well, actually, I have had a few DVDs that started flaking out half-way through. HOWEVER, all it took was a wash in the sink, rubbing with my hand, to get the gunk off that was left over from whoever's kids were licking the DVD last. Wipe dry with a non-lotion tissue, and all was perfect. Took 5 minutes.
      Technical John
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @Technical John . I had some Blu-rays that were cracked initially. I think this was a post office problem. That eventually was fixed. I don't like to stream every movie, because the streamed movies only come over in stereo. I like the service and I own some stock.
        elvisfan0108
  • I like Netflix....

    Haven't had any problems with the streaming service. Get the occasional bad disc, but hey sh*t happens when it comes in paper sleeve through the mail. Reported the problem, and had a new disc the next day. No big deal.

    Kind of annoying that shows don't stay indefinitely on the play instantly queue, but it makes sense. If something really isn't in big demand, and my guess is that there is some fees they have to pay to the movie industry to keep it alive in the play instant queue, it just doesn't profit them to keep it live.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • It makes sense that you receive more bum BDs than DVDs

    In simple terms, BDs pack nearly 3x as much data into the same space. This implies a defect that impacts a BD would have to be 3x bigger to impact a DVD.
    Yet another reason BD will be remembered as a big bag of fail.
    ericesque
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @ericesque Huh?
      BD has done pretty well despite all the nay saying. The technology is solid. The discs are more resilient than DVDs due to special coatings. The quality is very high.
      So many people think discs are dead or near dead with streaming and "cloud" computing around the corner. It just isn't so simple. A few years ago I heard that CDs were all but dead, yet people still buy them. Have you been to Best Buy lately? A VAST portion of their store is made up of disk based media. CDs and BD being the largest portion of that in most stores as DVDs are cut back to make room for the more popular format. Honestly I think BD is the CD of movie formats. It may not have taken off quite like DVDs did (the cassette tape of movies) but I think it has the staying power that CDs have as there really hasn't been a reason to reinvent the music disc (at least not one that the market would support. Anyone own a DVDA?).
      kwabinalars
      • Oh puh-leease

        @kwabinalars
        Removable media will go the way of the dead dodo. How many CD shops are still in business out there? Tower Records closed a few years back because they saw the writing on the wall. And the CD isles in Best Buy are only full of so-called "Greatest Hits" comps that usually consist of 12 songs, 5 of which are true hits while the rest is just filler while leaving a few other hits off. That's why people would rather download the song on an mp3 and create their own comps without having to go through 20 CDs in order to do it.

        Blue-Ray requires monthly firmware updates that allow you to play the newest discs with the latest DRM embedded in them. Who the hell wants to go through that ritual except the most [b]anal[/b] of videophiles. I certainly don't!

        I never had to that with DVD, Laser Disc or VHS so I'm not gonna start now. You might as well buy a computer if you're gonna do that kind of thing!

        Nope, Blue-Ray is the video equivalent of SACD, another format that was supposed to take the world by storm a few years back, but epically failed at that. It will hang in there a few years but expect to see them in used flea markets in the next few years or so. Another slick excuse by Hollywood to part with your money.
        ahh so
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @kwabinalars

        "Have you been to Best Buy lately? A VAST portion of their store is made up of disk based media. CDs and BD being the largest portion of that in most stores as DVDs are cut back to make room for the more popular format."

        I'm going to have to assume that this varies from store to store, at the local Best Buy here the DVD section still takes up 6 aisle/shelves (3 aisles, both sides) while the BD only has 2 aisle/shelves (1 aisle both sides), so what you are seeing at your Best Buy is not universal (nor obviously is what I'm seeing).
        wzrobin
      • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

        @ahh so
        Or because Amazon has basically destroyed brick and morter.
        hoaxoner
    • RE: Why I hate Netflix and why Americans need to stop hating on Netflix' CEO and lighten up

      @ericesque I own several BDs and I have not had a problem with any of them at all...
      athynz
  • Why are you saying secondary users can't use Watch Instantly?

    For each account, you can watch 2 shows at the same time. We do this all the time. Our daughter will be in her room watching one thing on her computer, and we'll be watching something else on the xbox360 in the living room. We only have the $8.99/month account and we've never had any trouble with it. You might want to check your facts on that.
    lifewontwait