Lameflix: Netflix Hires Actors To Give Interviews Pretending To Be Excited About Canadian Netflix Launch

from the eh? dept

We've talked in the past about how Netflix has done a lot right over the years, but that doesn't preclude them from making a wrong step. Apparently, with the company's launch in Canada, it decided to hire actors to pretend they were really excited at the launch event (found via Mathew Ingram). Not only that, but many of the paid "actors" were then made available to journalists to interviews about how excited they were... without revealing that they were being paid by Netflix. They were apparently given the following instructions:
"Extras are to behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out," reads an information sheet handed out to extras.

"Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada."
Netflix has since apologized, and claimed that the "script" wasn't supposed to be given to the "extras," but was merely to get the permit for the launch event, which they had described as a "documentary." Either way, the fact that no one saw a problem with this before it got this far is pretty damning.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:35pm

    Wait...what?

    I'm completely lost at what this article finds Netflix at fault for.

    It's now "dirt" when a company pays actors to advertise a product and doesn't tell anyone?

     

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  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:37pm

    The only...

    ...way to insure good results with little effort is to cheat.

     

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  3.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Wait...what?

    I'm completely lost at what this article finds Netflix at fault for.

    It's now "dirt" when a company pays actors to advertise a product and doesn't tell anyone?


    The problem is hiring actors to show up at an event and *talk to the press* pretending to be normal people so excited about the launch of Netflix.

    Companies can hire actors to advertise their product all they want. What they can't do is send them out to the press pretending they haven't been paid by Netflix to promote it.

     

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  4.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Wait...what?

    "It's now "dirt" when a company pays actors to advertise a product and doesn't tell anyone?"

    How about when they're purposefully told to go ahead and mislead the press?

    How about when they come up with the lame explanation that this stuff wasn't supposed to go to the extras, when the instructions given refer specifcally to those extras?

     

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  5.  
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    Hulser (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:50pm

    Doubly damning

    Either way, the fact that no one saw a problem with this before it got this far is pretty damning.

    It's doubly damning. It's damning that they thought it was OK to do this in the first place and it's damning that they thought they could get away with this. So, did they give each extra a fake name to use? If not, didn't they consider that some reporter would use their smart phone and google the name of the interviewee? If you're going to try and lie to the public, at least put some effort into it. Sheesh.

    (And how did they find out that they were extras and not real people anyway? Didn't the author of the linked article think that this might be relevent? Apparently not. Instead of answering the question on most peoples' minds who are reading the article i.e. how was Netflix busted, instead we get boilerplate paragraphs about Netflix's entry into Canada. Nice journalism there, 570News.com.)

     

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  6.  
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    Hulser (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Re: Re: Wait...what?

    when the instructions given refer specifcally to those extras?

    Ah, good point. Triply damning. Damning for trying it in the first place, damning for thinking they could get away with it, and damning for trying to cover it up.

     

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  7.  
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    Marc Morrell (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:00pm

    Product Endorsement Representatives

    Product Endorsement Representatives, also known as "actors", has been a viable marketing tool used by most companies, for as long as advertising has existed. Hey Bob, can you act like you really like my product in front of all these people, so I can sell more of it?

    Misleading the press? Are you kidding me? Whatever gets ratings for the media company...paid actors or real people...they don't care.

    Blogs, comments, and other types of Viral Marketing have been happening since the 1st person was able to share a thought on the Internet. People who are paid to spread the good word about a product are EVERYWHERE!

    Wake up people! If you don't like that the world is trying to sell you something - do us all a favor and UNPLUG.

     

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  8.  
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    Harry, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:03pm

    NFLX

    Oh! Actors promoting a product!!
    Who ever heard of such a thing.
    Grow up.

     

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  9.  
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    Hulser (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    Product Endorsement Representatives, also known as "actors", has been a viable marketing tool used by most companies, for as long as advertising has existed.

    The difference between most actors involved in advertising is that people know they're actors. See a commercial on TV with a non-celebrity? Actor. Hear non-celebrity on a radio commercial? Actor. Invited to an event where people are walking up on the street and giving interviews to the press? You can bet the presumption is that they are part of the general public and not being paid to endorse the product.

    People who are paid to spread the good word about a product are EVERYWHERE!

    So are thieves, rapists, and murderers. It doesn't make it right. What in the hell does how common something is relate to whether or not it's moral?

     

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  10.  
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    TPBer, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Non-issue

    Netflix can really do no wrong at this point in time Who really cares about this actor thing when they give you access to 75K movies and shows for 8.95/mo US

    The big difference with Netflix is the interace you choose. Tbe Roku player is the best bag for your buck. Just link this player to your Netflix account and you can take anywhere there is an internet connex.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    Rapists are everywhere????!!!

    *peers creepily above his cubicle walls*

     

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  12.  
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    derp, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    Astroturfing

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:31pm

    I think they wanted to emulate what happens in China, where actors are being hired by the bucket to engage, politicians, other clients and so forth, the Chinese apparently don't care to be duped.

     

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  14.  
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    Colin, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    People who are paid to spread the good word about a product are EVERYWHERE!

    So are thieves, rapists, and murderers. It doesn't make it right. What in the hell does how common something is relate to whether or not it's moral?



    What a wildly inappropriate comparison.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:38pm

    So this documentary is inline with all the other "documentary's" after 12am on lame cable stations?

    Color me SHOCKED!!!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:41pm

    Doesn't Chris Angel do this same thing?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 1:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    What a wildly inappropriate comparison.

    You do understand the concept of the comparison, right? Saying that two things are similar in one respect does not in any way, shape, or form imply that they are similar in all or even most respects. It's quite simple, really.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:06pm

    They mislead the press. Big deal. If you don't realize how often our press is mislead, then you aren't looking very hard. I blame the press for not taking the time to verify their sources.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    the "script" wasn't supposed to be given to the "extras," but was merely to get the permit for the launch event, which they had described as a "documentary."


    Shorter Netflix: We didn't mean to lie to the press, just to the permit office.

     

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  20.  
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    Danny, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Should I become a market executive?

    You when something as big as Netflix comes into a new market I would think that someone in that company had the bright idea to maybe lead off with a promotional contest like asking Canadians to do a short vid clip expressing how excited they are that Netflix is coming to Canada or something like that. My point is why spend money hiring actors when there are actual excited people who would probably talked positively about Netflix for free.

     

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  21.  
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    J-Dog, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Yawn.

     

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  22.  
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    Eugene (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:25pm

    See, I say this happens all the time, that the press is constantly being mislead by companies that use actors and other tricks to perpetuate false information, and people just brush it off. "oh Eugene, you and your conspiracy theories".

    Well suck it, rational people! I was right! Booyah

     

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  23.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re: Wait...what?

    "What they can't do is send them out to the press pretending they haven't been paid by Netflix to promote it."
    I couldn't connect the dots because I don't put the same stock in journalism as most do, I suppose.

    I mean, think about it. The original story was about Netflix's entry into the Canadian market. Would it really matter the excitement was fake or not?

    Now that this story broke out, one has to wonder if the journalists were duped with an even better publicity stunt.

    Either way, Netflix got its publicity and we all know there's no difference between bad and good publicity. The Streisand Effect, if you will, plays a small part here.

    Right? ;)

     

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  24.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    Hurray for Twitter, Shame on the Journalists

    I find it odd and upsetting that the journalists could be fooled so easily by actors and a Twitter storm was the source of uncovering the deception.

    When I was reporting technology news it was always obvious who was the paid shill at an announcement or what wasn't being told to the audience. I remember when Lotus showed us a new 123 release in the 1980s (now I've aged myself). It was suspiciously fast and most of us spotted it after an amazingly short recalculation time. When pressed the spokeswoman admitted the CPU was a new experimental core called Pentium that Intel had loaned to Lotus for lab testing and the marketing team had usurped for Dog and Pony shows. It seems that cheating is common when a large amount of money is involved and should always be looked for. Perhaps the real story is the apparent laziness and gullibility and ignorance of the press.

     

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  25.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Hurray for Twitter, Shame on the Journalists

    Actually, it may not have been a Pentium but an 80486 with a math co-processor. I recall that I was using an IBM AT clone at the time and the 486 was a screaming speed monster in comparison. Now my cell phone is faster.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Nick Mc, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:09pm

    Doesn't matter anyway

    Netflix will likely go down in flames in Canada anyway. When the biggest Cable ISP (Rogers) thinks that a 60gig monthly cap is plenty for us, that's a top line expensive plan by the way. Well at 60 gig and I think $2 per gig over that how much do you think Canadians will actually use Netflix. I'd bet not much. Oh and they also LOWERED the caps pretty much the same day that Netflix announced it's coming here. They're not known as "Robbers" here for nothing.
    And don't get me started on the 512meg cap on the iPhone, what is it in the States? 2gig for a normal package?

     

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  27.  
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    Colin, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    Of course I understand it. It doesn't mean extrapolating "there are actors everywhere" to "there are rapists everywhere" any less absurd.

     

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  28.  
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    TW Burger (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Doesn't matter anyway

    A good point. Shaw is the same with a cap of 60GB download limit on the standard plan and 100GB on the 'Xtreme'. So, the true ability to download from Netflix is quite limited. An example mentioned was 2.9 gigabytes of data for a 108-minute film. So a potential limit is about 20 feature length films a month with a practical limit being much less if any other internet activity is wanted without extra charges or potential suspension of the account by the ISP. I watch a movie nearly every day so Netflix falls a little short as a sole content provider. There is also the question of download speeds. Although Canada pioneered long distance mass communications our telecom infrastructure has fallen short of many other countries and I'm unsure of the quality of service Netflix can provide. Lately my service is so choppy that it's often taken 2 minutes for GMail to load.

     

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  29.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: Wait...what?

    "Companies can hire actors to advertise their product all they want. What they can't do is send them out to the press pretending they haven't been paid by Netflix to promote it."

    In the US they need to state paid actors.

    Is this something that needs to be done in canada?
    or is it perfectly acceptable behavior there from an advertising perspective?

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    Of course I understand it.

    Apparently you don't because if you did, you'd know that a comparison doesn't require 100% similarity.


    It doesn't mean extrapolating "there are actors everywhere" to "there are rapists everywhere" any less absurd.

    It's not an extrapolation; it's a comparison. Actors paid to endorse a product (by lying) are (according to the original poster) "everywhere". There are people who do other unethical things, like rapists, everywhere too. These two groups are similar in that they both do unethical things and are everywhere. Why is this comparison "wildly inappropriate"? Because you falsely think that I'm trying to imply that lying to a reporter is the same level of immorality as raping someone?

     

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  31.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 3:57pm

    While I find this truely scummy ....

    There is no such thing as bad publicity. Netflix is coming-has come to Canada is the only thing people will remember in 3 months. For netflix this is a golden opportunity to get canadian bloggers and the press to spread the word with a very limited ad budget.

     

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  32.  
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    Mojo, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 4:07pm

    Yeah this is a pretty poor move on Netflix' part and is bound to leave a sour taste in people's mouths.

    The most surprising thing is that Netflix doesn't NEED to resort to such underhanded tactics - they have a great, successful service that people are happy with - why stoop to this level to "get people excited?"

    Some overzealous marketing person should NOT have been allowed to go this far.

     

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  33.  
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    Joe, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 4:52pm

    now all they need to do is get some movies in there. right now the cub board is pretty bare. a lot of movies that are available on .com are not there on .ca.

    Star Wars 1-6 - not available
    Matrix trilogy - not available
    Indiana Jones (movies and tv series) - not available
    Waterworld - available.... oh joy

    The only recent movies I'm seeing are real second stringers like Bulletproof monk.

    As the kids say - At first I was like :0 :D, but then I was like :-(

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 5:41pm

    i'd call it consumer fraud

    But who am i....

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 5:42pm

    impersonation laws?

    its illegal to impersonate someone , who did they claim to be and then they should be arrested ....I am sure we have a person named just about everything in canada....EVEN John Doe...

     

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  36.  
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    Angry Puppy (profile), Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 7:08pm

    Re: Netflix Content

    I liked Water World. Look, you can't expect unlimited access to 'Avatar' for 8 bucks a month. If they have quality content then it might be appealing.

    Do they have good 'B' pictures (or pictures styled as such). I looked up a few personal favorites on the Canadian site to see:

    Any Tarantino movies? Only 'Reservoir Dogs'
    'Big Night' Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci, and Ian Holm? NO
    'Dog Soldiers'? NO
    'Congo'? NO
    '200 Cigarettes'? NO
    Fellini Pictures? Only 81/2 and La Strada
    Akira Kurosawa? Seven films, not bad, but hardly a comprehensive collection.
    'THX1138'? NO
    Carpenter's 'Dark Star'? NO
    'Little Miss Sunshine'? NO

    I have to agree with you Joe, kinda lame.

     

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  37.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 22nd, 2010 @ 7:25pm

    Dishonesty Due To Greed, Call Them On It

    This goes beyond astroturfing. It is dishonesty due to greed. Netflix should be called on it in public, often and long. They have to get the message that this sort of behavior is not acceptable.

     

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  38.  
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    BruceLD, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 4:19am

    Subject

    I was very excited to hear about Netflix video streaming coming to Canada. I quickly opted in to be notified when the service would become available.

    I finally got the notice and I quickly signed up for the 1 month free trial. I kept thinking "finally I can watch all that I can eat movies and TV shows and not have to pirate anymore and save hard drive space."

    For $7.99 a month I thought that was a bargain as I would have been willing to pay TRIPLE that for a high quality all you can eat service!

    I have to say, I'm dissapointed with the selection of movies and TV shows. Most of the stuff I really WANT to watch are not listed. I imagine it has to do with that nasty "due to license restrictions this content can not be viewed in your country" nonsense as well as the networks/studios that are not willing to join the service. Note: Hulu is not available in Canada and proxy services are all eventually weeded out due to monitoring of excessive amount of traffic requests from one or more IP addresses.

    My overall feeling is; I probably will not go passed the free trial. I do NOT like restrictions whatsoever, so I may just go back to pirating. It may take a bit of time to download what I want and it may take up hard drive space, but at least I can watch everything I want without those nasty country restrictions.

    F*CK the corporations with their restrictions and refusing to take part in offering services based on convenience. I was willing to pay for a legitimate service, but you've just driven me back to piracy.

     

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  39.  
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    BruceLD, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 4:25am

    Speak of the devil

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 5:38am

    Re: Doesn't matter anyway

    thats what you get for going with rogers.

    I'm with Teksavvy and for $30/month you get 200GB cap. $40 gets you unlimited

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 6:07am

    Re: NFLX

    What an insightful comment ... of course, it probably would have been more insightful if you had read the story instead of just the headline.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Sep 23rd, 2010 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Product Endorsement Representatives

    They are waiting for you in the bathrooms. You should hold in everything until you get home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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