How Does Taking Away A Popular Feature 'Improve Netflix'?

from the please-explain dept

I am not currently a Netflix customer, but one of the features of the service that I thought was quite useful (and I know plenty of people who use it actively) was the "profiles" feature that let a single family/household set up separate queues of movies they wanted. So, for example, a husband, wife and kids could each get their own list of movies with separate logins, rather than having to manage a single queue. This made the service a lot more useful for a household. And yet... Netflix is eliminating the feature, and doing so with the bizarre Orwellian explanation:
Why? While it may be disappointing to see this feature go away, this change will help us to continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.
Can someone explain how eliminating a feature that many people use improves the Netflix website? You see, Netflix, if you're going to remove a feature and say that the website is better because of it, it would actually help if you explained how or why it's better (i.e., you're replacing that feature with something better). To simply say that removing a well-liked feature makes the website better without any further explanation, you're basically calling your customers stupid because you think they'll believe what's clearly bogus.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    M., Jun 19th, 2008 @ 3:22pm

    Netflix

    I have Netflix.

    Their website has become a jumbled mess.

    Apparently someone high up over there, THOUGHT about it - and how they could HELP us. So they screwed up the whole interface.

    I'm guessing they hired a new officer, and he THOUGHT about helping everyone. Thanks alot.

    If they keep screwing up the interface I'm going to cancel my membership.

    Thanx Corporate Netflix Trolls. Quit thinking.

    Thanx.

     

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    Bill W, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 3:54pm

    Profiles are [were] good!

    "clearly bogus" ... 'nuff said!

    I have put my Netflix account on "90-day hold" to evaluate the change but I think I will probably cancel unless they come up with something better to replace profiles.

    Actually, one of the reasons that I originally signed up for the more expensive two-at-a-time plan was specifically so that I could use that to give my wife her own profile. Had that option not been available I would definitely have gone with the one-at-a-time plan (we're not big movie watchers)

    We were talking this over just last night, as a matter of fact, and said that the reason I went with Netflix was the way they presented recommendations and allowed you to connect with friends and family members to see what they liked and disliked. By removing the profiles they are taking a lot of the value away from those features too because my wife and I have VERY different tastes in movies. She had her own recommendations and I had my own. By merging them the value is severely diluted.

    I suppose they figure that people such as myself will get TWO separate accounts on Netflix. ... NOT! ...

    I think I'll spend some time learning how to use OnDemand on my Comcast system...

     

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    Step Away From the TV..., Jun 19th, 2008 @ 4:01pm

    When are you fat boys and girls gonna learn?

    It's summertime. Turn the TV and video games off and get your fat, lazy asses outside and move around.

    Wash your car, paint your house, just do something constructive.

    Movies today suck anyway.

    Now move!!!

     

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      Bill W, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 4:13pm

      Re: Step Away ...

      Yeah, you're probably right about getting out and doing stuff but I think you're wrong about the movies (well, maybe right about "today's movies") because one of the great things about Netflix was you aren't restricted to "new" stuff or even only "popular" stuff. Most of the movies I got from Netflix were "fringe" or "old" ... not stuff that I would want to actually own but definitely worth watching ... one of the first was "Forbidden Planet" as an example. Followed by "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Seven Samurai" ... I don't think I'm going to find those on OnDemand!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 4:15pm

      Re:

      Technology is teh devil! Obviously, the solution to all tech and media related problems is to stop using it. Don't bother fixing things, because tek = santa. Er, satan.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 5:37am

      Re:

      what

       

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    Steven, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 4:18pm

    Netflix Troubles

    Netflix has a whole host of problems that could be pointed out. I have used Netflix off and on for some time and overall they do a good job. However, I have a number of grips that I would gladly share with them. But, they really don't care as a whole about the problems.

    I have called on several occasions to resolve a problem and yet fairly simple and mundane issues cannot be resolved with them. For example, I put my account on hold and later changed my mind. They have no mechanism in place to move your hold date to earlier in time only later. To change the hold you must either cancel and rejoin or go in at a particular point in time and reactivate. Even the customer service people (and I use that term very loosely) cannot move the date to be earlier in time than the date you chose. This makes absolutely no since to me and even seems to be against their best interests in the business to get customers paying again.

    Customer service has almost no power to resolve customer issues which is always a bad combination. I have almost never been satisfied by their response when I call in.

    And the plan cost is kind of stupid also. For 3 at a time, they charge you $16.99 while is cost $7.00 more for 4 at a time plan. So you average less than $6.00 for 3 at a time and have a relatively huge penalty to get one more per month. When I did do four at a time, they further penalized me by shipping one of my dvds across the country rather than just going to the next item in the queue. The dvd took more well than a week to arrive and I had actually waited so long that I had to report it as lost before it did show up a few days later.

    Consequently, it does not surprise me that they are removing useful features that people like. I would rather they remove the Watch Instantly feature which is unreliable except that it deducts a movie from your balance whether you actually get to watch it or not. I have abandoned that feature some time ago. So many other places already give you things to watch online for free and actually seem to care if they work or not.

    Thank you for reading.

     

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    some old guy, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 4:25pm

    Profiles were awesome

    I admit, I cancelled my netflix account about 5 months ago. We had basically outgrown it. But in our "heyday" we as a family had 3 profiles set up. One for the wife, one for me, and one for the kids. Kids got two movies, me and wife got one each. (ya, we had the 4 at a time plan). The kids take an EXCEPTIONALLY long time to get bored of a movie. When their movies were in my queue, I would normally wind up with all 4 movies out being kids movies, and the kids not willing to part with them. The wife would usually want to watch hers twice. Once for entertainment, and the second time so she could tear it apart. Me, I tear movies apart the first time through.

    We used the profiles to GREATLY improve our satisfaction with the service. I just don't understand how netflix can justify saying removing this awesome feature is an improvement.

    I *am* willing to believe that they are hiding a patent lawsuit here, or somethign to that effect. Netflix operates on extremely thin margins, so if someone approached with some (bs) patent and demanded royalties... if netflix thought there was a good chance they would lose that, then they would be making a wise decision to just remove the functionality.

    But..clearly thats not what they said is their reason. If they really did remove this awesome feature to improve the service, then they need to fire whoever thought that was a good idea.

     

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      David, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:03pm

      Re: Profiles were awesome

      Hmm... That may be a good point. It may be due to a legal problem rather than a technical one.

      I never used Profiles, myself, but have been a Netflix user for a few years. I am overall pretty happy. When I started, they only had the one shipping depot, and it took a week round trip to get new movies. Now, I get them back in 2 days.

      I'll keep using it.

       

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    j, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:15pm

    crazies?

    I don't know what Netflix you naysayers are talking about, but there's a lot of incorrect information in this thread.

    @David - I'm with you, been a member since introduction basically and they've basically only gotten better and continued to add features.

    As a young, single person living alone I never had a need for the 'profiles' feature and honestly didn't even know it was an option. I understand that a large percentage of Netflix users are families that would find this feature greatly useful, but I am hard-pressed to believe that they would remove it without plans for an even better replacement feature or major user-interface overhaul.

    By the way, for all those people saying they are going to quit...who are you going to go with? Blockbuster? Hate to break it to you, but however bad you think Netflix is, Blockbuster is 1000x WORSE with their online service. Don't believe me? Go sign up and find out!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 6:06pm

      Re: crazies?

      "there's a lot of incorrect information in this thread."

      "however bad you think Netflix is, Blockbuster is 1000x WORSE with their online service."

      So you've had Netflix since the beginning, but know that Blockbuster is worse, eh? Thanks for adding to the misinformation.

      And just because they don't announce the new feature(s) that will "improve" the site at this time, doesn't mean it won't be something great. What's the point in even talking about canceling your membership before you hear what all the changes are.

       

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    j, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:15pm

    crazies?

    I don't know what Netflix you naysayers are talking about, but there's a lot of incorrect information in this thread.

    @David - I'm with you, been a member since introduction basically and they've basically only gotten better and continued to add features.

    As a young, single person living alone I never had a need for the 'profiles' feature and honestly didn't even know it was an option. I understand that a large percentage of Netflix users are families that would find this feature greatly useful, but I am hard-pressed to believe that they would remove it without plans for an even better replacement feature or major user-interface overhaul.

    By the way, for all those people saying they are going to quit...who are you going to go with? Blockbuster? Hate to break it to you, but however bad you think Netflix is, Blockbuster is 1000x WORSE with their online service. Don't believe me? Go sign up and find out!

     

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    Pete, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:21pm

    They didn't say it would make the site better

    So - the text on this story is just plain wrong. Netflix said the change would allow them to make the site better - not that it would make the site better on its own. That's not splitting hairs, it's a massive difference. Maybe they're building something new, and that feature got in the way. Maybe it keeps them from partnering with someone. Maybe it removes a legal hurdle somewhere. Who knows. But they're not claiming what the topic creator says they are. Why is crap like this on techdirt?

     

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      chad, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 7:43pm

      Re: They didn't say it would make the site better

      I completely agree!

      A couple years ago, my company had to remove a feature. It sucks, but sometimes it's near impossible to add something new if you have to take into account old cruft. The feature we removed was only used by about 10% of the users, but they were vocal! Same sort of remarks that are here, "what sort of idiot *removes* features?!?" The "idiot" that took over and had to keep things running.

      I am a netflix subscriber, and my wife and I used profiles when they came out, but we won't miss them. It's very easy to manage the queue, promote our movies over the kids, etc...

       

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      R. McCrea, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 10:50pm

      Re: They didn't say it would make the site better

      Crap is more likely to generate hits, Pete. Look! They just got two from you, and two from me. Seems at least one expert is geared to start fights -- although I think this article is solid, but people aren't responding to Mike's simple, frankly unarguable point. That's my point, people don't often respond to unarguable points. Frankly, that's probably his job. Techdirt gets paid from getting hits, so crap like this is "what the people want". Tabloids aren't new.

       

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        R. McCrea, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 10:53pm

        Re: Re: They didn't say it would make the site better

        Not to mention we're also generating content for them. Content is the goose that laid golden eggs.

         

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    Kurt, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:30pm

    Losing profiles

    #11 "better on its own" appears nowhere on Techdirt. Read the article before commenting, it keeps you from looking like a moron.

    I will most likely cancel Netflix. I was just about to contact TechDirt about the email, and saw you have already covered it. Multiple profiles/queues make Netflix rock and Netflix would suck with out them.

     

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    Jacko, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    If patent problem, who owns the patent?

    If it is a patent problem, lets find out who owns the patent and sign up with their service.

     

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    Matthew, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 5:58pm

    Here's an explanation

    This will probably best explain what is going on here: http://blog.netflix.com/2008/06/profiles-feature-going-away.html

     

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    Cynic, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 6:21pm

    When I read this: "If you would like to keep a copy of each Profile Queue we recommend that you print them out" I said to myself..."right, I'm in the 21st century and a major on-line pay service thinks that PRINTING something would be a great idea...maybe caligraphy would be even better...or charcoal on the cave wall...such deep thinkers, such customer driven focus...it is breathtaking!"

     

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    rob friedman, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 6:36pm

    I bet they had to go back to basics and roll back the multi user account features in order to attempt to apply some new scheme.

    In reality, I think we'll have household like accounts again, once they decide households need a bundle of cheap video on demand device for each room in the house.

     

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    Rekrul, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 6:51pm

    Why? While it may be disappointing to see this feature go away, this change will help us to continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.


    This is corporate double-talk for "We're taking away a feature to improve things for us."

    Look at the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com). They re-designed the entire site's interface last year and about 90% of the people hated it. Until recently, they offered the option to use the old design. They finally took that option away and forced the new design on everyone. Immediately, there were protests in the message boards complaining (rightly so) that the new design is ugly and harder to read. The IMDb, true to form, claims that most everyone loves and uses the new design and that it was only a very small percentage of people who still used the old design.

    These companies absolutely do not care what the users think. They only listen to some paid expert who tells them what to think and how their web site should be laid out.

     

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    Jim Bob, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 7:29pm

    Who's running Marketing at NetFlix?

    I am a long time customer of NetFlix. I have the 2nd highest movie plan (7 for $45/mo). Multiple Queues is the #1 feature in their product as far as I'm concerned.

    It allows my kids to manage their movies independently - without squabbles, without my intervention. This is worth gold to me. Before this I almost canceled the service because it was too hard to manage 4 peoples' movie lists on one queue.

    Their email gave *no* reason why they were taking away such a key product feature from me, one of their most loyal longtime customers. I called phone support and even talked to a supervisor. They could give no reason for NetFlix taking away product feature from their highest revenue customers.

    My only choice is to create 4 separate accounts - which will increase my NetFlix cost by 25%, but then I would have no mechanism to control the content of movies that my kids watch if I do this. If they have their own password to log on, they can change the maturity ratings. The support line had no solution for this.

    It seems they have announced a *major* change in their product by taking away the most popular feature, and have not planned for the impact on their most loyal customers.

    Yes, the customers that use the multiple queues the most, are the customers on the highest movie plans and therefore are the highest paying customers.

    Are they kidding me? Screwing your best customers? Who is running Marketing there?

    If you take this feature away, I will not be able to - and am not willing to - manage the arguments and hassle between my kids about the *single* movie queue. The only option they give me is to create separate accounts for +25% and no ability to keep inappropriate content from my kids. I obviously cannot take that route (I value my kids too much).

    I haven't decided what I'll do yet. Most likely I will cut back from 7 movies to 3 movies which will be much more manageable with a single queue. I can't believe you haven't briefed your support supervisors on the answers to these questions. NetFlix, your customer focus that you brag about has taken a BIG hit here.

    But then again, I'm so pissed that you would take the key feature away from your best customer, I'm thinking that on Sept. 1 I will cancel my $45/mo account completely. I'm just *that* pissed off about being treated poorly.

     

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      dazcon5, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 5:13am

      Re: Who's running Marketing at NetFlix?

      Suck it up and be a parent. When updating the queue we do it as a family, disagreements about the movies are settled by compromise. I give the kids a chance to decide which movie they want first. They know if they don't choose, I'll do it, end of argument.

       

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      Lucretious, Jun 22nd, 2008 @ 2:35pm

      Re: Who's running Marketing at NetFlix?

      My only choice is to create 4 separate accounts - which will increase my NetFlix cost by 25%,

      maybe you've already answered your question as to "why".

       

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    John, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 9:38pm

    What Jim Bob said

    I wonder if what Jim Bob said is close to the truth. I wonder if some "consultant" saw that NetFlix could create a 25% increase in revenue by removing the multiple queue feature, which would to cause people to create multiple logins, which would increase the number of subscribers and payment plans.

    I wonder if the "consultant" convinced NetFlix that if 1 family had 4 profiles, then taking away this feature would create 4 new user accounts... which overnight, would increase NetFlix's membership by 3 or 4 times.
    But, like many things, this sounds good on paper... but they obviously never counted on this kind of backlash... or the fact that many people won't create multiple user accounts for their family.

     

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    Steve Morris, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 10:05pm

    I'm glad Netflix profiles are going away

    Profiles suck, people. They are a headache.

    I'm finding that I have to reconcile two queues to figure out what is showing up next. It requires twice as much configuration, and picking a movie that would be fun for both of us from the recommendations list has become a chore.

    I was just figuring out how to get rid of the second profile without manually screwing with the queues.

    We'll see if they deal with the queues correctly. If they do, I bet most users will be relieved. Maybe not Techdirt readers, but ordinary end users like my in-laws will.

     

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      BTR1701, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 7:32am

      Re: I'm glad Netflix profiles are going away

      > Profiles suck, people. They are a headache.

      > I'm finding that I have to reconcile two
      > queues to figure out what is showing up next.
      > It requires twice as much configuration, and
      > picking a movie that would be fun for both of
      > us from the recommendations list has become
      > a chore.

      So let me get this straight: because you have a hard time using a feature, it's a good thing for that feature to be removed for everyone?

      Did it ever occur to you that you don't *have* to use the profile feature if it is such an obstacle for you?

       

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    Freedom, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 12:38am

    Simple Solution

    I personally love Netflix and have tried their competitors and ultimately ended up appreciating Netflix that much more. There delivery system is unmatched and with increasing onDemand movies and improvements to that service have a chance to be the "iPod" of onDemand movies.

    With that said, I think a really easy fix that would still provide the main benefit of profiles is to offer family member accounts. Think something like XM radio. You have the primary radio at $x/month and then each add'l receiver for the home at $y/month.

    In Netflix's case, make it so that if someone ends up with a 4 movie at a time plan, but has 1 primary and 2 sub accounts that the fees add up to be about the same, but that each sub-account gets charged based on the # of movies out at time. That way, if you have a large family it would be more flexible if you wanted move than 8 totals movies out at a time. As long as the pricing fits, then it's just a new account type that should be easy to implement and since each account is tied to a person it is more straight forward.

    Hopefully this provides what the end-user wants without requiring a special interface for profile users (don't use, so I'm making assumptions here).

    Freedom

     

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    Bob Bobberstein, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 5:28am

    Two Words

    Red Box.

    I do not know if they are everywhere yet, but in Colorado they are here. They are outside McDonalds, in Walmarts, grocery stores.
    One dollar a night, after 24 nights they are yours LOL, but you can go to their website, see which movies are at whichever Redbox kiosks. Every Tuesday you get new ones, many indi films too. It is great to run to McDonalds at three in the morning and grab a movie and take it back the next day when you are picking up crap from Walmart. Did I say you can drop the movie off at any RedBox location. I hope the rest of you have this option. We are lucky SOB's in Colorado Springs.
    I have not purchased a movie in 6 months because of this and Xbox Live, allowing me to watch movies on the xbox through their DL service.
    Netflick is a dinosaur.

     

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    Rose M. Welch, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    RedBox

    Oh, man, I love RedBox. I use it everytime I'm in Oklahoma City. It's not in my hometown yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it...

    It wouldn't help everyone, though, because they only offer new or popular titles, not the old great titles. Personally though, if I want an older title, I'll buy it from Amazon for about what netFlix would charge me for it...

     

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    John, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 6:30am

    Why?!

    Why do people use NetFlix? I have Blockbuster online. I get 3 movies at a time out and instead of mailing them back and waiting to get new ones... I take the movies down to my local Blockbuster, turn them in there and get new movies in return. So basically... I'm getting double movies.

    Why would you settle for half?

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jun 20th, 2008 @ 7:52am

      Re: Why?!

      I basically don't use these kinds of services any more since they're impractical for my current location (thanks, notoriously slow Spanish postal service!).

      But, I have to ask: if you live close enough to a store to drop the movies off every time, and you're apparently happy enough with the store selection, why do you use the online service at all? Surely half the point of an online DVD service is to increase the selection and to make it unecessary to visit the store to begin with?

       

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      Nasch, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 8:05am

      Re: Why?!

      Why do people use NetFlix?

      Because they have great features like profiles for family members. Now? I don't know, I'm thinking of switching just to take money away from Netflix for this stupid decision. I think they're hoping to get more money out of this as they said, and we need to make sure they don't.

       

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    JTM, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    "Many people use?" Not at all.

    No one used the feature, hence it being eliminated. In the News.com article: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-9972829-36.html?tag=nefd.top

    "The reason, the post explained, is that it's a little-used feature that some people found complicated: only a percent of Netflix members use it. "

    One whole percent = "many people"? In what world?

     

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      Nasch, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 8:23am

      Re: "Many people use?" Not at all.

      First, that assumes Netflix isn't lying about the one percent figure. Which IMO is a bad assumption. Second, even if it's one percent, that's probably some of their biggest customers. More queues would make it desirable to have more movies out at once, thus higher subscription fees. And they're probably happy customers too, since AFAIK nobody else (soon nobody at all) has this feature. Why take some of your most loyal, most valuable customers and make them hate you?

       

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      nushustu, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 8:55am

      Re: "Many people use?" Not at all.

      One whole percent="many people"? In what world? Ummmm. One whole percent of 8.2 million (that's the number of Netflix subscribers) = 82,000 people. Their total revenue for Q12008 was $326.2 million. One percent of that = $3,262,000. Maybe that's chump change to a company like Netflix, I dunno. But I find it hard to believe that taking away a feature used by 3.2 million dollars worth of customers is a smart idea.

       

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    some random guy, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    less equals more

    > To simply say that removing a well-liked feature makes
    > the website better without any further explanation,
    > you're basically calling your customers stupid

    well of course they have to say they are making the change to make things better. It's the same thing my satellite TV company said when they removed a bunch of HD channels I liked. They can't just say "we want to give you less but have you keep paying the same amount". Sending you a letter like THAT would be assuming you are stupid.

     

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    Ulle, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 10:28am

    responce to #31

    The nearest blockbuster store to me is in Ft. Worth which is 135 miles away, at $4 a gallon that would not be very practical where netflixs doesnt require me to drive anywhere

     

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    Michelle McCormack, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    NetFlix

    I still can't understand how Netflix is in business at all. Can people really plan that they want to watch a movie next Tuesday? Do people use the USPS when they have an alternative. Even when I have to use the USPS (very rare) I resent every second of the process. If I used Netflix I would have a pile of DVDs and a suspended account.
    It so doesn't make sense to me and I do not understand people.

     

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      identicon
      Lucretious, Jun 22nd, 2008 @ 2:41pm

      Re: NetFlix

      same here. For me, watching a movie is usually a spur-of-the-moment thing. I don't see the joy of "I gotta watch this because I rented it" unless you are a hardcore viewer who has to see everything that comes out.

       

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

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    identicon
    john doe, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 3:46pm

    It's simple

    Netflix was right to do this. Let's spell it out:

    1. Not a lot of people were using the feature.
    2. It's a complex feature that was expensive to maintain and support.
    3. By removing it Netflix can focus on the more popular part of their service.

     

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

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    identicon
    Melvillain, Jun 20th, 2008 @ 5:35pm

    Crapflix

    I'm seriously considering canceling my account. My wife and I have separate accounts and different tastes in movies. The new system will make it cumbersome for us to sort out whose is whose. Has anybody read "The Long Tail"? Netflix makes money off of their recommendations. WTF is the world coming too? Arise nerds! The revolution needs you!

     

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

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    Mr X, Jun 21st, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    netflix

    netflix=dead business model. next article please.

     

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

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    identicon
    KeepNetflixProfiles, Jun 22nd, 2008 @ 7:25pm

    Keep Netflix Profiles!

    Let Netflix know that they are making a huge mistake! Take action both online and offline at http://www.keepnetflixprofiles.org!

    Spread the Word!

     

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

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    identicon
    Lisa Westveld, Jun 23rd, 2008 @ 5:24am

    It's very simple...

    Netflix makes it's services less popular so members will go somewhere else. With less members, Netflix also has less pressure on it's servers and thus the quality improves. It's just that they have too many customers so they are just culling their members. With less members, their services improve again which will result in lots of new members.
    Whom they then have to piss off again...

     

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

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    identicon
    Charles, Jun 23rd, 2008 @ 10:55am

    So they are getting rid of profiles because some people are to stupid to know how to use it. I really enjoyed netflix when i first got it but i have been thinking about canceling. I guess this is as good a reason to as any. Who every can make a online movie check out with HD content can be the one to get my 20 buck a month.

     

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


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