from the meet-the-new-boss dept
Netflix executives this week announced that they would finally be putting their traditional DVD rental service out to pasture starting on September 25 after 25 years of little, red envelopes. From a blog post by Netflix co-CEO Ted Serandos’ intern:
Our goal has always been to provide the best service for our members but as the business continues to shrink that’s going to become increasingly difficult.
You might recall that the last time Netflix tried to slowly back away from the traditional DVD rental service, it didn’t go so well. In 2011, the company prematurely attempted to separate its streaming and DVD rental services into two companies, with the new DVD arm named Qwikster. The effort saw major customer backlash (in part due to price increases) and was doomed from the start.
The death of Netflix’s mail delivery DVD business is anything but surprising. That said, streaming as a fully symmetrical replacement for traditional rentals hasn’t quite lived up to its full promise. As some were quick to note on social media, Netflix’s ever-shrinking streaming catalog can’t hold a candle to the DVD-era’s original selection of content, especially when it comes to older titles:
There’s of course additional trouble in paradise. Netflix, now seeing slower growth internationally, has, in recent years, pivoted to more intensely nickel-and-diming its customers to appease Wall Street’s unyielding demand for improved quarterly returns at any cost.
That has included not just a more streamlined, sometimes lower quality catalog, but consistent, monthly price increases. Then there’s Netflix’s clumsy efforts to crack down on password sharing, a phenomenon Netflix whole-heartedly embraced when it was a pesky, disruptive upstart.
Netflix’s policy and politics have also shifted for the worse. The company that once fought for popular issues like net neutrality ultimately sold those principles down river once it itself became massive and politically powerful, leaving activists and consumers to fend for themselves. (That’s proving problematic now that the EU is considering a telecom-backed tax on Big Tech).
Elsewhere in the streaming sector we’re watching as mindless consolidation results in streaming empires that are keen on constantly raising consumer prices, yet somehow too cheap to pay artists’ residuals or employees, resulting in both layoffs and streaming catalogs with giant holes that didn’t exist in the traditional DVD era.
The whims of the DRM era also mean you don’t own what you buy, and Wall Street pressure has a lot of modern streaming companies now acting and sounding a lot like the widely despised cable TV giants they once disrupted.
None of that’s to say that streaming hasn’t been hugely innovative and more convenient, but greed, incompetence, and an all pervasive “growth for growth’s sake” mindset have certainly muted the technology’s full potential.