Monday, September 19, 2011

Musings Through Filtered Ears #7

A series of random thoughts by a new Qwikster addict...

Evolution is necessary
When I got the mass email this morning from Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, and saw that it was a big fat mea culpa and alerted us of major changes coming, I really thought it was spam. Hastings has been pretty smart in building his business since Netflix started back in the late 90s (I've been a very happy subscriber since the near beginning) and this announcement seemed not only sudden (especially after the recent price hike) but unusually risky. When I soon realized that this was real, that these changes are actually happening, my initial thought was: this man is driving this company into the ground. It just smelled fishy: the company's stock was tumbling, users were abandoning ship after the DVD/streaming price split, and customers were just pissed off. It just seemed like a cheap attempt to appease to the stock's shareholders and do away with the stagnant DVD business.

Since that email this morning, I had time to think about this new change coming up and I now feel the same the way I felt after this summer's price split: I can roll with it. Netflix, and the industry it is in, are both evolving, and the changes are more than the company can handle. Hastings is right - Netflix sucks at communicating. They seem to favor making changes without explaining motive (removing the friends feature, for one) or even elaborate how they are willing to make their customers happy. I mean, are they even listening to us? The "apology" in the email feels a bit empty, but bottom line: I do feel the actions taking place in the near future feels right.

The DVD part of Netflix is perfect, there's nothing to improve. I think it's more than fairly priced, the selection is unending, and the turnaround is nearly instantaneous. Like I said earlier, I've been a very happy customer for over 10 years, and I'm thinking I will be a happy customer when I log onto Qwikster every day. As long as they don't change too much in that aspect, I see nothing to complain about. It's a business decision. It really doesn't affect me as a customer except for the URL name on my browser, the logo on the envelope and the name on my credit card bill. All these changes are cosmetic.

The new Netflix, on the other hand, has a lot of work to do. Putting its entire focus on streaming is smart business. They need more - and better - content, though it has significantly improved since last year. The amount of TV shows available to stream is satisfactory - my son loves Dora the Explorer, Thomas and Friends and Sesame Street, and has a large selection of episodes to choose from. I'm working my way through Damages now and will catch up with Mad Men and Breaking Bad pretty soon. The movies, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. The older catalogue titles are far more impressive than their new releases, but that's why I still use the discs. I take advantage of the best of both worlds and there's a breadth of choices available for me.

The new Netflix also needs to focus on subtitling their streaming content across all platforms. They are providing more shows/movies with captions each day but I cannot yet access them through my Blu-ray player.

The amount of vitriol I'm reading on these changes is laughable but I understand that nobody likes changes. I can adapt to these minor cosmetic fixes while the business restructures itself to better serve their customers. Some people may not agree but the combined $25 a month I spend on 3 discs at a time and unlimited streaming is an absolute steal. Whatever I need to do in order to continue enjoying this great service(s), count me in.

Everyone is a winner
Some thoughts on last night's entertaining Primetime Emmy awards:

*Host Jane Lynch was hit-and-miss. She's not a stand up comedian and some of her jokes fell flat, but I did enjoy her opening act and a few quips here and there. Her best line: "A lot of people are curious why I'm a lesbian. Ladies and gentlemen, the cast of Entourage."

*Big, big yahoos on the two major wins for the dearly departed Friday Night Lights: best writing for creator Jason Katims and best actor Kyle Chandler. It is so great these guys are recognized and seeing this show go out on top.

*The early part of the Emmys really did turn into the Modern Family Awards Show. Well-deserved wins for writing, comedy series, and the delightful Dunphy folks, Ty Burell and Julie Bowen.

*I don't watch Justified or Mike & Molly, but I was thrilled for Margo Martindale and Melissa McCarthy. Martindale is an extraordinary character actress who has been in the business for years and I hear she's fantastic in Justified. I can't wait to catch up with it. And I've been in love with McCarthy since her days on Gilmore Girls. I haven't even seen Bridesmaids but I already know how adorable she is.

*The best comedy actress presentation was hilarious. These 6 women are equally gifted and well worthy of many awards, and it was so great to see them all take the stage.

*Charlie Sheen's kind words for his cast and crew of Two and a Half Men seemed unbelievably hammy. I don't think anyone believed a single word of it. I'm surprised Fox cut the Baldwin/News Corp joke and still let Sheen take the stage. So much for good taste.

*What was Julianna Margulies wearing? And did anyone actually hear Julie Bowen and Kate Winslet accept their awards on the stage? I was too busy staring at their bare chests.

All in all: fun show, strong winners. I skipped the reality portion and zapped through the commercials and walks to the podium so the 3-hour Emmy telecast was a 90 minute breeze. Gotta love DVR's!

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