Monday, October 24, 2011

Netflix lost 810,00 "members"

It's easy, sitting back here on my blog-cation. It's also a lot of fun watching news updates come in. I took Netflix to task in a post I wrote when I heard about their second price increase in under a year. I did it again when they announced they would spin off their DVD business, and I also covered their reversal of that decision. Now, I'm writing one more time, to discuss the aftermath of all this.

Netflix lost 810,000 viewers between July/August and October of 2011. According to CBS, their stock price also dropped 31% in after-hours trading as a result of the company's declaration of the extent of their losses. Before I slag off the service (I mean, really, I let my membership lapse for a month and half but still re-subscribed, just to prove a point), I will say a few things in their defense. I'm like that.

For one, the company was over-optimistic on their membership figures, but only by 200,000 members/viewers/human being (whatever those are). For another, the company still improved on its earnings by over 50% of what it earned last year at the same time. These two facts serve as proof for me that the stock market is a ridiculous, senseless place. It is, by its nature, driven by mob mentality - some loud noise happens on the left, so everyone runs to the right; something looks scary, so it must be threatening. It's scarier than Freddy Kreuger to think that our economy actually relies on this system.

It's especially scary, because it's clear by the numbers that Netflix is not on the verge of collapse, and has a lot of value, and will continue to do good business. Honestly, given that my country-men and -women are so addicted to tv and film that they will watch them on tiny cell-phone (much less tablet) screens, there's no freaking way that Netflix will suddenly become a bust, like the Edsel or Coke 2. All this "market action" is driven by idiots with just enough info to be over-scared or over-confident.

I take comfort in knowing that if the collective "stock market world" were put in a horror movie, their dumb asses would run straight into a trap and get killed in no time flat. Thank heaven.

Turning now to the flipside: Netflix precipitated all this selling in the market by the letter it sent to its investors, announcing its problems over this last quarter. This corporate entity basically made an admission of how things were not going very smoothly. Still, this type of public declaration is required by the SEC for publicly-traded stock, so it was an act of obligation, not kindness and forthrightness.

Also, even tho the news was written for a fairly-impersonal process - like contacting an uncle/cousin you despise about the death of a mutual relation - it still gave this news in the most impersonal, sugar-coated, bs-ey way possible. You can read that letter here. It's all business, folks, and it's run like a den of prostitution where they (I don't know from personal experience) time your activities down to the second, and bill you as much as possible. Netflix states that it still expects to do great on a "global" scale, because they can afford to get trashed in the US while they opened up business in the rest of the Americas, and soon England and Ireland, too.

So the only way I can properly sum up everything I've typed is this: Netflix is still a "good" company in terms of profitability. It's still an increasingly lousy company in terms of how it respects and treats the people that actually use and pay for it. I will give them a hard time, but their viability is still obvious. Just like I-Tunes didn't totally suck because they copy-protected their music.

All things taken together, this phenomenon/business/fad is pretty much like The Soup Nazi - it may not treat you great, but it still gives a lot of satisfaction for what it demands from you. As a consumer, then, it's up to you to decide whether it's worth what it costs.

And if anyone has suggestions for how I can further distance myself from them, I'm open to it: at this point, I don't care any more about Netflix than it cares about me; it's one of the least seductive brands of all-time. It's like having an attractive person proposition you for really-good, but utterly meaningless, sex.

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