Jan. 20, 2011 at 11:25 AM ET
If you're a Netflix user who enjoys adding DVD's to your queue from your Tivo or Roku (or any other streaming device), time's up. Netflix is removing that convenience, and judging from the reaction, it may cost them.
The big red envelopers might have alienated scores of users with the removal of the “Add to DVD Queue” option from streaming devices, a decision that was announced Monday via The Netflix Blog by Jamie Odell, director of product management at Netflix. She wrote:
We’re doing this so we can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly. Further, providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality. This change does not impact the Netflix Web site, where most members manage their DVD Queues.
There's one sure-fire way to rile loyal customers: to make a decision without any notice, that instantly speaks of bad judgment and at the very least, a lack of perspective. As an early adopter who's been with Netflix since early 2000, I can relate to the righteous indignation expressed by some users to this decision.
Here's one of the milder comments amongst the 4466 comments that rolled in after that post:
This is a bad idea. If I search for a movie and it's not available to watch instantly I do not want to have to get up and log into my computer to add it to my queue, if I'm even at home. Why not just add it from there?
"Agreed. This is an awful decision. I use this function all the time when streaming from my PS3. Bad move, Netflix."
Cynicism set in quickly:
"I was waiting for the "Netflix Terrible Desision (sic) of the Week" blog entry.. thanks for not disappionting (sic)."
And then, pure disgust:
"ties up resources". What a farce. What about the resources you wasted in programming that feature, and the resources you're expending in removing it? Clearly Netflix wants to send less discs through the mail, and therefore wants to make it more difficult for the user to add to their queue in furtherance of that. Just say that, rather than trying to contort it and argue that its for the user's benefit.
Suffice to say, I barely found a positive comment about this move, with many threatening to leave Netflix altogether. Many are already grumbling about the price increase. (For the first time since I began my service, I downgraded from 3 DVDs out at any time to 1 + streaming.) And with competitors like Redbox, Hulu and maybe Amazon, soon, it may prove to be a premature decision that may prompt an exodus.
(I've reached out to Netflix but haven't heard back yet. I will update this story when and if I receive a response.)
If this removal applies to all the streaming devices — including iPhones and iPads, as well as the various game consoles and Netflix-ready boxes — then it's going to have a lot of irate customers on its hands, since so many have gotten accustomed to adding to their queues while they're out and about. (UPDATE: Netflix apps on iPhones and other mobile devices shouldn't be affected by this, as it's focused on streaming, Netflix-ready devices such as game console and box sets.)
Oddly, this move comes on the heels of Netflix hyping the convenience of "one-click" Netflix buttons installed on remote controls that operate Internet-connected devices, including TVs, that would give viewers instant access to their Netflix streaming account.
Hat tip to Daily Finance for its read on the topic, especially in giving context to a company that's had more hits than misses and which has ridden the wave of instant viewing all the way to a 31 percent increase in revenue, reported in October. I've also written about Netflix's seemingly unstoppable momentum. The company is due to release its fourth-quarter results next Wednesday, so we'll see how much more bank they are at the end of 2010.
Where streaming is reaching Everest heights, DVD sales have plummeted, as this LA Times article shows, with 66 percent of Netflix's 17 million subscribers watching instantly.
But again, there are many movies and shows that aren't available via streaming or on demand online (or through cable), so that's why those of us who hang on to the one DVD at any given time hang on to a service that offers both. But with decisions like this, will we let go?
UPDATE: Netflix vice-president of corporate communications Steve Swasey responded to my inquiry. Here's what he said:
We have not had that much response from members on our Facebook page or our customer call center. Many of these comments on the blog are anonymous. Netflix was very clear about this. This emphasizes simplicity. You’re watching it streaming, not watching on a DVD, so we've removed an element that was a DVD element. You’re using the streaming device to watch instantly. We simplified the process...Streaming is still nascent, but bigger than the growth of DVDs. This is a growth area for Netflix. Users can still get into their queue. More and more people watching more hours instantly, so that's where we’re putting the emphasis, that’s where the change came from. Nothing changes for DVDs.
Asked if Netflix will consider putting the convenience back in, he said, "No, we won’t put it back. We knew there’d be some people who are disappointed, but it's not a big number. We anticipated this response. We're convinced we did the right thing in making the streaming more simple."