A couple of days ago, a new email popped up in my inbox. It was from Netflix. They’ve announced their new pricing scheme, effective September 1. One of their current plans (which I subscribe to) features the unlimited 1 DVD per month mail-in feature, along with unlimited Netflix streaming of content for $9.99 a month.
Starting in September, they are splitting the DVD and streaming plans into two separate plans, each available for $7.99 a month, or have both for $15.98, essentially a 60% increase. Initially, I was a bit annoyed at the $7 increase. They had already initially hiked up the original $8.99 to $9.99 in the last year and so another price hike, much more significant than the first one seemed a bit shady to me. Although I joined Netflix back in 2007, I realized that recently the majority of my Netflix usage has come from InstantWatch, not DVDs. So as much as I enjoy their 150,000+ DVD collection, in all reality my mail-in DVDs often set on the shelf and collect dust for weeks on end. (I think I had the Assassination of Jesse James sitting on my dresser for about 5 months). I end up using Blockbuster Express if on the spur of the moment I fancy watching a movie at home.
All things considered, I’m likely going to switch over to the $7.99 web streaming plan, come September. I used that plan to re-watch 6 seasons of Lost through my boyfriend’s PS3 so personally I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth from the Instant Watch feature.
However, I came across countless blog posts, articles and tweets (#DearNetflix was a top-trending topic on Twitter this week), of loads of people who are absolutely angry over the price hike. I tweeted about my chagrin that despite terrorist attacks in Mumbai in which a dozen or so people had been killed, most Americans seemed more put out by their impending $7 price Netflix increase–essentially the price of a Chipotle burrito–over terrorist violence and lost lives.
Many people have voiced their complaints and criticisms and have flooded Netflix with calls and threats to cancel their subscriptions. Many long-time faithful customers have already made good on that threat, migrating towards Blockbuster or $1 Red Box rentals.
This social media mob has essentially tarred and feathered Netflix.
The question I am asking is: is the mob justified?
Netflix may have committed a public relations faux pas by a thinly veiled attempt to positively spin a 60% price hike with no apparent added value to their product.
However, Netflix has been consistently underselling their product and with Internet and phone data plans being capped and movie studios hiking up their fees, Netflix has to adjust to provide the service that so many people (23 million subscribers) seem to be unable to do without, even in times of economic crisis. It is estimated that any given moment, 30% of bandwidth used in America is due to Netflix streaming.
One angry blogger posted anonymously on Netflix’s blog:
“Pretty stupid, Netflix. I love how you’re slapping current, long-time supporters in the face b/c you’ve realized a mistake on your parts will result in lost revenue. How about grandfathering in existing customers and charging those that are surely coming in droves as an alternative to ridiculously high monthly cable charges. I’ll be rethinking this as well.”
I’m completely fascinated by this Netflix fiasco because I think it’s exposing the hearts of millions of Americans.
People are not upset about the price increase because the price doesn’t match the value. It absolutely does. Even with the price increase, it’s still cheaper than paying monthly for cable. The content is there. You just have to wait for it: re: DVD in the mail.
People are not upset about the lack of DVD content: That’s never been an issue. It’s actually a decrease from their former DVD plan which was $8.99 a month.
People are upset because the price doesn’t match the perceived value: instant streaming of content.
We’re upset because we want our web content and we want our content NOW.
Have you been upset at the data cap plans? I was initially annoyed at the cap, even though I’ve been grandfathered in. Americans are upset over Netflix and data caps for the same reason. We want our data and we want it NOW. We don’t want to have limitations on our access to the internet or on consumption of information. We want as much as possible available and we want it now, and how dare anyone charge us the price of a Chipotle burrito to get that service monthly?
I’m not pro-Netflix in the sense that I have an agenda in trying to convince other people to stick with the plan or perhaps change. I think each person needs to decide for themselves what their priorities are, how much you want to pay for the service you want, and then make your choice. I’m not anti-Netflix in the sense that I’m outraged and am immediately going to cancel my subscription. I may or may not go for the $15.98 plan but I will probably at least keep on as a $7.99 for streaming.
My chagrin comes because as much as people are picking apart Netflix and decrying poor marketing and customer service and business practice, nobody is looking at the consumeristic, greedy mob that social media has both helped incite and perpetuate. Or least give an open forum for a cacophony of grievances when these expectations are thwarted. We as a society voraciously expect unlimited all-you-can-eat buffets of food, free refills, InstantWatch, 3G data, fossil fuel, websurfing, Facebook, Twitter, electricity and anything else you can think of. Even the current (multi-trillion dollar deficit crisis that Obama and Congress are trying to reach an agreement on is a macrocosmic view of our rampant consumerism problem. Get as much as possible, paying as little consequence as possible.
And I’m guilty of it too. Case and point: I have a cap on my minutes with my family plan with AT&T. For the past couple months, we’ve consistently gone over our minutes, even after we upped it to 2100 minutes a month. I’ve had to pay the price literally for my minutes, most of which go to either talking with my boyfriend (he’s on Verizon, not AT&T) or on work-related calls. And AT&T ain’t cheap.
I remember being momentarily upset because I thought I had the right to talk to my boyfriend if and whenever I feel like it, rather than stick to the limitations of a “free on nights and weekends” cap. I’ve since had to make adjustments to stay within the limit.
What does this Netflix backlash say about the condition of the human heart? My heart is stirred because of the way I see how humanity has become fractured and corrupted in our desires to constantly consume “bread” instead of The Bread. I’m reminded of the woman at the well who keeps going to draw water from the well to quench her insatiable thirst, when the fountain of Living Water is standing before her. I’m reminded of how we constantly pursue affection and approval and comfort and status in our relationships, our family, our careers, our possessions and our abilities, rather than run to the One who loves us infinitely better than anyone else ever could.
I love how the Message translates 1 John 2:16:
“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”
So maybe the real question we need to be asking is not what Netflix plan or what data plan we need to stick to, although those are definitely choices that need to be weighed and decided upon.
The real question may be what in our hearts is causing this rampant consumerism? We see it, breathe it, live it, and don’t even think twice about putting limits on ourselves. And who should we be and what should we do in light of all this self-awareness?
And now, ironically, it’s lunchtime…