Looks like Netflix is again going back on a controversial decision, but perhaps too late to salvage any customers it might have lost in the first place. Last year, Netflix cut its bread-and-butter plan: the DVD-0nly version that launched the company to begin with. CEO Reed Hastings has made no bones about the fact that he thinks that streaming is the wave of the future and that the DVD arm of their business will steadily decline “forever” until they’re left with nothing but a pile of really expensive coasters while their customers happily consume film after film after television series on Watch Instantly.
Yet, despite what Hastings thinks, and despite the popularity of Watch Instantly, cutting DVD-only plans apparently hasn’t worked out for the company, because they’re bringing them back. In a post on the official Netflix blog (via Gizmodo), the company announces that customers can again sign up for a DVD-only plan. The plans start at just $7.99/month, and will include access to around 100,000 titles on DVD. Upgrades to Blu-ray will cost an additional two dollars per disc.
Over at /Film, they note that DVD-only plans never truly went away, but they were not available as a standalone choice when a subscriber first signed up, and it required some silly and complicated rejiggering to get to a DVD-only service. As they note, “since last year, Netflix has only allowed new customers to sign up for its Watch Instantly service. Once an account had been set up, subscribers had the option of adding DVD and dropping streaming. The ‘new’ plan merely simplifies the process for consumers who prefer to just get DVDs to begin with.” What’s interesting is that the actual blog post from Netflix even makes mention of this issue – saying that members “can now easily sign up for a DVD only plan.” The implication? It wasn’t easy before.
While I respect and understand Netflix’s belief that streaming is the next wave and that they need to direct their business to that end, I don’t respect or understand Netflix’s repeated mistakes and missteps that have only annoyed their customers. Moreover, their backpedaling on stuff like this and that awful Qwikster kerfuffle signal that there’s something amiss when it comes to Netflix’s ability to gauge what their customers want, execute it in a clean fashion, and profit from the moves both financially and with happy customers. No matter what your business is, being that tone-deaf to the needs of your customers and that prone to making big, public mistakes is a bad sign.