The upside and downside of being wrong

I don’t mind being wrong. I really don’t. It probably comes from having a really good memory for facts and a super shit memory for numbers. I was recently talking to a friend about an historical event and she asked me when it happened and I said, “I don’t know, either 1147 or 1471.” That’s my problem. I mix up numbers constantly and I’m a terrible judge of relativity. Ask me how far away something is and you’ll get, “It’s either five or fifty miles away.” I remember childhood events but have no frame of reference for when anything happened beyond, “That happened when we lived in Texas, this was when I lived in California,” et cetera. This means I’m wrong a lot. So it doesn’t bug me when I make a prediction and it doesn’t come true. Sometimes, I actually really like it.

The Upside

Remember when I said Transformers 3 would make more money (domestically) than Harry Potter 7-2. I was wrong! In a triumph of good taste, HP 7-2 took the title of “biggest summer blockbuster” for 2011, raking in over $370 million by the end of August. Transformers, meanwhile, took in $349 million. My original top-five grossers for summer were:

Transformers 3

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Hangover II
Cars 2

Super 8 (in retrospect, HAHAHAHAHA)

I updated the list a few weeks later to look like this:

Transformers 3

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Hangover II

Pirates of the Caribbean: Legend of the money grab

Captain America

In reality, it turned out like so:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Transformers 3

The Hangover II

Pirates of the Caribbean: The curse of greedy studio execs

Cars 2

Four of the five movies depress the ever-living fuck out of me, but at least HP walked away the winner because really, that was just a good goddamn movie.

The Downside

Netflix. Oh Netflix. What fresh hell is this? I defended the price hikes (and I still do, and I will continue to do so), but my central defense of a more-expensive Netflix was that their user interface remained the easiest to use. For streaming and DVDs by mail, you only need to go to one website and have one account. Easy! But with the announcement that Netflix is splitting off its DVD by mail business into a separate company called Qwikster (are we twelve? Why is it spelled that way?), Netflix has undermined that defense. Now we have to deal with two different sites. As a user, I am annoyed. As a fan of the streaming business model, I’m worried that Netflix—still the most comprehensive streaming library out there—will die and I’ll have to use fucking Hulu Plus. But as a watcher of movie business…

I am fascinated. Business-wise, Netflix’s move makes perfect sense (their messaging, not so much). DVD and streaming rights are separate licenses—legally Netflix is a nightmare of dual-right titles and contracts. Qwikster unloads all the DVD rights from Netflix’s legal department, freeing them up to deal with licensing streaming titles in a way that means users get the best availability (divide and conquer).Also, and this is just me thinking out loud, but…The DVD is dying. Netflix knows this. Hell, they’re leading the charge. DVDs won’t go away permanently, just like books won’t suddenly disappear, but they won’t be the primary revenue source for movie studios for too much longer. By creating Qwikster, Netflix just made it really easy to shut down their DVD service when that time comes.

This way, when DVDs bite the dust and everyone is streaming movies (or more likely, downloading from a cloud), Netflix can quietly close down Qwikster, re-absorb the necessary staff, and continue about their business with zero interruption. By separating the two now, they’re saving themselves a huge headache down the line. Business-wise, I get that. I really do. But can Netflix last that long? Maybe. There will be more price hikes for sure. They lost 1 million subscribers with the first round, they’ll lose more over this Qwikster business, and they’ll lose yet more still with the next round of fee increases. But they have 25 million subscribers. They can afford to lose some here and there. Netflix is banking on increasing their streaming service in such a way that offsets these losses with new subscribers. Maybe it works. I’m not 100% confident in the brand anymore, especially if they don’t do something about their terrible, terrible messaging.

Five years from now we’ll either be saying that Netflix killed the DVD or that Qwikster killed Netflix. Either way, I stand by my original statement. Don’t let a movie studio tell you how to watch movies. Watch them however the hell you want. And if that’s no longer with Netflix, well, I can’t really fault you for it at this point.

Update: Netflix doesn’t want everyone to hate them, but doesn’t seem particularly inspired to do anything about it.

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One thought on “The upside and downside of being wrong

  1. anaishilator

    See now, I agree as well with the price hikes from Netflix….provided that they pay off at some point with additional quality content. And that is what worries me..studios are playing hardball. And the cable stations all want to keep the revenue generated by their own original programming( which I think is stupid- for instance, I may not have showtime or starz but I still may want to see The Borgias or Dexter without shelling out an extra 20 bucks a month, this territorial pissing limits their revenue to their own subscribers, which is stupid). The cable stations may or may not come around but at this point, its imperative that Netflix work something out with studios or its game over….that or be the first to innovate blu ray streaming. Good luck with that.

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