May 4, 2011: Reed Hastings

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix is passionate about a good many things: technology, the internet, streaming video, fiber optic cable, business models, business growth, and his bottom line.

If there’s one thing he’s not passionate about though, it’s movies.

In this interview, there was not one mention of movies, good, bad, or in between.  Except that Mr. Hastings mentioned Netflix’s collection of some 10,000+ titles.  He said that the focus is on increasing the catalogue and that his company offers “the best movies from 1950′s up to last year”.  Which sort of begs the question: does Reed Hastings know when film was invented?  Does he know what his catalogue has to offer?  I personally have movies from the 1910′s and 20′s in my DVD queue and my instant queue, and I’ve watched movies from even earlier via Netflix.

The thing is, Netflix’s web site in many ways reflects this corporate culture in which the product itself comes second.  For one thing, there is no way to contact Netflix with ideas about their web site or content.  [N.B. this is not the way it used to be: there used to be a place where you could recommend movies that they should get.]

Here are some free ideas to improve the Netflix site:

1) Make the categories sortable in the Queue.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say I got to my Netflix instant queue, and I don’t know what I want to watch, but I’m in the mood for a comedy.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could click on the “Genre” button and have all the movies sorted by Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Action, etc.?

I frequently make use of such functionality on iTunes:

And, perhaps more to the point, since it’s also a web site, Wikipedia:

Wouldn’t that be so convenient and nice?

2) Also an idea from iTunes – on iTunes, I can randomize my playlist, affording me an endless set of surprises and delights.  Why not let me randomize my DVD queue?  I’m sure I’m not the only person who would thrill to the surprise of getting an unexpected DVD in the mail.  See, when I add stuff to the queue, I usually do it in batches.  That is, I’ll add everything by a certain director or actor (more on this in a second).  And sometimes, I’d like to watch those movies in a linear fashion.  But most of the time, I’d just like to have a fun, surprising mix show up in my mailbox.

3) Why, oh Why, Netflix, will you not add said information to your database: SCREENWRITER, COMPOSER, CINEMATOGRAPHER??

OK, I know that I’m one of only a few film score geeks out there who would find it useful to collect titles under that rubric.  But screenwriter?  Hello?  Aren’t you guys always trying to “improve viewer recommendations”?  For all those algorithm contests, you’d think someone would have piped up and said, “Hey, you know, the person who writes the movie has something to do with the content/tone/style of it.  Maybe we should take that into account.”

Also, why can’t I click on “Swedish”?

OK, Reed, that’s it.  I just gave you three great ideas for your site that would make movie lovers love it even more.  I’m fully expecting that, even in the unlikely chance you find out about this post, you will take no actions to incorporate my suggestions.  Because you really don’t care about movies.  Too bad.

The only other thing to say about this interview is that Charlie exhibits an astonishingly naïve misunderstanding of every principle of Market Capitalism, ever:

Reed: “What we focus on is the greatest video service.  It’s only 8 bucks a month, so it’s very low price, large scale, and we’re just making it better and better and better.”

Charlie: “And it’s gonna cost more and more and more.  I mean, with all this competition in video, why wouldn’t the price just go sky high, almost making it – just cutting your profit margins way down?”

You don’t need to be Murray Rothbard to figure out that scale and competition drive prices down.  No wonder Charlie hasn’t been able to monetize his online streaming content….

Charlie Rose: dumb, but pretty

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One Response to May 4, 2011: Reed Hastings

  1. LA Bureau Chief says:

    Nice leather, Reed.

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