Netflix, You Owe Me, You Owe Everybody
Netflix is getting some bad press for deciding to stick with the plan:
“If/when DC shuts down for blizzard Thursday, Netflix would be smart to make new ‘House of Cards’ available one day early,” tweeted Alex Conant, the press secretary for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Hundreds of people agreed, and said so online. Fox News anchor Greta van Susteren replied to Conant: “You are right…one day early would be appreciated.” Someone even set up a petition on Change.org.
A number of people have pointed out that Netflix’s business model is to give people what they want before they want it. So why not here? Heck, why not always? I mean, what’s the point of having a release date? They should just release each scene as they film it. Then we can decide how we want to watch it. Anything else is just screwing the customer!
Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but why not here? I can think of a really big reason: When this show is released, their servers are going to be crammed with people who maybe watch 5-10 hours of Netflix a month (if that, some people will subscribe to Netflix just for this) instead watching ten hours or so all on the same day. That sort of thing takes quite a bit of planning. Releasing a show ahead of schedule probably would have resulted in a whole lot of irate customers yelling at their monitor while their monitor calmly explains that it is caching video.
That’s my guess, anyway.
It actually speaks to what exactly Netflix is doing to us. It’s actually kind of odd that Netflix releases their programming in bulk while Amazon doesn’t. If anything, the incentives run the other way. Since Amazon goes by annual subscriptions, they have comparatively little to fear with people signing up for a month and then letting their subscription lapse. Meanwhile, Netflix almost certainly gets quite a few of one-and-done subscribers, including yours truly. So if the economics woe rk the way I expect, Netflix is really doing customers a solid. It could work the other way, wherein Netflix gets one-and-done subscribers that they wouldn’t if people knew they’d have to sign up for three months worth of service. But anecdotally, I would probably sign up either way. So if Amazon decides to do it one way and Netflix to do it another, I’d expect it to be the other way around.
Both of them, though, have incentives to release them piece-mail. It would probably be easier for Netflix’s servers if all of those people were watching one episode at a time. They could release them daily or something over ten days, though you’d probably still have a lot of people waiting until the next Saturday and watching it all then. Alternately, they could have planned it on a Monday and so people would have watched catch-as-catch can until their servers got hammered on Saturday. But instead, they released it on a Friday so that fewer people would have to wait.
Either way, though, server constraints is something that I would expect to have to be planned ahead of time and not subject to last minute “Snow day!” changes.
In all seriousness and without any hyperbole whatsoever: If you’re actually angry at Netflix for refusing to let you watch their product 12 hours early—if you’re legitimately whipping up a backlash because they didn’t give you exactly what you wanted exactly when you wanted it—you are terrible and you are killing America. Stop being terrible. Stop killing America. Show a modicum of restraint.