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Call It Netflix or Call it Qwikster, But With Finding Movies An Afterthought, We Call It Crazy

Call It Netflix or Call it Qwikster, But With Finding Movies An Afterthought, We Call It Crazy

Others have detailed the lunacy behind the launch of Netflix’s instantly ill-fated Qwikster brand (and there’s a lot of crazy there: Did they even consider the Twitter factor? Is there anything more indicative that you just don’t care?). However, what’s most amazing is the very fine line between the status of being a market leader and being a canary in a coal mine.

Our articles occasionally invoke the disclosure that indieWIRE is owned by SnagFilms, one of the companies that’s competing for market share in the streaming-video universe. Today, I’m mentioning it because the association gives me a measure of empathy for Netflix.

As a customer, I find the Netflix machinations annoying in the extreme; as the editor in chief of indieWIRE, I see enough of the challenges Snag faces to believe Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is only doing what he believes necessary for his company’s survival. Giving customers easy access to streaming video is a very complex business.

What I don’t see in Hastings’ announcement, however, is anything that looks like an answer to that business’ inherent challenges. One of the biggest is the industry’s shared inability to make movies easy to find. All of us now have access to dozens of platforms that host thousands of movies (when will it be millions?). And there’s no universal method for finding any of them.

As I wrote shortly after Netflix announced its price hike, Netflix used to have something like that with its queue. However Netflix may have intended it, the queue was used as a one-of-a-kind IMDB-movie to-do list mashup; it helped you remember what you wanted to see and discover films you might not have otherwise considered.

Now that Netflix DVDs are officially a Qwikster afterthought, the queue is useless. Netflix has made it clear they perceive DVDs as the 8-track tapes of the 21st century and Qwikster is naked in its planned obsolescence. It’s just a platform (yet another!) unto itself, one that now signifies a shrinking world instead of an expanding one.

Meanwhile, I’ve already heard from some indie filmmakers complaining that not only is Netflix (sorry, Qwikster) not renewing their DVD deals, it’s also not looking to make their films available via streaming. Their movies are no longer necessary to the Netflix or Qwikster business models.

My dad had a saying, as dads often do: “Don’t forget the facts that built the business.” Sometimes he meant it literally, but it was handiest as a metaphor for any kind of successful partnership: Know why it works and never lose sight of it.

Judging by the 14,000-comments-and-counting on the Netflix blog, I think Hastings has badly miscalculated the business he’s in. We loved Netflix not because it meant DVDs or streaming; we loved it because we felt like we had the world of movies in front of us, easily available. We didn’t have everything, of course; there were plenty of gaps. But there was enough to make us think so.

It’s clear that finding movies — much less, all movies — is no longer the point. Netflix already gives preferential treatment to TV over film; soon, according to today’s announcement, videogames will be added. And I have to believe that Hasting’s publicly traded company saw a much sexier portrait after running the numbers for this new-Coke Netflix strategy.

The stock market so far disagrees, but who knows? Hastings believes that, as a market leader, Netflix is obliged to put the majority of its efforts into the market-leading format of streaming video and all the content that it can support.

Whatever the new Qwikster/Netflix universe may bring to its shareholders, it looks like it will be a poorer world for film lovers.

This Article is related to: News


Gladdy Uni

OK, here goes. I agree with Hastings that DVD’s will be obsolete in the future; what he failed to do was get his proverbial ducks in a row before making this change. If Netflix had presented us with a streaming queue option and all movie choices available via streaming, I don’t think we’d be too concerned about the change. The people who have to physically have a DVD (a small number and shrinking) can rent them elsewhere. Netflix has stated they lost their deal with Starz and are facing increased licensing agreements with the studios, and therefore must increase prices to stay competitive. I think people are just pissed b/c they’re used to getting something for nothing (ahem, Jeff and your affinity for government handouts comes to mind) Netflix had to change it’s business model, didn’t go about it the right way, but bottom line is people don’t like change.


Read my take on the Netflix debacle, Spielberg’s redemption, changes to Star Wars and more: You can also follow on Twitter @filmsnork


“All of us now have access to dozens of platforms that host thousands of movies (when will it be millions?). And there’s no universal method for finding any of them.”

Fortunately, platforms like Boxee, Roku, or Google TV are at least attempting the consolidation effort.

mitchell block

It has always been about content.

Once the studios and networks choose to keep streaming in house then the companies that aggregate other peoples’ content will no longer get the money that has been left on the table.
Good for the studios and networks and perhaps even the filmmakers.
Disney doesn’t need companies to stream Pixar or its other titles anymore than HBO needs companies to stream its titles.

The Netflix model only works if they can get the big titles. SNAG’s model of paying pennies per thousand views is also terrible from the copyright holders point of view for the same reason.

The business model is on-demand views. Cable À la carte.


Google will just buy the rights to whatever and stream everything to an elevated – sooner or later.

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