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September 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Roger Ebert

After weeks of being raked over the coals for his decision to increase Netflix’s fees to subscribers and split his company into separate streaming and DVD-by-mail units, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is finally getting some decent reviews. Among them is Roger Ebert’s in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Netflix has done what it had to do,” he writes, although he acknowledges that Hastings’s announcement was “clumsy” and “not a model of tact.” However, he predicts, “The day will come when movie viewers will be amused that they were once willing to wait two or three days to find a movie in their mailbox.” Forbes magazine maintains that too much attention has been attracted by those complaining about Hastings’s moves and that not enough has been paid to what it calls “The Silent Majority.” It chastises Hastings’s handling of the announcements, then adds, “Despite this mishandling, we believe that the vociferous complaints might not reflect the sentiments of the broader Netflix customer base. … Overall, we believe that most customers still like Netflix’s service and will likely stick around until a serious competitor emerges.” And Paul Saffo, managing director at Discern Analytics told BusinessWeek magazine, “You’ve got to give Reed credit. … He knows Netflix absolutely has to flee into the future with digital delivery. The problem is, not all customers have come to that yet.” And a principal reason that they have not is evident in its listings of movies available for streaming. Remove those currently available via its deal with Starz, which ends on Feb. 28, and the offerings look much like the titles in a Blockbuster remainders bin. Commented Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson: “The only way they will now be able to make investors believe in them, and subscribers continue to be attracted, is to have a waterfall of new content in the next few months.” But the major studios contend that Netflix’s streaming service undervalues their content and draws customers away from traditional sales and rentals.