In the early 2000s, I had a friend who was always trying to “win” at Netflix. She paid $15 a month for the DVD-by-mail service and forced herself to watch as many movies as possible in order to get her money’s worth.
This kind of “winning” meant obsessively monitoring her Netflix queue. One false move and the postman would bring “On the Waterfront” on a night when she was really in the mood for “Tommy Boy”. If such a miscalculation occurred, she’d begrudgingly plop herself in front of her TV and force herself to sit there and watch every last bit of that socially important film, or no fat guy in a little coat for her, damnit!
Thankfully, the last 15 odd years have changed the way we consume our Netflix. But with the addition of streaming service and more affordable subscriptions, the tables have turned and we, the viewers, are easily kicking ass at Netflix. This spells big trouble for the internet TV network.
Here are the six reasons Netflix is doomed:
1. It’s easy to pirate
There might be more cast members of Orange is the New Black than Netflix users actually paying the monthly $7.99 for streaming service. When my ex-boyfriend from 3 years ago finally realized I was still logging into the account we once shared, he changed his password, interrupting my Gilmore Girls marathon. (I’m not really sure which one of us comes off more pathetic in this anecdote) No matter. It took me approximately 19 seconds to find a pal who was willing to give me his Netflix login and password for the weak promise of “a beer or something”. I can’t be the only genius who is receiving hours of quality programming for less than the cost of a hypothetical PBR.
2. There’s a lot of awful
Well, maybe “quality” is a bit of a stretch. Sure, we all have our favorite Netflix Original program. But for every Peaky Blinders, there’s a ridiculously awful Hemlock Grove or Between mucking up Netflix’s respectability. (I seriously gave both of these shows a chance, but the experience of watching them made me embarrassed to be a member of the human race.) How much money are they wasting putting out these crap shows that most viewers don’t even have the patience to hate watch?
3. Binge-watching actually makes us too impatient
And speaking of patience….I waited a full year for season 2 of House of Cards only to binge-watch the entire thing in under three days. Much ado has been made about the phenomenon of “binge-watching”, but I’m not convinced Netflix can keep up with the voracious appetites of the viewers of its original programming. I simply don’t love House of Cards in the same way I love, say, Mad Men, and it’s not because the latter is superior to the former. Viewers need time to digest the subtleties of complex dramas. Having a week or more between episodes creates hype – viewers take the time to read reviews, make predictions, mull over pivotal scenes or exciting plot twists with their friends. They plan watch-parties and obsessively avoid spoilers. Binge-watching may offer instant gratification, but half the fun of being a TV addict is sharing in the communal experience of watching your favorite story unfold, week by week.
4. Praying for international market success is a hedgy bet
So maybe you’ve been holed up in your apartment catching up on Scandal because Netflix told you, based on your interest in Gilmore Girls, you’d like this series featuring a strong female lead. Well, sister, some major shit was happening on Wall Street while you were pondering the fate of Pope and the POTUS! In case you missed it, analysts are predicting that Netflix, currently valued at $41 billion, could become a $100 billion dollar company by 2020. But these projections are contingent upon Netflix gaining international success. Netflix is currently running at a negative cash flow based on investments made to grow their international base. In order for Netflix to continue growing, it will have to see international growth, and that growth is about as certain as Olivia ending up with Jake.
5. That “old world” attitude
Because you watched Scandal, you might be interested in the article on Jezebel yesterday taking Netflix to task for a PR email sent in preparation for July 15th, the so-called “Day Without Sports” when no professional sports air on TV. The email was meant to drive traffic to Netflix, but mostly played on the tired stereotypes that men have to be baited by Jennifer Lawrence to watch Silver Linings Playbook and women will automatically want to watch Rudy if you tell us it’s ‘heartfelt’ . Shut up, Netflix. You don’t know me! Sure, I watched “the Honorable Woman”, but I also devoured all 14 hours of Ken Burns’ The War, ok? You can’t piss off half your viewing base and expect us to still stay loyal.
6. Competition, like winter, is coming
The American inclination to “win” is strong. With streaming video alternatives like HBOgo, hulu, amazon, and other networks offering free watch weekends from their website, not to mention “dicier” free alternatives (that may be illegal or virus-causing), Netflix is doomed simply based on the potential of all these alternatives.