Tag Archives | Qwikster

Netflix: Without Qwikster, No Game Rentals

When Netflix backtracked on its plans to spin off DVD rentals into a separate company called Qwikster, the company didn’t say whether it would still add video game rentals to its mail-order service, as announced along with the spin-off.

Now, it’s official: Netflix will not rent video games, or at least it has “no plans” to do so, CEO Reed Hastings said in an earnings call. He did not elaborate.

Netflix had planned to rent video games as an optional upgrade for movie renters. The news excited me because both GameFly and Blockbuster have trouble sending out the newest games in a timely manner. I was hoping that Netflix, with its huge DVD operation, would be able to do a better job with new releases, or at least pressure its competitors to do so.

But without a spin-off, it’s no surprise that Netflix doesn’t want to make the investment. That money is better spent on acquiring more streaming content–the inevitable future of media consumption–instead of trying to rent more discs.


Qwikster: Gonester!

I have a confession to make. Ever since Netflix announced its plans to spin off its discs-by-mail business into a self-contained business called Qwikster, I’ve been assuming it would reverse the decision, and have frequently checked Qwikster.com for signs it had done so. I last did it early this morning.

And now it has. In a blog post, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that Netflix will stay, well, Netflix. I never stopped assuming this would be the eventual outcome, especially when the initial announcement was followed by radio silence. There was just too much that was too wrong with the idea–the fact that Netflix was eliminating one of its principal attractions as a service, the fact it did so with a video that almost seemed to brag about it, the name, the fact it didn’t have the Twitter handle. It was all the irrational  result of some sort of bizarre midlife crisis, and the oddest part of all is that the idea got announced before the company came to its senses.

The controversial price hikes, however, remain in place.

Netflix is a fine company with a fine service, and–until recently–the way it’s navigated its transition from a snail-mail powered enterprise to a digital one has been really admirable. With any luck, it’ll get back to business so quickly we’ll forget this brief period of weirdness ever happened.

One comment

The Case for Screwing Up Netflix

Marc Randolph, a former Netflix employee–he was a founder and the first CEO–has chimed in on this whole Qwikster mess. He makes a more compelling, coherent case for divvying up the company’s streaming service and disc-rental business than anything that Netflix/Qwikster has said in its own defense:

So even though I haven’t been at Netflix in a long time, I can easily imagine the growing frustration they must have felt these last few years as they made decisions they knew were suboptimal for the streaming business in order to maintain compatibility with the DVD business.  How to work out pricing that covers multiple use cases.  How to come up with messaging that embraces two different ways to receive movies.  How to manage the significant differences in the content available between the two services.  How to simplify the landing page and sign up flow.

Well no longer.  Not having to worry about compatibility between the services makes it infinitely easier to optimize every decision around the real prize, which is clearly streaming.  Pricing.  Messaging.  Content.  Sign-up-flow.  All better now.

Randolph doesn’t defend Netflix’s communications about the price hike, name change, and related matters: He calls them “ham-handed” and “tone-deaf.” But I wonder how well Netflix customers would be taking the news if the company’s communications had been flawless, and if it had come up with a way better name than “Qwikster.”

I don’t come away from Randolph’s piece entirely convinced of the righteousness–ham-handed, tone-deaf messaging aside–of what Netflix is doing. Or maybe I’m so convinced that I don’ think the company’s going far enough. I mean, if renting DVDs by mail is so unpleasant a business to be in, shouldn’t Netflix just sell, spin off, or shutter Qwikster? Sooner or later, it’s going to take one of those actions. Why not do it today, rather than complain about all the downsides of disc rentals and how they’re standing in the way of the streaming business?


The Upside of Qwikster: Video Games

Harry’s already written a bunch about Qwikster,  Netflix’s newly-named business for mail-order DVD rentals. And while I agree that it’s a silly name, and that the announcement was pretty sloppy, I’m still excited about the news simply because Qwikster will rent video games as well as movies.

Netflix–er, Qwikster–hasn’t described its game rental service in detail, but did say that it’ll be an optional upgrade to movie rentals. As someone who subscribes to both Netflix DVDs and to GameFly, that’s an appealing alternative.

Continue Reading →


Qwikster: Not to be Confused With Quixtar, QuickStar, Kwikster, Quickster, Kwik Star, Quik-Star, or Kickstar

The best-known name in the business of renting DVDs by mail is, of course, Netflix–a brand that’s been with us since 1998, and which is as synonymous with its category as any American company ever has been. But now it’s reserving the name “Netflix” for its streaming business and redubbing the snail-mail portion as “Qwikster.” By doing so, it’s dumping a great brand and beginning all over again with one that starts with absolutely no value whatsoever.

Already, people are amused by the fact that there’s a @qwikster account on Twitter that has nothing to do with Qwikster. But that could be just the start of the confusion. You see, it’s not instantly obvious how to spell “Qwikster”–I’ve forgotten repeatedly already–and there’s a fascinating roster of existing products and services that have similar names.

Continue Reading →