Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

“Qwikster” Is a Crummy Name, But It’s Better Than “Old Fogey Discs”

Why did Reed Hastings split up his company?

You can take the Netflix CEO at face value, and read his explanation — and his introduction to Qwikster, his new DVD-only business. You can and should also read Benchmark VC Bill Gurley’s explanation about the company’s licensing deals with Hollywood, and how the move may give Netflix more money/breathing room.

(Gurley’s explanation is particularly resonant in the wake of Netflix’s Sony outage this summer, where the studio was able to pull its movies off the service because Netflix’s subscriber totals had hit a certain level. Perhaps this move solves that problem — temporarily, though, because Netflix will lose access to Sony movies again if/when its Starz deal expires in February.)

Many Netflix users don’t care about the rationale, and flocked to the company’s blog post to vent. When they did, they found … Reed Hastings, waiting for them in the comments section, fielding many of their questions/complaints/rants.

The Internet figured out right away that Netflix doesn’t own the rights to the Qwikster Twitter handle (Meet Jason Castillo, world! He is tired and/or high). But the fact that Hastings is engaging directly with (some of) his audience via Facebook (where he’s now a board member) seems at least as interesting to me.

Definitely worth scrolling through some of Hastings’s back-and-forth with users. (Note that, because it’s Facebook, he can at least be reasonably sure they are who they say they are, as opposed to a random Internet commenter or Twitter troll.)

Some of the exchanges show Hastings earning a couple points of goodwill for wading into the scrum. Many more of them show the limits of public outreach — Hastings can engage with users all they want, but he can’t tell them what they want to hear.

And there’s at least one comment from Hastings that tells you, whether he meant to do so or not, what he really thinks about Qwikster, its service and its branding: “Old Fogey discs will last a long time. Part of the reason we setup Qwikster was so it last a long time too, focused on DVD.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald