September 22nd was a bad day to be Netflix. In all reality, it should have been a good day because Netflix launched their streaming service in Canada. More customers means more chances for revenue. Instead, Netflix managed to insult Canadians and Americans during this single launch event. They called Americans self-absorbed and tried to persuade Canadians to subscribe by hiring actors to attend the launch event and show enthusiasm about the launch to journalists.
The Hollywood Reporter had an interview with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings following the Canadian launch. One answer has struck a nerve with many Americans:
THR: Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?
Hastings: How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It’s something we’ll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed.
The bigger deal about Canadians getting a “discount” is that they’re not getting a DVD-by-mail option, only Americans get that and that’s where the extra dollar can be found. Are Americans to self-absorbed to notice they’re getting more for paying more? Netflix is looking to allowing a streaming only plan for Americans in the future.
The Apology to Americans
Via the Netflix Blog yesterday:
My Big American Foot is in my mouth. Yesterday, I made an awkward joke with a reporter in Toronto about Americans (like me) being self-absorbed relative to Netflix pricing in Canada. I was wrong to have made the joke, and I do not believe that one of the most philanthropically-minded nations in the world (America) is self-absorbed or full of self-absorbed people. The pricing Netflix is offering in Canada, $7.99 per month, does not include any DVD-by-mail option, and that is why it is cheaper than our $8.99 USA plan which has both DVD-by-mail and streaming in one plan. We are looking at adding a streaming-only option for the USA over the coming months. My apologies to anyone offended by my self-absorbed comment. Sincerely, -Reed
You can read the instructions that were handed out to extras over at Scribd but to highlight certain points where the public launch seems shady:
Extras are to behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out.
At 10 a.m. the news conference will conclude and Reed Hastings will approach the House with members of the media to conduct one-on-one interviews. At this point, Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada.
If real members of the public are too shy to approach Netflix Staff, it is the job of the extras to help boost energy and break the ice by asking questions and showing enthusiasm.
It is also the role of the Extras to fill in holes to make the Doll House look busy.
I wonder how much you get paid to be an extra like this.
The Apology to Canadians
Also via the Netflix Blog yesterday:
Steve Swasey, VP of corporate communications, here. I want to address an event held by Netflix in downtown Toronto yesterday as part of our launch of Netflix in Canada. The launch included the shooting of a corporate video with some hired extras, who, it turns out, were given improper direction to talk with the news media about their enthusiasm for the Netflix service. This was a mistake and was not intended to be part of our launch plan. Simply put: we blew it. We didn’t intend to mislead the media or the public, and we can understand why some have raised questions. We’re sorry that our misfire has given Canadians any reasons to doubt our authenticity or our sincerity.
Better luck next time, Netflix.