The Quick Death Of Qwikster

Qwikster may go down as one of the great business screwups. It made no sense, and angered their customers (again). Fortunately, it’s short-lived. Netflix just took Qwikster off life support and let it die a quick death:

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value our members, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get movies & TV shows.

Thank you.

-Reed

I’ll update with reactions from around the web as they hit. I, for one, welcome my newly reunified streaming video overlords.

Use PlayOn To Skip Hulu Commercials

Hulu is a great service, except for the commercials. I’ve seen all the Geico commercials more times than I can count (though I still enjoy the “Pen Mightier Than the Sword” one), and my wife is downright hostile to the Chase Sapphire commercials. It turns out that there’s a simple method to use PlayOn to skip commercials. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Start the video in PlayOn
  2. Press pause
  3. Get a drink or snack, move the cat, or otherwise occupy yourself for 2 to 3 minutes
  4. Resume watching
  5. Fast-forward when a commercial comes on

The PlayOn servier (aka computer) continues recording the TV show while the client (Roku box or iPad) is still attached. This extra recording time gives room to fast forward after a few minutes buffer is built. Presumably, the commercial skipping ability should also be present in PlayLater, the first compelling argument for getting PlayLater.

The fast forward is dead simple when using an iPad. The video progress bar at the top of the iPad window constantly refreshes with the latest duration. Since the PlayOn iOS app supports AirPlay, this makes the iPad + AppleTV2 a powerfully friendly video destination for PlayOn.

With the Roku box, a bit of finesse is needed to get a perfect fast forward. We’ve gotten the 30 second jump down around our house and it’s been a wonderful improvement in Hulu watching. I will add that we still watch commercials when we haven’t seen them 10 times. But, I promise you, those Chase commercials won’t suddenly make me love their credit card. Gold paint or not.

Streaming Video Linkfest for 9/26

Another week, more news. Netflix’s Qwikster service has lead the pack for news generation this week. I’ve got my own take on Qwikster (hint: this makes no sense). And now, onto the news:

Netflix, You Confuse Me

Last week, the Netflix CEO introduced Qwikster in an apology that confused people more than anything. I’m one of those confused people. There’s nothing about this change that makes sense, because it contradicts everything that Netflix has preached over the last year. Let’s wander over some history to spell it all out.

Netflix brought a large selection and a great recommendation engine that helped people find new DVDs that they liked. When Netflix added streaming video, it was side-business to the DVD shipping business. Soon, the streaming video catalog expanded and the internet economics began to make sense. It costs about a dollar to ship a DVD, but five cents to stream a video, but this was traded off against the still limited streaming selection. Streaming succeeded by using the recommendation engine to steer people toward streaming videos that they might be interested in even if it’s not the most recent material.

Netflix has been successful with this strategy. During the Starz contract negotiation, Netflix revealed that the Starz videos represent less than 8% of their total viewing hours, and that Netflix expects the Starz material to drop to less than 6% of the viewing hours. A Netflix exec also revealed that folks rate Netflix recommended movies and TV shows higher than the latest releases. This shows that their recommendation engine is helping drive viewers toward content that the viewers are enjoying, and this let’s Netflix tune their streaming video content acquisition strategy.

So, what has Netflix done with this Qwikster split strategy? They’ve broken the funnel that brings information into their recommendation engine. Netflix won’t be able to tie DVD rentals to streaming users, something that should be helpful for identifying new content to license.

Each website will be focused on just one thing (DVDs or streaming) and will be even easier to use. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated. So if you subscribe to both services, and if you need to change your credit card or email address, you would need to do it in two places. Similarly, if you rate or review a movie on Qwikster, it doesn’t show up on Netflix, and vice-versa.

I also am confused by Netflix kicking their customers while they’re down. The price increase angered people, though I can imagine it being necessary. Now, the customers that they didn’t anger enough with the price increase will have to work harder to stream and rent DVDs. Two bills to pay, two websites to sign into, and two separate recommendation engines.

Netflix’s Qwikster split weakens their recommendation engine, angers their customer base.  I can’t imagine what they’re getting for it. While it’s always possible they’re playing ten moves deep in some three dimensional chess game, it seems more likely that Netflix just plain screwed up.

Other folks writing about this:

Streaming Video Linkfest for 9/19

And I thought work had let me go. It hadn’t. But at least I can round-up some more newsy-news. Rumors are flying fast and furious about Apple’s potential TV (due by Christmas 2012), Blockbuster entering the streaming market, and the Hulu buyout. Also notable are the new Netgear NeoTV unit (another Roku or Apple TV device), Netflix’s discovery that people don’t like price increases, and XBox TV.

PlayOn Now Working On Roku 2

I was traveling for work for 5 days and nearly missed that PlayOn has pushed their Roku 2 patch out to the world. From the PlayOn forums:

Hello all,

Yes, we have included the Roku 2 patch in the most recent build of PlayOn. You should not need to use a different version now.

Thank you for using PlayOn – We appreciate your support!

It appears in version 3.14.14 and later. I’ve tried it out on my Roku 2, and it works great.