My bold prediction (with no basis in fact) is that NetFlix, as cool as it is, is doomed to go the way of Deloreans and New Coke (if you’re substantially younger than me think Orbitz instead of New Coke). Predicting the failure of a business is no big trick, predict the end of any business and you’re usually right.The difference is I’m predicting that NetFlix will fail for very specific reasons. These reasons have to do with walking, waiting and postage but before we get to why NetFlix is doomed let’s check out why NetFlix is cool.
NetFlix is a subscription service (beats the hell out of Blockbuster) where you pony up twenty bucks a month, choose some movies and then NetFlix sends aforementioned movies to your residence. You watch the movies, send them back and they send more movies. It really is a great concept, I’ve been tempted to subscribe more than once. One of the big reasons I’ve been tempted is because everyone I’ve talked to that subscribes is ecstatic with the service. It’s easy to see why: You watch the movies you want pretty much when you want to. Much better than HBO or Pay per View where you’re tied to a schedule or given a paltry selection. So, yeah, NetFlix is the coolest thing since dedicated fax machines.
If NetFlix is so cool why are they destined to go the way of Public Transportation in America? The reasons are fairly basic. You might imagine that NetFlix is in the business of selling movie rentals, but you’d be wrong. NetFlix is selling convenience, there are already a plethora of places to rent movies (drive around and look) so renting movies is old hat. What NetFlix offers over your neighborhood video store boils down to ease of use. You avoid the trip to the store, the late fees, the limited selection, the out of stock hassles etc. At two ten spots a month it’s a bargain. Unfortunately for NetFlix even more convenience lies on the horizon. Imagine skipping the walk to the mailbox to fetch the DVD’s and the hassle of sending them back. As broadband internet access increases NetFlix will become less and less appealing, heck why bother walking out to the mailbox when you can just click and download the whole movie for a few bucks?
Before you call that crazy talk reflect upon iTunes. iTunes isn’t selling music, iTunes sells convenience. Aw heck, when Apple is going well the only thing it sells is convenience. The first Apple was a $666 computer kit (you put it together). Sure you could’ve bought other kits and worked like hell with as much succes as Shelley Levene to get the same results but the Apple I was much easier. The first Mac? Much more convenient than remembering all those operating commands (park heads Dammit!). The wildly successful iMac? A pretty damn convenient way to get on the internet. Sure it’s easy to think that getting on the internet wasn’t very hard in 1998 (it wasn’t) but if you had never bothered with technology a translucent computer ready made for the ’net was pretty darn appealing. Back to iTunes: iTunes offers a nifty speedy way to download music to your computer. You get a nice server (as opposed to the iffiness of P2P software) a 99 cent price point and a comforting sense of legality. In short iTunes makes everything easy for the honest folks (most folks are honest). And that’s going to be the problem with NetFlix, sooner or later it will be less convenient than other legit options, and when that happens NetFlix is doomed.
For the moment NetFlix is the most convenient option, finding movies on the internet is a bother and watching movies on your computer is fairly lame. Even if you have the Mac Daddy of all monitors (Apple Cinema Display) gathering the family around the ol’ G5 to watch A Christmas Story just smacks of lameness. Yet integrating your TV and computer is getting easier and broadband speeds are increasing. As the technology progresses that walk to the mailbox, repackaging of the DVD and wait for the new movies will all be unnecessary and when NetFlix becomes less convenient than other options NetFlix will become unnecessary as well.
Onto the requisite blog type stuff:
Time waster of the moment:
(turn gore off, the game is much funnier)
Evil Link of the day (yes it’s my personal site)
Thanks to John Farr for finding the evil link auto rater.