When I woke up on July 12 and learned that I would have to pay an extra $6 dollars a month in order to maintain my unlimited streaming + 1 DVD at a time subscription to Netflix, I wasn’t too fazed by the matter. As long as I got to keep watching Weeds and Dexter at my leisure, I wouldn’t have minded paying an extra $7 a month. It wasn’t until after I logged on to Facebook and Twitter that same morning that I realized I was one of the few who did not take this news as a “crime against humanity.” It was a viral war-zone. Tweeters were holding nothing back, sending out one hateful tweet after another. Before long, the entirety of the Netflix community knew that their lives were about to change.
My question is: why?
Why was the Netflix price change such a scandal? People were going as far as to compare the Netflix announcement to the fabled ‘Rapture’ which was supposed to consume us all only a few months prior. So, while I am in no way happy about having to pay more per month, a few more dollars is in no way comparable to a fiery inferno sent from the heavens. So why was everyone so upset by the matter?
The outrage came when people realized that the price hike was coming all at once. Normally, when Netflix raises its prices (which it has done multiple times in the past), it’s by a dollar or so and nobody takes notice. This most recent announcement, however, came as one large blow to all if its customers and nobody was prepared for the fiscal and emotional toll it would take. Perhaps the most unprepared group of people was the Netflix PR team. They had predicted that there would be some serious backlash from this price hike, but they were thwarted with threatening emails and letters by their once devout customers. It quickly fell upon the PR team to salvage this disaster in order to keep the company alive.
The PR team had already made one grave mistake – releasing the information about the price hike via blog post and then remaining silent for a few days after the message was heard. They did not respond or explain themselves for quite some time after the information was released. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has made it a point for a few years to try and phase out the DVD aspect of the company, which in the long run makes perfect sense. This did, however, instill some fear in subscribers as they did not know how else their subscriptions would change.
The team eventually released a statement declaring that this change in payment was a way for the company to remain cost effective and to segregate the Netflix consumer base into its DVD users and its streamers. This cleared the air for some users, but those who fervently use both are still caught in this Netflix maelstrom. The PR team has remained relatively quiet over the past few weeks, and some Netflix users are still up in arms about what they are spending their money on.
How do you think the Netflix PR team should have edited their strategy in order to maintain the price change but keep the customers happy?
–Jonathan Graziano is a PR intern at 451 Marketing. Jonathan is currently a junior at Emerson College majoring in Marketing Communications.