commentary I got an e-mail from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings this morning. He's always seemed like a nice man.
But the e-mail seemed quite long and I'd heard there was a video. So, I went to look the man in the eyes to both see and hear what he had to say.
I must admit that it affected my enjoyment of one lone slice of double-fiber toast, a banana, and a grande nonfat latte.
Here was someone who seemed to be apologizing, but in a way that didn't seem very apologetic. Yes, he was sorry that he hadn't communicated better. But his performance on camera suggested a nervous man who had just encountered an ex-lover in a seedy dive bar.
"Yes, I know I messed up, darling," he seemed to be saying. "But, you know, that's just the way things go sometimes. Who can you trust, eh?"
This might have left you to interpret what he might really be feeling. Except that around the 1-minute 8-second mark, Hastings flubs a line and then simply repeats it. This man is nervous. But, wait, he sells films and he didn't even have time to edit this numbing affair--or, perhaps, end of the affair?
Undeterred, Hastings presses on--with his friendster, Andy Rendich, the new head of Qwikster, trying to see if he can look even more indigestion-ravaged than his boss.
I cannot ever remember a new brand being launched with an apology. I can certainly never remember a new brand being launched with an apology of a video.
Yet Hastings wasn't done. For he proceeded to claim that the Netflix DVD service needed a new name so that the company could advertise it. Because, of course, it would have been impossible to advertise a DVD service from Netflix. Just as it would be impossible to advertise a fizzy drink from Coke.
Still, one line in this painful, slightly disturbing piece of footage rings in my ears like the screeching wail of a trash-deprived raccoon. "I think this will be great for us," Hastings says.
It may or may not be great for you, dear harried consumer. It might be confusing for you. It might be annoying for you. But it will be great for us.
Did someone really script this for Hastings? Did anyone with a vague dollop of sensitivity suggest that claiming it will be "great for us" might not be the most elegant phraseology?
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Still, what will be great for you, Reed? "To have a separate brand, a separate Web site, and for Andy to be able to innovate at a great rate."
Because Andy couldn't innovate at a great rate when he was head of the DVD side of Netflix? Because that pesky, awkward brand name was getting in his way? But, wait, you just told us in the video that nothing will change with the DVD service. So now you do want to change it and change it quickly?
You see, as a loyal customer (thus far) I worry about the changes you make. They seem a little confused and confusing. Now you tell me nothing will change, but it will change quickly. Or, um, Qwicksterly.
And then I discover that the Qwikster Twitter feed is already in the mighty power of some potty-mouthed stoner.
Oh, I get it. The potty-mouthed stoner wrote your video script.