Will 2011 finally be the year of Netflix’s demise? At the rate we’re going, I wouldn’t be surprised to get another email from Reed Hastings, one that would start with, “I’m sorry, Ali. I effed up. I mistakenly sold our streaming division to some Mumbai-based company and all you’ll be getting from now on will be Shahrukh Khan biopics and Bollywood re-runs. I am really sorry, Ali. Can you forgive me?”
First, there was the recent announcement that Hastings was splitting up the business and making two distinct companies, one, Qwister, for DVD shipping, and two, the O.G. of home-streaming, Netflix, which will continue to stream their catalog to your Roku player. Do I see a long and bright future for Netflix’s DVD operations? I’d be lying if I said yes. What usually follows these kinds of reorgs is retirement. And besides, there’s a reason why Hastings has kept his eyes on the streaming ball from day 1; but at least, the bright-red DVD mailers helped to establish customer loyalty. It was something tangible, you could hold it, tear it or lose it. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Qwister being nudged out of the way altogether by end of December 2011.
Just this morning it was announced that Dish Network, rated third nationwide in consumer satisfaction according to J.D. Powers and Associates, has gobbled up now-defunct Blockbuster’s movie catalog and will be competing directly with Netflix in providing in-home movie streaming. Dish acquired Blockbuster last April after the familiar blue giant filed for Chapter 11.
The Netflix (and now Dish Network) watch-now catalog being what it is (read “limited”), the arrival of a new player won’t mean a whole lot to the consumer in terms of selection. And there’s only so many times you can watch Groundhog Day.
What I’m curious to see is if movie studios will go fully into the streaming business themselves, and take back a part of the cake. How would that play out? In five years’ time, are we going to end up with seven different streaming companies? Unlikely. But certainly, the business of how movies are consumed continues to be a Gordian knot for film studios and licensees.