How to lose a customer after 13 years
It’s February 8, 2023. Here’s the rundown:
How to lose a customer after 13 years
Numbers and links
How to lose a customer after 13 years
I’ve happily paid Netflix a lot over the years but finally pulled the plug. Here’s why.
I have dutifully paid Netflix a monthly subscription fee for more than 13 years. I just took a look — I became a subscriber in November 2009. I’d be hard-pressed to think of any other element of my life that is more or less the same as it was in November 2009.
And yet, I found myself pulling away in recent months. I like Netflix. I like its product. It’s inexpensive and provides a lot of bang for the buck. Seriously — some back-of-the-envelope math tells me that I’ve probably paid Netflix something like $2,000 over the years. I’ve gotten much more than 2,000 hours of entertainment over that time, I’d wager, and so even at $1 per hour, that’s…pretty good.
But Netflix also succumbed to the same fate that many upstart companies do: It became too big for its own good, and now shareholders are trying to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the lemon.
So, after 13 years, I canceled my subscription. I’m not necessarily unhappy with Netflix. I still think it’s a relatively good deal, even if its monthly price has increased over the years.
But those price hikes, coupled with a worsening product and increasingly antagonistic attitude toward its customers led me to hit the cancel button. The thing is, too, that if Netflix had just done one or two of these things — which it has, as it’s gotten more expensive and its library has eroded away over the years — I probably would just keep the damn thing going. But it’s the extra stuff of late that finally pushed me over the edge.
For instance, Netflix is apparently cracking down on password-sharing, something it previously embraced and encouraged users to do. But now, I imagine there’s pressure to increase revenue, and this is the tactic the company has chosen. It also pushed me to unsubscribe.
So, now, instead of getting more revenue, the company will get none from me, and probably many others. But again, that was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. Let’s start with the price hikes.
I’m paying more
Chart via The Verge
I was unaware that there were actually different Netflix membership tiers. And I was paying for a “standard” membership, paying more than $15 per month. Okay, not bad. Again, that’s about $0.50 per day for a huge library of content. I can deal with it.
But as you can see from the chart above, the price has doubled in a decade. The company has invested considerable resources into producing its own original content, of course, so there are reasons for that. But in a day and age when I can just cancel and go to a cheaper service (Hulu, Disney+, and many others are less expensive), what incentive do I have to stay with Netflix?
Especially when the core product has gotten worse while it’s gotten more expensive.
The product is worse
Netflix has something for everyone. But it does feel like there’s less for “me” these days than there was before. In fact, I took a look at “My List” the other day, and found that 90% of it was stuff my wife wanted to watch. Not me. I don’t know what “Bridgerton” is, and I don’t intend to find out.
And scrolling further, I no longer see things I want to watch. Sure, I like shows about Vikings and sitcoms like Seinfeld, but what’s all this other stuff? I’m not going to watch anime, I’m not going to watch that show about those 80s kids in Indiana. Just give me the stuff you used to have: “The Office,” “The X-Files,” etc., and make more shows like “The Last Kingdom.”
I could go on. I don’t expect Netflix to have everything I ever wanted to watch, of course, but I don’t think that many people would disagree that the main library of content isn’t what it used to be. This is largely due to other companies starting their own streaming services (and, while perhaps cheaper, sure as hell doesn’t mean I’m signing up for those, either).
But what it comes down to is this: I don’t feel like I’m getting as big of a bang for my buck these days. I only have so much free time and attention, and Netflix — my steadfast comrade for the past decade and more — isn’t cutting it.
Netflix has lived long enough to become the villain
Finally, as I noted, Netflix is becoming what it sought to destroy: Another corporate cash vacuum that will do anything to drive a marginal increase in revenue. Netflix killed Blockbuster because Blockbuster charged late fees (among other things), but is now sort of becoming the new Blockbuster.
There’s the password crackdown, the introduction of advertising on the platform, and more.
The password-sharing change is sort of front-and-center here, and I don’t even think anyone else has my password. It’s the about-face — the company’s CEO literally said that password-sharing was “a positive thing” several years ago. So, what changed? The company makes more money now than it did, which takes us back to the age-old question of “when is it ever enough for corporate America?” Look at that sweet, sweet revenue growth:
This is the problem with wanting, or expecting endless growth: at some point, the snake eats its own tail. I’m probably part of the tail, in this case, and Netflix can now no longer count on my sure-thing dollars every month.
That brings me to my main point, which I suppose is that Netflix SEEMINGLY WENT OUT OF ITS WAY TO LOSE ME AS A CUSTOMER. It could’ve just kept chugging along, making “Vikings: Valhalla,” and I would’ve kept paying them. But instead, it’s rocking the boat, and can’t leave well enough alone.
Who knows? Maybe this will play out in Netflix’s favor in the long term? It could just turn into a non-stop “Stranger Things” factory, after all, and continue to cancel everything that doesn’t hit its mysterious KPI goals. That’s always gone over well with viewers — hell, I don’t even start watching Netflix shows anymore unless I know they’re going to continue, and the most recent example was “1899.”
And with that, my 13+-year run as a Netflix customer comes to an end as of February 8. I guess I could always re-subscribe. But…why bother? With so many other things fighting for my attention and money, Netflix has left me with a sour taste in my mouth. And it didn’t have to be this way.
Remember: We have power as consumers. I don’t want Netflix to go out of business or anything, but I do think it’s a company that’s due for a reality check. And if companies could grow, generate billions every quarter, and simply be happy about it, maybe they’d all be better off leaving a little more juice in the lemon while having a happier customer base.
Numbers, links, and more
-58,000: The number of childcare workers in the U.S. in January 2023 compared to February 2020. (The Wall Street Journal)
18%: The growth in concussions during the NFL regular season this year. (ESPN)
$1.4 billion: What drug companies were pre-paid to vaccinate poor people around the world. The orders have been canceled, but they’re keeping the money. (The New York Times)
Get productive: This guy hired five people to sit next to him and keep him accountable while working. (Simon Berens)
Spinning: Goldman Sachs’ CEO apparently moonlights as a DJ. (The New York Times)
From $13.85 million to $0: How a football recruit lost his NIL deals — it’s truly a new world out there. (The Athletic)
"I took a look at “My List” the other day, and found that 90% of it was stuff my wife wanted to watch. Not me. I don’t know what “Bridgerton” is, and I don’t intend to find out."
Sam, you made me laugh with this one! My lists (on Prime and Apple TV, not Netflix, are also filled with stuff I'll probably never watch, but I'm the one who put them there. I cut Netflix several years ago; the price vs the amount of content that I wanted to watch didn't seem worth it.
Interested to hear your take on the desire for constant growth. I feel like it is a combo of greed and debt. All these companies borrow incredible amounts of money and have to grow in order to unlock more debt to pay off the old debt. Thoughts?