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An Open Letter to Netflix
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Dear Netflix,

In the words of the living ghost of Joan Rivers, "Can we talk?" Listen, I like you. You babysit my kids. You prevented me from pilfering through the 'Not Available' signs at Blockbuster. And you seemed really hip when you become a permanent resident of my Xbox. You were edgy, progressive, and that one cat in junior high school who could get all the chicks. And now look at yourself.

You are lost in the crowd, riddled with angst, in dire need of relevance and are looking to schtupp anything that walks into the bar to feel a sense of accomplishment. You are now that dolt on "Jersey Shore" without the abs. What's wrong with you? You had everyone at "Hello," and to keep up with that positive mojo, you told your entire customer base to Netfluck themselves. Raising rates by 60 percent without a chocolate on our remote? Seriously?!

But hey, I forgave you because you think of me. You allow me to rent those eclectic, hallowed films, such as "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," "Lawnmower Man 2," "Son of the Mask," and one the latest greats on Instant View "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2." Greatness, right?

Then, you kinda announced a new partnership with Qwikster, your new DVD-by-Pony-Express service. Of course, that announcement was buried amidst the shrapnel of your CEO Reed Hasting's mercurial apology so it was hard to see. I think that was intentional, but never fear, this country isn't as torpid as it used to be. You see, we have that social media thingy that allows all dunderhead moments like Cue Cat, Furby, New Coke, and Windows Vista to be discussed by your consumers.

I began to participate in said discussions, but found it difficult because I was so laughing so hard, tears filled my eyes. I'm in PR. I'm okay at it, so allow some friendly advice?

1. Qwikster? Come on. You're better than that. Ever heard of Napster or Friendster? How are they doing? The name emanates that peculiar five-and-dime odor of desperation. And the logo? Well, is it ironic that it reminds someone of being mooned? I think not. And while we are on that name: It's called research. Been to Twitter lately? The dude who currently owns the @Qwikster handle probably eats more of your B-movie DVDs than he watches. (Those 420 munchies are powerful. Or, so I've heard.)

2. Someone thinks we are that stupid. Let me get this right...now that DVD and streaming are separate, I won't see that 60 percent spike on my bill? Makes sense because Netflix is cheap...and now, Qwikster is cheap. Nevermind the fact that I — along with 98 percent of your customer base — will be confused and hungover from all this kerfuffle. Two services. Two separate websites. Two memberships. Two hassles. Yeah, that's genius. What matters is that you can sleep soundly now. Good on ya'.

3. Osiris Entertainment. I know. I know. You thought once Starz broke up with you unceremoniously, you could just asking the next ugly woman to dance and everyone would swoon at the sweet couple. Guess what? You're still going to make ugly babies. Oh sure, people will coo at the brat at parties, but trust me, "Oh, she's precious" is code for "DAMMMNNNNN!" You do know this is not an iconic Hollywood production house, right? This is the same company who brought us "Santa and the Three Bears" and "The Swiss Family Robinson," and you think that's going to make that bitter taste go down more smoothly? Eh, not so much.

For those reasons, and many more, may I recommend a nice crisis communications package for you? Your stocks are falling to the ground faster than Lindsay Lohan on an all-night bender. Your customers are quitting you by the droves. And it seems you are the inspiration for that new movie "Contagion."

You lost focus of what matters: us.

That's the premise of PUBLIC relations, after all. For some inane reason, you were under the impression people just didn't want to get out of bed to rent a movie. And then you woke up in the twenty-first century and realized this streaming thing is really popular. That brings us to the real problem — your selection. I had to go in the dank and dingy back room at Blockbuster to find some of these seedy movies you tease everyone with as "New Arrivals."

So you do what makes sense: you ask your CEO to be transparent and talk to the masses. Only, when you do that, you must sound smart and solution-based instead of coming at us with hat-in-hand howling, "I suck." PR is not a science; it's an art. And it seems that your CEO to rent some videos from that heavily bearded dude on PBS who paints-by-numbers all those nature pictures.

In closing, I would like to point you to something Mr. Hastings opined in his heralded blog post (now at 10,000 comments and counting):

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

This is true. However, when those aforementioned actions suck as bad as some of your latest movies, no one will care about your words. Ever heard of the boy who cried wolf? Surely with your vast collection of movies no one will ever see, there's a DVD you can check out to see how that worked out for the boy. That poor, poor, tragically ugly boy.

Love always,

Your Former Customer


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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