You could easily be forgiven if not. Netflix’s ill-fated spinoff, which would have separated its streaming business from DVD rentals and required two separate memberships for customers, infuriated users, caused the company’s stock price to plummet, and lasted all of 23 days. It stands as one of the more notorious mistakes in recent business history — and one of the most quickly remedied.
The company is back — and it’s back big. After falling as low as $64 a share amid the Qwikster debacle (and $54 as recently as last summer), Netflix stock sits comfortably over $200 a share today. And though we’d be hesitant to assign causation to correlation, it is worth noting the language CEO Reed Hastings used in a recent letter to investors about the company’s long-term view:
“We are commercial-free unlimited-viewing subscription TV. We don’t have pay-per-view and we don’t have advertisements. Those are fine business models that other brands do well. We choose to be the best at our model, and to have our brand stand for commercial-free unlimited viewing [with a] low flat monthly fee.
“We don’t and can’t compete on breadth with Comcast, Sky, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, or Google. For us to be hugely successful we have to be a focused passion brand. Starbucks, not 7-Eleven. Southwest, not United. HBO, not Dish.
“We are not a generic ‘video’ company that streams all types of video such as news, user-generated, sports, music video, or reality. We are movies and TV shows.”
Hastings goes on to specify Netflix’s competition by name.
“The network that we think likely to be our biggest long-term competitor-for-content is HBO. . . . Behind HBO would come Amazon/Lovefilm/Prime, Hulu, Now TV, and many cable and broadcast networks in various territories.”
The letter to investors details exactly what Netflix is, anchors it to comparative brands, and perhaps most crucially, defines what it is not. Compare that to a company that tried to split itself in half two years ago to offer two distinct services, and you see a very different picture.
Hastings also provides a list of 10 reasons streaming Internet TV is still ripe for growth. And he writes at some length about why the company considers HBO its chief competition, and how that competition might evolve moving forward.
So why should you operate with this level of specificity? Because, at the very least, it serves to reassure stakeholders. But more importantly, it signifies a company now armed with something it didn’t have before: self-awareness.
Hastings (and the Netflix comeback, by extension) was the subject of a recent BloombergBusinessweek cover story that’s worth a read. Central to the article is the company’s quest to continuously improve its algorithms and technology. The takeaway there? Not only does Netflix know exactly what it provides, but it’s also intensely focused on how to better provide it.