I’m Still Trying to Figure Out Qwikster

Reed Hastings regrets Netflix's aborted plan to spin off its DVD service. But he hasn't explained how it happened in the first place.

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I haven't given a nanosecond's thought to Qwikster — the weird name Netflix gave to its aborted plan to spin off its DVD-by-mail business — since 2011. But it comes up in a New York Times story today by James B. Stewart, in which Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he felt horrible about the whole debacle, which also included an unpopular price hike.

I admire Stewart's work and hoped that his article would finally explain how a company as smart as Netflix could have come up with an idea as terrible as Qwikster. But it doesn't. In fact, the whole issue is a bit of a muddle in the piece. It lauds Hastings for an apologetic 2011 blog post and links to a mea culpa video. But the post and the video only apologize for doing a bad job at explaining the price hike — and then they segue into announcing Qwikster. (The video is misleadingly labeled on YouTube — it's called “Netflix CEO Reed Hastings Apologizes for Mishandling the Change to Qwikster.”)

In other words, Hastings, who was trying to undo a mistake, ended up digging himself deeper into a hole. A month later, Netflix decided that Qwikster wasn’t such a hot idea after all.

Today, Netflix has more than recovered: it's back to being beloved and is doing interesting and innovative things such as going head-to-head with HBO via exclusive programming like the U.S. version of House of Cards. I hope Hastings doesn't spend much time feeling guilty about the company's midlife crisis of 2011. But I'd still love to understand just what happened.


Netflix will never again be the "good old Netflix".  When they first started you could get almost any DVD available in the US plus many many foreign. No more. If you are looking for good stuff on the streaming, you've got to look hard.


Qwikster was just a mess, it was a poorly planned out business move. I think what made Qwikster such a bad move was that it was going to change to what Netflix was as a company. It started of as a DVD distribution company, and should continue with that business with the inclusion of video streaming. Netflix was surely doing well at that time and then this idea came up. Hastings should have followed that old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."