The cruel world of the free market strikes again.
Reed Hastings was soaking in a hot tub with a friend last month when he shared a secret: his company, Netflix, was about to announce a plan to divide its movie rental service into two — one offering streaming movies over the Internet, the other offering old-fashioned DVDs in the mail.
“That is awful,” the friend, who was also a Netflix subscriber, told him under a starry sky in the Bay Area, according to Mr. Hastings. “I don’t want to deal with two accounts.”
Mr. Hastings ignored the warning, believing that chief executives should generally discount what their friends say.
He has since regretted it. Subscribers revolted and many dropped the service. The plan further tarnished a once widely respected Internet service that had already been wounded by an unpopular price increase in the summer. Mr. Hastings was forced to reverse the planned split — but not the price increase — three weeks later and apologized.
On Monday, the company revealed the damage that had been done. It told investors that it ended the third quarter of the year with 800,000 fewer subscribers in the United States than in the previous quarter, its first decline in years. The stock plummeted more than 25 percent in after-hours trading.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people get run over by trying to “improve” something that doesn’t need it. Just ask the folks in Atlanta how “new” Coke went over.