On Sunday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote a post on the company blog apologizing for not being "extra-communicative" in informing users of the recent price change and announcing that the company was spinning off its DVD rental service and renaming it Qwikster.
Monday morning, Hastings sent out an email that invited users to comment about the change. And they commented.
"Now that I will have to manage two separate websites, with two separate catalogs and two separate cues, Netflix/Qwikster has lost all value to me," wrote David C.
"Oh yeah worst apology ever. Sorry I stole your car, but not to worry I will also take your watch," wrote Chad S.
Mike M. summed up the general sentiment in seven words: "This is a pretty f--king moronic idea."
It's obvious from a quick look at the comments accompanying Hasting's blog post that the users were upset, but, in the aggregate, just how upset were they?
The bulk of these comments were made on Monday. The data was collected on Monday afternoon.
The graph below shows comments during part of the day Monday. The peak of negativity comes at around 8:30 A.M. PDT.
So what does this mean for Netflix?
Here are a couple potential scenarios.
One, these comments are representative of the broader population of Netflix customers, which means the broader customer base - not just those who commented on the blog post - are very upset about the change. Whether this is still a bad move for Netflix, the business, depends on their long-term business interests, perhaps this is a necessary long-term shift in company focus. Facebook, for example, has made a few changes in their history that have provoked largely negative customer reactions and Facebook has continued to grow. No matter, it's generally not a good idea to have thousands of customers writing nasty comments about you. The post certainly could've been worded better.
Alternately, these comments come from a really angry minority of Netflix users. Perhaps the majority of Netflix users don't really care about the change or view it is a minor discomfort -- but some users are passionate enough about the change to comment, so we're left with the hostility. The change won't have a significant impact on streaming-only customers and visiting two websites is a bit of a hassle, but not too big of deal for a lot of their customers.
The reality is probably somewhere in between these two scenarios -- a reality that will be a challenge for Netflix.
For more on Netflix , read the Huffington Post's Jason Gilbert's commentary on the change.
It's important to note a couple caveats with the methodology used for the collecting these comments.
On Monday afternoon , using the Facebook Graph API, we collected 22,910 comments from the post. We then performed sentiment analysis of these comments, using ViralHeat's sentiment analysis API. The sentiment of some of the comments wasn't analyzed because of limitations of the API, such as 300 word limit, and technical error. These issues and duplicate comments led to a final total of 9455 unique comments. Some error could result from the 9455 comments if there are sentiment differences between the comments analyzed and not analyzed.
Furthermore, the sentiment analysis of some of the comments may be incorrect. Sentiment analysis tools generally have difficulty detecting sarcasm. Plus, the sentiment analysis tool used for this analysis, Viral Heat, wasn't designed specifically to be used for comments on a Netflix blog post. There may be unique characteristics of comments on a Netflix post, such as a positive mention of BlockBuster, that aren't picked up by a tool designed for more general use.
A quick examination of the analyzed comments revealed some misclassification, but overall the clear majority of the comments appeared to be properly classified.