Perhaps when we were criticizing Reed Hastings and Netflix after the price hike and Qwikster fiascos, we had prematurely shot our wads on what was supposed to be a dry run; now, it seems, we have something of a mess on our hands. Netflix has signed up "Arrested Development" for an exclusive fourth season, and things are looking up for its embattled CEO. This is a brilliant move by Hastings, whose ability to "circsumvrent" the avalanche of negative PR we had all badly "misunderestimated."
And now the story of a wealthy company who lost almost all its value in four months, and the one CEO who had no choice but to turn it all around (or be cathartically fired): It's Netflix and Reed Hastings.
For months, commenters and journalists alike painted Hastings as out-of-touch, greedy, the guy in the 4,000 dollar suit who wouldn't hold the door for a guy who doesn't make that in four months (come on!). But, starting in 2013, fans of the cult hit "Arrested Development" will have exclusive access to every new episode of the show for just eight dollars. Eight American dollars! Why would anyone pay more than eight American dollars to watch the final, resurrected season of "Arrested Development"?
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed (and even if they broke the bank on the purchase, there's always money in the banana stand). What Netflix just bought itself, anyway, is worth more than a television show: It is positive buzz for a company that sorely needed public relations help. This is like getting upgraded to "Don't Buy" from "Triple Sell" by Jim Cramer. It could be a watershed moment, a pivot, a change in conversation about a company once thought hopeless. Just look at the reaction across the Internet:
Ain't It Cool: "That Netflix is some kind of something."
Perez Hilton: "Boy, this Netflix is all anybody's ever talking about."
Motley Fool: "So sick and tired of hearing about how brilliant that Netflix is."
The turnaround in public perception of Netflix based on a single content play is stunning; the analreaction (analysis/reaction) has been largely positive (even if, so far, Wall Street's reaction has not been). When we last saw Hastings, he was getting pilloried en masse on his company's own blog, there were plenty of calls for his resignation, he had delivered the worst financial report in his company's history, and he was fresh off being voted the worst audience participant Cirque du Soleil ever had . The company was in danger (based on both falling profit margins and the fact that it was a regular feature on Bill O'Reilly's most ridiculous item of the day) of losing many, many customers based on sheer emotional principle, not because the library selection had worsened, but because Netflix was perceived as a greedy, insensitive company, so much so that it did not deserve any of our hard-earned money.
How the worm has turned! In one small acquisition, Hastings has earned back a lot of goodwill. There was not a single television show or movie (not "Les Cousins Dangereux", not "Homeless Dad", not "Scandalmakers") that could have won Netflix more street cred than Season 4 of "Arrested Development". It is as heavily associated with unjust corporate cancellation as any unmade season of any television show ever. By proxy, Netflix now wins the gratitude of every A.D. fan hopeful that the series would be renewed. Well, Hastings just made it happen, so, if you're grateful, give him a little tap on the fanny.
Not gonna happen? Okay. Then perhaps we can recognize Reed Hastings for a solid business and PR move. Hastings may as well take an extra-strength Forget-Me-Now to wipe out his memory of the past 5 months, which could be illustrated with a timeline of all the huge mistakes (and huge tiny mistakes) he has made as CEO of Netflix. Many pundits were stupefied as to why Hastings remained in charge, reasoning that he must be funny or something, or that he does the cutest little thing with a hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise.
Well, there's more to Reed Hastings than that. It's as Ann as the nose on Plain's face. He co-founded Netflix, after all, had the original idea for the service that has changed the way millions of Americans consume television and movies. And while it looked as though, following major gaffes, his company's development had been arrested, now his trend is up. Reed Hastings just taught us all a lesson: That's why you always leave a note, and never count out a service, or an entrepreneur, with a great idea and a firm grasp on his business.
Say what you want about America, but thirteen bucks still gets you a hell of a lot of mice. And do you know what eight dollars gets you? The final season of one of the greatest (and most quotable) television shows of all time. The Internet just blue itself. It said "tingling," like, 75 times. Netflix just set up the United States with "Arrested Development" for one more season; and for that, Reed Hastings, you can sink your arrow into our buttocks any time.