Netflix to Old Subscribers: We Want You Back (NFLX)

Posted by · May 17, 2012 11:56 am

Netflix comebackWell, okay, fine. Netflix didn’t exactly say they want their disillusioned subscribers back, but a recent move by the ailing movie streaming company makes so many words unnecessary, really. In fact, based on a Wednesday update from Netflix, you might even think that such a move wasn’t even intended to recapture the hearts and minds of the 800,000-plus members who discontinued their subscriptions after last year’s rate hikes.

What was the big update, you ask? Well…it’s a new web video player.

According to the Netflix blog, the new player offers a number of new features that supposedly place it head and shoulders above the old version. Here’s the list they gave:

  • The size of the controls now scales, making it easier to use the player on large screens, for example if you connect your computer to your TV
  • Similarly, the player will scale down to smaller windows, which is useful if you want to watch something while working in another window. Also, the video now stretches to the full window in the browser
  • Full screen mode now has all the features of browser mode so you can view season/episode information and change to the next episode when watching a TV show
  • Pausing the video now shows more information about the title

But wait, there’s more:

In our new player, we’ve consolidated controls into one line. We’re also using icons instead of words. This might take a little time to get used to, but we think it will be intuitive once you start using the controls.

. . .

Perhaps the biggest change is to the ‘Back to Browse’ option, which used to sit at the bottom right of the old control bar. We’ve moved this up to the top of the screen and to the left. It’s now an arrow icon and text will explain its functionality when you hover over the arrow with your mouse.

I know. Exciting, right? Well, apparently it’s more exciting than it sounds. In fact, a Thursday report from TechCrunch reveals that subscription numbers are on their way back up. This is according to Netflix CFO David Wells, who spoke at a JP Morgan conference in Boston on Wednesday.

“Rejoined or folks rejoining the service will remain about a third of our new subscribers that are coming in,” he reported. In other words, those who took off at the advent of price hikes, Qwikster, terrible PR, and privacy meddling seem to be slowly but surely returning.

“The steady return of disgruntled customers is a testament to the breadth of Netflix’s streaming selection and general economic improvements,” suggests TechCrunch’s John Biggs.

Nevertheless, Netflix is hardly out of the woods. Although shares are back above the $70-mark, it’s still a ways from recapturing its former glory at nearly $300 a share. And it’s likely going to stay that way until Netflix invests more in making more quality content available through its streaming service, suggests TIME’s Keith Wagstaff.

But for now—whether by accident or by subtle design—Netflix has used what appeared to be little more than an ordinary update to its service to win a second chance from those it hurt the most.

And for that I say bravo—at least for the time being.

For more on the developing Netflix comeback…