The Dark Side of Netflix

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Netflix Pride Flag

Introducing the Netflix Pride Flag. With millions of subscribers welcoming all kinds of abuse and paying for it, Netflix's customer base has become the largest organized fetish group in North America. A group this large, dedicated, and submissive deserves a symbol.

If you are one of the millions who pay Netflix for continued abuses like throttling, artificial new release delays, mysterious billing errors, dismissive customer service, unjustified fee increases, etc., please display this flag with pride, and let everyone know about your tougher-than-leather, undying love for Netflix. Because, sometimes, love hurts.


Netflix Raising Prices - You're Going to Take It and Like It

I Heart Netflix

Surprise! Netflix is raising prices. Isn't it odd that a company gets bigger and then raises prices? One of the core benefits of a business getting bigger is that it can offer superior service for lower prices than the competition. In theory, (barring a monopoly or trust) as a company expands, the overall value of its goods and services should continue to become more attractive to customers.

In Netflix's case, however, customers seem to often get less service for the same price or the same service for a higher price. This is not always the case with each pricing change at Netflix, but it certainly is a common occurrence. Think about this. Whenever Netflix makes one of its sleazy deals with the movie studios, do your subscription prices go down, or does Netflix keep making you pay the full price and keep all of the profits for itself?

With such a large market share, Netflix must be getting cocky. Perhaps, Netflix knows--from experience--that its customers will accept all sorts of abuse, provided that abuse is doled out quietly in small amounts.

"Small amounts" might be a slight understatement here.  If you are on the two-out plan, you are going to take a hit of just over 7% on your monthly subscription fee.  If you are on a three-out plan, however, your prices are going up nearly 18%.  In how many areas of your personal finances would you be willing to accept an 18% increase to a luxury expense?

So, if you remain a Netflix subscriber, you will soon be paying more for the same level of service or worse. Are you going to cancel your service, or will you just take the abuse?

Aww, c'mon.  We all know you're going to submit and take the new abuse. Much like Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary, you masochists just can't get enough of your cruel red lover. Hey, when you create a new account with Netflix these days, do they make you select a safety word in case things get a little too rough?


Watching the Watchers: Silverlight 4 Can Access Your Web Cam and Microphone

Silverlight has attracted little attention on Netflix Underground. Basically, some Netflix subscribers hate Silverlight, have loads of problems with it, wish they had never installed it, and are now stuck with it. There just was not much else to mention.

Now, however, a Netflix Undergrounder is claiming that Silverlight accessed his/her personal webcam and microphone without his/her knowledge. The subscriber claims Silverlight had a live image from his/her webcam, and he/she could view it simply by right-clicking and then selecting on a WebCam/Mic tab.

It is true Silverlight 4 has webcam and microphone support. That may be a nice feature, but it would be creepy to find out that Silverlight actively captures images and sounds from personal web cams and microphones by default.

Hopefully, some solid precautions have been taken to keep the private audio/visuals inaccessible to others, but a resourceful hacker might love to peek in on a person's private web cam just to snoop around and see who watches Netflix movies in their underwear. Nothing online is 100% hacker-proof, so this issue could raise some privacy concerns.

Certainly, this sort of functionality is addressed somewhere in Silverlight's terms of use or user agreement; however, given the massive potential for privacy violations, users should have to manually activate their web cams and microphones. Some people (the smart ones) do not want live audio/visual feeds being streamed from their homes over the Web.

Before anyone freaks out, please keep in mind this is just an accusation from one Netflix subscriber/Silverlight user, and this may just stem from a simple misunderstanding, oversight, or mistake; however, if it turns out to be true that Silverlight is automatically capturing webcam video and microphone audio, there is a concern that a serious breach of privacy has been made.

It must be noted that instructions at SilverlightShow indicate Silverlight 4 does have the capability to automatically detect webcams and microphones, but the same instructions also indicate users must grant Silverlight permission to access theses devices. As long as users are actually aware Silverlight is accessing their web cams and microphones and have a fair chance to allow or disallow access, everything is fine, and there is no cause for alarm.

Please check to see if Silverlight is accessing your webcam and microphone. If Silverlight is accessing your webcam and microphone without your consent, deactivate the access immediately and report the problem to Netflix and Microsoft. Please come back and share your findings here. Hopefully, this open web cam occurrence is just an isolated incident.


Netflix Bets on Gullible Canadians and Ignorant Americans, Eh?

Netflix has apparently grown bored with tricking Americans. Now, the Red Menace is spreading to Canada. Netflix is off to a wonderful start up there too.

According to The Canadian Press, to drum up Canadian interest in Netflix, Netflix hired actors to pose as Netflix fans at a publicity event in Toronto on September 23, 2010. Some of the actors gave interviews to reporters. They did so, because Netflix instructed them to show enthusiasm, "particularly if asked by media to do any interviews."

Certainly, the press is upset about the trick. Netflix is apologizing for the hoax, stating that it was improper. According to Michael Liedtke of the Associated Press, Netflix spokesman, Steve Swasey, even tried to float the excuse that this was all an accident, arising from a fake documentary they needed to make to qualify for permitting. Now, that is a weak excuse. Netflix was probably just trying to fool the Canadian public, and things just backfired on them when the actors broke cover and exposed the scam.

What is wrong with the corporate culture at this shady company? Is Netflix honest in anything they do? Why does this company have to trick people to generate interest? If Netflix will do stuff like this to attract customers, what are they willing to do to existing customers?

Here is some honesty for you. Canadians are getting streaming Netflix service at a cheaper price than Americans. When Etan Vlessing from The Hollywood Reporter asked Reed Hastings, "Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?"

The Netflix CEO and founder, Reed Hastings, responded, "How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It's something we'll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed."

So, Netflix does not want to give you American subscribers the same discount as they are giving to the same Canadians they just tried to fool with hired, fake Netflix fans. Reed Hastings thinks his company will get away with this pricing disparity because, apparently, Americans are too self-absorbed to know what is going on in other countries.

Hastings may very well be right about the ignorance of American Netflix subscribers, but do you want to do business with a company run by a man who has so little respect for you that he will publicly suggest you will pay higher prices because you do not know any better?


Netflix Favors Eliminating Saturday USPS Mail Delivery

On June 23, 2010, Netflix's Chief Service and DVD Operations Officer, Andrew Rendich spoke before a Congressional hearing in support of the United States Postal Service's desire to reduce mail service by eliminating Saturday deliveries.

This is a good time to ask what Netflix's priorities really are. Netflix is a company whose existence is largely based on residential mail delivery. Sure, some Netflix subscribers have moved to downloads, but millions of subscribers still receive all or most of their movies through the USPS. If Netflix was primarily concerned about meeting the needs of their customers, they would be horrified by the prospect of the USPS cutting back on delivery days. Instead, Netflix is actively supporting reductions in postal service.

Here is one likely reason why. If the USPS eliminates Saturday mail deliveries, average mail transit times are going to increase. It's simple. Under the proposed Monday through Friday delivery schedule, whatever mail you should have received on Saturday will arrive on the following Monday or later. Even worse, that DVD you watch on a Friday night will no longer be able to go out in the Saturday morning mail and get back to Netflix on Monday. Under the new plan, unless you go to a lot of extra trouble, Monday will be your first chance to mail that DVD back to Netflix. Who knows when Netflix will actually check in that DVD and send out a new one? If that new DVD does not happen to get to you by Friday, you will just have to wait until Monday to watch it. It will be a frustrating cycle.

This change will increase significantly the turnaround times on your account. Essentially, you will be paying the same monthly subscription fee, but you will be getting less DVDs per month. Here's the best part. Netflix gets to blame the whole reduction in service on a lazy, slow, and inefficient postal service. The elimination of Saturday delivery is a dream come true for Netflix. It is no wonder they are marching into DC and supporting the measure before Congress.


Netflix Fails to Honor Free Month Offer for Returning Customer

Netflix Undergrounder, Renée claims to have been cheated by Netflix on a free month membership incentive. Renée was a former Netflix customer for a couple of years and eventually received an invitation to rejoin Netflix for a free month of service. It was one of those "It's been awhile. Try Netflix free for a month," emails.

Renée decided to give Netflix another try. According to Renée, after just two weeks of service, Netflix charged Renée's debit card. Renée called Netflix to raise attention to the billing error. The customer service representative claimed the free month was only for new customers. When Renée called attention to the personalized email from Netflix and offered to forward the email as proof, the customer service representative hung up the phone.

Perhaps Renée's story is unusual, but the tale seems consistent with the sort of behavior that has made Netflix infamous. If you were wise enough to have already canceled your Netflix account, be thankful, move on with your life, and don't look back. If Netflix contacts you and tries to entice you back into the Netflix fold with special offers, consider Netflix may not fully honor those deals. If you do take the risk and rejoin Netflix under a special offer, make sure to check your account diligently. Make sure Netflix fully honors whatever promises they make to you. If Netflix pulls any tricks, cancel your account and report any fraudulent or unscrupulous activity to your bank/credit card company. If Netflix cheats you, you might be able to get some or all of your money back through your financial institution.


Netflix Rolls over for Universal and 20th Century Fox with More Artificial Release Delays

Just as Netflix chose to please Warner Brothers at the expense of subscribers by artificial delaying the rental of new releases by twenty-eight days, Netflix is rolling over for Universal and 20th Century Fox. Now, if you want to watch an new release from Warner Brothers, Universal, or 20th Century Fox, expect to wait at least four weeks longer than you usually wait to see the movie.

Supposedly, this deal will allow Netflix subscribers greater access to older movies. The deal is favorable to the movie studios because they are hoping to push people into buying more DVDs. If you like watching old movies and waiting a long time to see new releases, Netflix is for you. If you like watching new releases, then you have just been shafted by three movie studios and their complicit partner: Netflix.

How much longer will the movie watchers accept this egregious behavior before they start turning to the option of downloading movies? Downloading movies keeps getting easier, and the image and sound quality keeps getting better. The movie studios have successfully shut down some file sharing sites, but new sites keep popping up. Haven't these studios learned anything from what happened to the music industry?


Netflix HD Underwhelming

An article on Gizmodo by John Herman explores Netflix's attitudes about HD as it relates to the direction of the company. Click here to read "Why Netflix Doesn't Really Care About HD."


Netflix Underground Site Upgrade

To improve the overall experience for Netflix Undergrounders, Netflix Underground is currently in the process of incorporating several site upgrades. The appearance and functionality of the site will be going through some enhancements during the next several days. The full text of the original articles and comments from readers will be preserved and accessible as usual.


28 Days Later: Epidemic of Artificial New Release Delays to Afflict Netflix Subscribers

Once again, Netflix has reduced your subscription benefits without your consent. Just in case you were not already waiting long enough to receive new releases from Netflix, the Red Menace has just cut a deal with Warner Brothers to prohibit you from using your Netflix account to see new Warner Brothers releases for twenty-eight days after they are released on DVD.

Warner Brothers is inventing the artificial delay to push you into buying their DVDs instead of renting them. Netflix, benefiting from a special deal with the studio, is completely complicit in the scheme. This agreement is supposed to give you more access to older Warner Brothers titles. That's what you really wanted, right?

What can you do about this? First of all, buying Warner Brothers DVDs, especially during the first month after release, will only encourage this sort of sleazy corporate behavior. You might want to consider adopting a policy of not buying Warner Brothers DVDs or, at least waiting until the DVDs are available used or on clearance. Another thing you might consider is canceling your Netflix subscription and going with a competing company that does not impose artificial delays on new releases.

This is a stupid move for both Netflix and Warner Brothers. In a time when downloading pirated movies for free is becoming increasingly easy, certainly some people will get fed up with manufactured delays and seek out popular new releases online for free. More and more people are beginning to discover pirated movies are often available online for weeks or months before they come out on DVD. (Some movies show up on the Internet before they hit theaters.) People are also realizing only a modest amount of computer knowledge is required to download movies. If the movie studios had any sense, they would be trying to combat this challenge by making their movies available more quickly and conveniently. This move toward artificial release delays is only going to spur along the popularity and public acceptance of downloading.