Dead Red

I’ve been a Netflix member since 2004, and found a lot of value in the service since the disks-in-the-mail days of yore, when getting a livestream of Starz was just a weird freebie throw in.

But when I look at all the services I pay for each month — currently including HBO Max, Disney+, Apple TV+, Prime Video and now a free trial of Hulu — it’s the first one I’d cut.

No wonder Netflix is hurting. How did the one-time leader go wrong?

I think it’s death by a thousand cuts. Here are my pain points:

Netflix doesn’t integrate with Apple TV

I started my Hulu trial because I wanted to watch Community and it suddenly seemed to disappear from Prime Video but Apple suggested I watch it on Hulu. It was available to me through Netflix, but I didn’t know that! Even if I fall in love with something, if it’s not on what I think of as my TV front page. While Nintendo and a whole bunch of others beat out Apple TV (the device, not the app and not the service) for marketshare, it suggests to me Netflix’s attitude that was believing its prominence made it special seemingly blinded to its competition.

Netflix gave up on its “queue” for a “list”

In the old days, there was this moment of angry-turned-joy when something made it to the top of your queue and showed up in the mail so you watched it and found a new favorite. The move to a list, necessitated by the constant churn of the catalog due to streaming-right fights, went that joy was lost. It also turned Netflix from a “we’ve got everything” place for movie lovers to a “we’ve always got something to watch” place for people who just wanted flickering lights.

Netflix doesn’t show me good stuff to watch

At one time, Netflix was really interested in building a better recommendation engine until it wasn’t. Now I get trending stuff that doesn’t fit me. I can’t find good movies or TV to watch, there’s nothing that drives surprise and delight, and its recommendations suck. I’m aware of the big cultural moments (Squid Games, Stranger Things) but Netflix doesn’t seem interested in finding off-the-beaten-path stuff I might like.

Netflix has a shotgun approach to exclusives

I trust HBO to deliver great TV, and it has an amazing back catalog. Apple TV+ has also constantly delivered great shows that are at least worth trying out. Disney+ always seems to have a show I’d like to try (folks, Andor is really good, even if you don’t like Star Wars). I kept bumping into shows I wanted to try (The Bear, Only Murders in the Building) that were on Hulu and eventually game in. There’s nothing I’m excited about on Prime, but it fills the “other stuff” category for me and comes bolted on to other Amazon services that I pay for. I liked, but didn’t love, Stranger Things and felt the same about many other Netflix originals.

Netflix has overvalued itself in my life

I now pay $20 a month for Netflix because I want 4K. They’ve also tied the number of screens you can use at a time to that, which isn’t a big deal to me but feels cheap (we probably use two concurrently). Apple TV+ is $7, Hulu is $15 without ads, Disney+ is $11 and Amazon Prime is $15 and the video feels like an add-on to free shipping.