business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got a number of emails about our stories and commentary about Netflix's travails, which I think offer some lessons to retailers.

MNB reader Brian Hart wrote:

Your quote (and requote,) "Netflix is an expensive, swollen monster of a company that’s not very different from its competitors" is exactly why we canceled our subscription with the latest price hike.  We had enough other services to select from, that we used at least as frequently, so why spend the money.  It was an easy choice and to date we have not missed it.

But MNB reader Steve Anvik wrote:

Nice insight KC, and all valid thoughts … to a point.  I subscribe to Netflix, and similarly to XM Sirius – Primarily to avoid commercials.  That is far more value than free, or reduced costs to us.  Push marketing is getting so intrusive/pervasive – that the pendulum will swing, and the benefit of ala carte non-ad services will survive/thrive again, IMHO.

From MNB reader Rich Heiland:

Interesting thoughts these past two days on Netflix and streaming in general. Two years ago we cut the cord on DISH and when we moved to Pennsylvania did not get any sort of cable. Currently we have YoutubeTV, regular Youtube, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Across those we have as much as we need. Do we miss some shows off Apple, HBO, SHO, all the other streaming outlets? Of course. But we also are still paying just a bit over half what we paid for DISH and would pay for cable in our area. So, we are not going to add to our menu. But, do we have “Loyalty” to any of these? Well, maybe Prime because of general shopping and deliveries, but otherwise, no. If one day I look at Netflix and say “this just isn’t any good any more,” I will switch. My loyalty is to what I really want to see and my pocketbook. Serve those two things and I’ll take a look. At some point there is a saturation point in what you can actually watch and see a cost-benefit return on.

One additional note here - Warner Bros. Discovery announced yesterday that it was shutting down the less-than-one-month-old CNN+ streaming service, concluding that to invest any more money in it would be fruitless, and that it would be too long and cost too much before achieving any reasonable ROI.

I still think that we'll see the company look to reduce its $55 billion in debt by selling off businesses - CNN and HBO among them.  And I think that maybe Netflix will be in the market for an acquisition that will be a game-changer.

On another subject, from an MNB reader:

I totally agree that it’s bad when field associates feel disconnected from the home office and C-Suite, but can you imagine how challenging the”virus" can become when home office associates are disconnected from the home office?  That’s life at one major retailer right now . . . Rite Aid.  The company has completely shut down its corporate campus in Camp Hill, PA and the entire staff is working remotely forever.  Many of the executives, who never bought into the idea of actually living in Central Pennsylvania, have returned to their families in places like Florida, California and the  Carolinas. Rite Aid is creating a 20,000 sq. ft. (That’s all folks!) collaboration center in the trendy Philadelphia Navy Yard where associates and suppliers can gather, but there will be no offices or cubicles.  Several other small collaboration centers are slated to be sprinkled strategically around the country.  So while other companies are reconnecting by transitioning back to in-office or hybrid models, Rite Aid has taken the bold step of keeping people physically separated and virtually connected.  It’s a bold move.  Whether or not it helps or hampers the associate experience is TBD.   

The other day we took note of a LendingTree study saying that "nearly 70% of buy now, pay later users admit to spending more than they would if they had to pay for everything upfront."

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

Please don’t support the latest version of “pay-day lending” – even vaguely, by saying its fertile ground.  Typically those most vulnerable get hurt the most.  I’m shocked you didn’t condemn this outright.

I take your point … but I'm not sure pay-day lending is the same as buy now, pay later.  Though it is fair to say that both could be an enormous trap for consumers.

On the subject of drone deliveries, MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:

I have to be honest, I have tried to get my arms around this but just don’t see how drones make sense.  Is it cheaper? No.  More reliable? Clearly not.  More convenient for customers? Not that I can see.  What am I missing?

And from another reader:

People can be shut in(s) or time starved … but a drone delivery of a coffee (not to mention other items) is beyond my mind.    Iced coffees start to melt/dilute, hot coffee cools. Wonder if a lot of deliveries were at 4:20? To quote Dr. Peter Venkman, “dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria” (for drones).  What’s next?

I had an exchange the other day with an MNB reader who made an assumption about my politics, and I responded:

I am conservative about some things, liberal about others, and like to think that I actually relatively centrist and open-minded about most issues … But the only "true" thing I am is skeptical about anybody who thinks their way is the only logical and level-headed approach to anything.

When prompted by another reader, I wrote:

I missed an opportunity. I should've added what else I believe in … the soul, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. 

But I don't believe in dogma.  Nobody's.

One MNB reader responded:

Except for the dogma of Crash Davis.

Well, we all have to have our deities and role models.

Another MNB reader wrote:

Thanks, Crash.  Here’s why players command such high dollar salaries:

"Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a ground ball, you get a ground ball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium."

Finally, the other day there was an story in which some of the phraseology was reminiscent of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

But MNB reader Steve Burbridge didn't want to let it rest there:

I found this one day.  A bit more up-to-date than the standard prayer we all know.  I thought you might like it as it came from the Jesuits website and written by a Jesuit priest!

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.

And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.

Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.

Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m not you.