In the spring of 2011, Hastings, Netflix’s widely admired chief executive, held a meeting with his management team and outlined his blueprint to jettison Netflix’s DVD operations. Netflix managers would tell subscribers on July 12 that they planned to do away with a popular subscription that offered access to DVD rentals as well as unlimited on-demand streaming video for $10 per month. DVDs and streaming would be separated and each would cost subscribers $7.99 a month, or $15.98 for both, about a 60 percent hike. The changes would take place in September.
Jonathan Friedland, the new vice president of global corporate communications who had joined Netflix just a few months earlier, asked whether customers on tight incomes might object to the price hike, according to people at Hastings’ meeting. Hastings argued that Netflix was a great bargain. He said he knew that some customers would complain but that the number would be small and the anger would quickly fade.
Hastings was wrong. The price hike and the later, aborted attempt to spin off the company’s DVD operations enraged Netflix customers. The company lost 800,000 subscribers, its stock price dropped 77 percent in four months, and management’s reputation was battered. Hastings went from Fortune magazine’s Businessperson of the Year to the target of Saturday Night Live satire.