Praise for Netflixed
“There’s a grim reality behind the magical wafting of DVDs to our mailboxes, according to this lively, canny business potboiler. Freelance journalist Keating tries to style the saga of online movie-rental behemoth Netflix as a Silicon Valley romance wherein subversive geeks conjure “a shared dream of a consumer-oriented company that reflected their ideals,” one where “marketing and technology waltz in a harmony.” But that conceit fizzles when Reed Hastings, a cyborg with a head full of optimization algorithms but no “empathy gene,” takes over as CEO and institutes “an uncomfortable level of process and formality that withered the little company’s spontaneous creativity.” His corporate despotism works out well, since renting movies online, Keating demonstrates, is just dog-eat-dog commodity retailing that hinges on ruthless cost-cutting and efficiency, careful orchestration of price points with advertising and promotions, and tricks like a recommendation engine that considerately steers customers towards more profitable merchandise. The colorful narrative climaxes with Netflix and archrival Blockbuster throttling each other in an old-fashioned price war that Netflix wins by a hair. Keating hypes the allegedly world-shaking technological transformations in how we access digital content, but what’s far more interesting and dramatic is her smart portrait of how an ever-changing capitalism stays very much the same.
“Veteran media journalist Keating’s nonfiction debut is a surprisingly swift-paced mix of investigative journalism and thrillerlike suspense. The major players in the game—Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Blockbuster’s John Antioco—are both complicated characters, and Keating does a commendable job painting a portrait of these very different business leaders, each with his own unique approach to vying for the same brass ring: domination of the American home-entertainment market. Hastings’ management style was coldly calculating, emphasizing the importance of algorithms to the issue of customer service. On the other hand, Blockbuster’s business model was almost Luddite in comparison, as they were convinced that traditional face-to-face transactions with customers would never go out of style. Keating covers the period from Netflix’s inception in 1997, through its lean years in the early 2000s, to its dramatic rise to prominence in the mid-2000s, and its near-downfall in 2010. Dutifully following the strands of Blockbuster’s ignominious decline, Keating also portrays Netflix as being in danger of succumbing to the same monopolistic arrogance as Blockbuster once did. This leaves them open to new business models popping up on the scene, such as the upstart DVD vending-machine service Redbox. Keating does an expert job at taking dry facts and stuffy Silicon Valley CEO types and arranging them all into a propulsive and satisfying narrative. An impressive look at the infinite complexities and cutthroat competition driving the deceptively simple business of 21st-century movie delivery.
“The little red envelope that could … and did! This is a classic Silicon Valley start-up tale and Keating gives readers behind-the-scenes access to a story that continues to play out in America’s mailboxes, living rooms, and mobile devices everyday.”
—JIM COOK, CFO of Mozilla,
Netflix founding team member
“A well-crafted, well-researched, and well-sourced page-turner. Keating is no stranger to this subject, having covered Netflix for years as a reporter, and gives readers a fascinating and insightful look into the inner workings of a company that forever changed how America watches movies.”
—LORI STREIFLER, executive editor, City News Service Inc.
“Even if all you know about Netflix is that it has bright red mailers and comes out of your Roku box, Keating’s reporting will make you want to sit down and learn more. It’s a tale of corporate intrigue, gigantic success, and enormous failure.”
—ALLAN PARACHINI, adjunct professor, California State University,
former Los Angeles Times reporter
“Netflixed has all the drama and intrigue of a Hollywood blockbuster, but for me, it was also nostalgic. Gina Keating perfectly captured the pressure, energy and emotion we all felt as we fought Netflix for control of America’s living rooms. I’m often asked by people, “What happened at Blockbuster?” Now I can tell them … just read Netflixed.”
—BEN COOPER, EVP, Camelot Strategic Marketing & Media,
former head of marketing, Blockbuster Online
“Gina Keating offers an accurate and compelling account of the revolutionary changes that have occurred in home entertainment over the past decade. The lessons of this insightful tale—that focus, innovation, and a little luck helped a struggling startup overtake the hubris and arrogance of a giant corporation—are clearly chronicled in a superb and comprehensive narrative that will prove invaluable to any practitioner or student of business.”
—JOEL MIER, Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business,
Vice President of Product & Services Marketing, Genworth Financial,
Marketing Director at Netflix, 1999-2006