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网飞的启示:如何避免被“网飞”厄运

Saul Kaplan 2011年10月14日

网飞(Netflix)也可以当动词用,意思是颠覆曾经大获成功的商业模式。现在的麻烦在于,网飞公司自己看来也很可能难免被“网飞”的宿命。

    某种商业模式一度曾大获成功,但有朝一日,颠覆性技术和新商业模式开始崛起,取而代之,这就是百视达的遭遇。这种遭遇并非百视达的专利。所有的商业模式都有被“网飞”的风险。甚至网飞公司自己需要警惕被“网飞”的威胁。

    毫无疑问,对网飞公司商业模式最大的毁灭性威胁来自电影现在可以在线下载和观赏。总有一天,用录像带和DVD来观赏数字化视频将成为一种过时的做法。现在,网飞已经开始试验在线提供电影,并运用新的定价机制,以此大幅改进其商业模式。然而,网飞公司能避免自己被“网飞”掉的命运吗?

    起初,网飞公司试着在现有的商业模式中捆绑流媒体,作为新产品推出。对希望通过邮件和在线流媒体两种方式观赏影片的用户,公司推出了一个颇受欢迎的定价方案:每月只需花上9.99美元,就能享受无限量观赏流媒体,以及每次邮寄一部DVD电影的服务。这个方案广受欢迎,但对网飞公司来说,随着成本日益上涨,它并不是个可持续运营的计划。流媒体版权费用不断上涨,提供流媒体服务所需的带宽、基础设施和服务支持等方面的成本也在增加,这些都使每月只需少许费用就能畅享流媒体和DVD邮寄租赁的服务变得难以为继。如果没有足够现金购买热门作品的流媒体版权,网飞公司就难以取悦喜欢流媒体的用户。此外,显而易见的是,对只愿意通过邮件低价观影的人来说,要他们付更多的钱观看实时流媒体电影肯定也无从谈起。因此,采取折中措施在所难免。

    2011年7月,网飞向所有用户宣布了一项大幅提价计划。公司决定,终止9.99美元的捆绑定价服务,转而将这两项服务分拆,每项定价7.99美元。这意味着高达60%的涨价幅度。用户立刻做出了反应,一时间满是怒斥之声,网络上怨声载道。同时超过100万用户选择用脚投票,退订了网飞的服务。网飞DVD邮寄租赁服务的商业模式运作大获成功,但用到与邮寄服务捆绑的提供在线流媒体服务时却不怎么管用了。

    结果,仅仅两个月后,网飞公司就再次推出新举措。2011年9月,公司决定分拆为两个独立的业务单元。其中运营在线流媒体业务的将继续以Netflix为品牌开展经营,而另一个独立业务单元将重新命名为Qwikster,运营公司传统的DVD邮寄租赁服务。显然,网飞公司明白,要在以DVD邮寄租赁服务为核心的商业模式下发展流媒体业务是行不通的。

    对诸位商界领袖来说,可从里德•哈斯汀经营网飞公司的经验中汲取的最重要的教训来自他简明扼要但意味深长的肺腑之言:“回顾过去,我认识到,因为曾经的成功,我在不知不觉中变得骄傲自满起来。”在一篇博客中,他继续娓娓道来:“我对网飞最大的担忧一直是,我们无法从DVD业务上的成功大步迈向流媒体业务上的成功。大多数在某种业务上成就不凡的企业——比如美国在线公司(AOL)的拨号上网服务,或者伯得思书店(Borders bookstores)——往往因为担心开拓新业务有损原有业务,在人们需要的新鲜事物上就变得无所作为了(对我们来说新事物就是流媒体)。最终,这些企业意识到,在新事物上投入不足就会错失良机,随后开始拼命弥补,想要弥补错误,然而此时已经希望渺茫。企业很少会因发展太快而一败涂地,它们倒是经常会因为裹足不前而寿终正寝。”

    然而,在流失了100多万用户,并且流失速度变得难以遏制后不到一个月,里德•哈斯汀又宣布,网飞再次改变决策,不会继续推进独立的Qwikster商业模式和业务。公司将继续对在线业务和DVD邮寄租赁业务及两者的定价实行打包经营。让人惊讶的是,在他宣布该决定的讲话中,他否定了自己所谓的“企业很少会因发展太快而一败涂地”这一提法。他说:“发展迅速和发展太快并不是一回事。”耳闻目睹网飞自己陷入被“网飞”的境地真让人痛心。

    我不知道这部大片的结局将会如何,但有一点是毋庸置疑的。商业模式已不再像过去那样经得起时间考验了。它们变得容易被“网飞”。任何人,任何企业都无法幸免,网飞自身也不例外。

    索尔•卡普兰@skap5是商业创新工场(Business Innovation Factory)的创始人和主要推动者。

    译者:清远

    The Blockbuster story is about a business model that was successful until a disruptive technology and a new business model displaced it. The story isn't unique to Blockbuster. All business models are vulnerable to being netflixed. Even Netflix has to worry about being netflixed.

    Of course, the biggest threat of disruption to Netflix's business model comes from the ability to download or watch movies directly online. It is only a matter of time until both videocassettes and DVDs seem like an antiquated way to access digital video content. Netflix has been aggressively evolving its business model experimenting with new online movie offerings and pricing models. But can Netflix avoid being netflixed itself?

    Netflix initially tried to bundle streaming as a new product offering within its current business model. For customers that wanted to access movies through both the mail and online streaming it offered a popular pricing plan of unlimited streaming and one movie out by mail at a time for $9.99 a month. Many liked the offer but with increasing costs it wasn't a sustainable proposition for Netflix. The growing cost of streaming rights and the increasing costs for bandwidth, infrastructure and support to make streaming available were making a one low price per month for unlimited streaming and DVD delivery untenable for Netflix. Without the cash to gain streaming rights for popular content Netflix would not be able to please customers interested in streaming. And of course customers who were only interested in a low price mail delivery model had no interest in paying higher prices for real time movie streaming. Something had to give.

    Netflix announced a whopper of a price increase to all of its customers in July of 2011. They decided to get rid of the $9.99 bundled price plan and to separate the two offerings each priced individually at $7.99. It was a 60% price increase and customer reaction was immediate and angry. Blog posts and comments piled up across the Web in reaction and over a million customers voted with their feet by unsubscribing to the Netflix service. The business model that had worked so well for the DVD-by-mail service did not work well to deliver online streaming bundled with the mail service.

    It only took two months for Netflix's next move. In September of 2011 it decided to split up into two discreet business units. One for online streaming continuing to operate under the name Netflix and another independent business unit established under the new name Qwikster to operate the company's legacy DVD-by-mail service. It became clear to Netflix that trying to grow the streaming business within the core DVD-by-mail business model wouldn't work.

    The most important lesson for all leaders to take away from Reed Hastings' experience at Netflix is from his simple but profound admission, "In hindsight, I slid into arrogance based upon past success". Hastings goes on to say in a blog post, "My greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something -- like AOL (AOL) dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business. Eventually these companies realize their error of not focusing enough on the new thing, and then the company fights desperately and hopelessly to recover. Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly".

    And then less than a month later after losing over 1 million customers and the bleeding continuing Reed Hastings announced Netflix had changed its mind again and would not be going forward with a separate Qwikster business model and unit. They would continue to blend the online and DVD-by-mail offerings and pricing. He amazingly contradicted his comment that companies rarely die from moving too fast in his announcement saying, "There is a difference between moving quickly and moving too fast." It was painful to hear and to watch Netflix in the throws of being netflixed.

    I don't know how the movie will turn out but one thing is clear. Business models just don't last as long as they used to. They are all vulnerable to being netflixed. No one and no organization are immune, not even Netflix.

    Saul Kaplan @skap5 is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory.

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