Netflix addresses consumer backlash with new content, features

Netflix may be faced with some unenviable prospects this fall, but it’s at least putting on a brave face. Following Reed Hastings’ mea culpa, the company has come forward with news to assuage subscriber outrage and perhaps even convince them to stick around into the new year.

Cindy Holland, Netflix vice president of content acquisition, said on Tuesday that the company’s recent two-year, U.S. exclusive deal with Discovery Communications “greatly expands” the instant streaming content available from Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.

Holland touted the Emmy-award winning show “Deadliest Catch” as Netflix’s own big catch, writing at the company’s official blog “we’re continually adding something for everyone.” Other shows included in the agreement are “Cake Boss,” “River Monsters” and “Mythbusters.”

On Monday, Netflix and DreamWorks Animation SKG jointly announced another exclusive licensing deal. Both old and new films from the successful animation house will be available for Netflix subscribers starting in 2013. Previously, the studio had aligned itself with HBO.

Contrasting the content additions is a new Facebook connectivity option. Netflix members in Latin America and Canada will be able to see what online friends are watching announced Tom Willerer, director of product innovation at Netflix.

While a U.S. version of the feature wasn’t completely ruled out, a decades-old law stands in the way.

“Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980’s law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook,” explained Michael Drobac, director of government relations at Netflix.

Drobac insisted that a new bill is currently under consideration by Congress and could reverse the policy. Titled H.R. 2471 and introduced in July by Sen. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), the bill proposes the following:

To amend section 2710 of title 18, United States Code, to clarify that a video tape service provider may obtain a consumer’s informed, written consent on an ongoing basis and that consent may be obtained through the Internet.

The bill has only made it as far as being referred to committee. No date has been scheduled for a vote.

Netflix shocked many this month when it announced that over 1 million subscribers will end their memberships this fall. It now expects to hold around 24 million subscriptions this quarter.

The general consensus is that a 60 percent price hike for the company’s popular unlimited streaming and DVD by-mail package accounts for at least part of the mass exodus. However, Netflix infuriated customers in several smaller ways throughout the year – tinkering with its user interface and more recently instituting a queue tweak that some criticized as a cynical way to hide the fact some movies were no longer available on the service.

Disgruntled Netflix customers praying for a viable alternative received a shock last week when Dish Network bowed the Blockbuster Movie Pass – an instant streaming and by-mail rental package offered exclusively to Dish subscribers for $10/month starting October 4th.

According to Dish and Blockbuster executives, a plan to bring the offer to the general public is being considered.

What do you think about the new announcements from Netflix? Let us know in the comment section.