Real Reason Amazon Should Acquire Netflix

by Ric Merrifield

Real Reason Amazon Should Acquire NetflixAmazon and Netflix might be great together, but not for the reasons you might think.

The way I see this, it’s a little bit like peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes you might not expect to go well together. People are talking about the possible acquisition of video company Netflix by Amazon, and they are speculating that it has to do with movies and streaming media. Maybe, but I don’t think that’s why this acquisition would be so powerful, and I am frankly surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about this.

Here’s why.

One of the biggest mistakes I think Amazon has been making all along is ignoring the buying history of customers. They never recommend anything to me based on my buying history. They tell me what other people have bought when I buy a certain book or a tent or a squash racket, but they don’t seem to really pay attention to what I buy and what I like. And I buy a LOT on Amazon. They are crazy to have ignored this for so long.

By contrast, Netflix has the most incredible recommendation process ever. While I do have to make the effort to rate movies I have watched (irrespective of whether I watched them through Netflix) based on what I have liked and what I haven’t liked, they have the ability to say, for example, that for a movie like Pulp Fiction, while the average viewer gave it three and a half stars out of five, based on my history and preferences, they think I would like it much more, on the order of four and a half stars. What’s amazing to me is that they are always right, and I have really unusual taste in movies.

Back to peanut butter and chocolate – if Amazon could use the Netflix recommendation engine innovations to do a better job of tracking my purchases and preferences and recommending everything from books to movies to music to running shoes, it would be amazing.

Is it worth it? Well as of today, Netflix is worth about $3.22 billion, according to Wall Street, and Amazon is about 16 times bigger at $52 billion and to have this incredible way to connect with customers and help them find what they will really like even before they know about it, that would be a huge, much needed, boost for Amazon. The lift in revenue would be significant – just ask anyone in retail about how much upselling is done at the point of purchase.

Overdue rethinking at Amazon, but a great match. I really hope it happens.

P.S. It makes for an interesting side note that if Amazon does buy Netflix, that would probably put founder and CEO Reed Hastings on the board, and he’s already on the board of Microsoft. Would he stay on the board of Microsoft?

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Ric Merrifield is known at the “Business Scientist” at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, WA and is the author of “Rethink“. He blogs about ways to rethink through getting out of what he calls “the ‘how’ trap”.

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