Ask Netflix how many people watch its marquee original program, House of Cards, and you won't receive a straight answer. But you're still going to have to pay more to watch it.
The premium streaming and movie-by-mail service released its first quarter earnings report on Monday, written by CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells, in which the company says it met expectations with $1.27 billion in revenue and 46.1 paid subscribers. But Netflix also unveiled a plan to raise prices for the streaming service domestically and abroad by about $1-$2, depending on where you live, before the end of the summer.
This is the first major price change since 2011, when the company tried and then abandoned a plan to separate their streaming product and DVD sharing into two different businesses. That was met with loud and angry criticism, but this new rollout is more gradual won't affect current customers (yet.) But this signals that Netflix is thinking long and hard about the cost of producing original programming — all those Marvel shows won't come cheap! — and your super cheap, expansive streaming option will suddenly look a lot different. Namely, Netflix won't be as cheap any more.
Yet, we still don't know if the "ratings" justifies the price increase as Netflix still resists any effort to reveal information about how successful their shows are. No one knows how many people actually watch House of Cards, except Netflix executives, let alone the company's lesser original programming. Instead, Hastings and Wells can get away with saying House of Cards Season Two had a "huge audience that would make any cable or broadcast network happy." A cable or broadcast network can't keep that information so close to the chest; Nielsen releases the numbers every day. Netflix has never released viewer data, because they don't have outside advertisers to answer to.
A major price change will result in one of two outcomes: 1) The Internet revolts and burns down Netflix's village, torturing interns and executives alike until the proposed changes are forgotten; 2) People barely notice and keep paying. Frankly, the second one is what will happen, because few people will abandon Netflix over two dollars a month, and new users will never notice what they were missing.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.