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Netflix is telling the truth. The rights were pulled before her death

This is one of those embarrassing posts you never want to write. My post about Netflix losing streaming rights to The Bodyguard after Whitney Houston's death was 100% accurate. It was also 100% wrong. The rep I spoke to and his two supervisors had bad information.

On Feb 18 I noticed that The Bodyguard had been pulled from streaming on Netflix. ( There are a lot of complaints on their site about it: and many said that the movie was streamable prior to Whitney Houston's death.

I know that Netflix moderates comments on their movie listings so a Netflix employee approved these posts complaining about the streaming rights being yanked.

So I called Netflix and asked when and why the movie was no longer streaming.

The rep checked with two supervisors and said that the rights had been pulled after Whitney's passing and that it was done by the rights holder so they could sell more DVDs. I quoted the rep accurately. I checked it three times and what I wrote is exactly what he said.

Unfortunately the rep and his supervisors were wrong.

After I posted the account here on Google+ it went completely viral. Techmeme picked it up and someone posted it on Reddit where as I write this it is the #2 link on their site.

Then I got an email from Andrew Couts saying that Netflix was refuting my post. They said that they lost the rights at the end of last year. I told Andrew that what I wrote was correct and that I accurately quoted the Netflix rep. In fact I checked the quote three times.

But now I was worried that the rep had been wrong. I then did what I hadn't thought to do previously: do a Google search for cached pages of the movie and check the dates.

If you check any date in December 2011 or earlier, you see the movie available for streaming:

But as of January 1, 2012 the movie is only available on DVD:

I wish I had thought to do this before the post. It just honestly didn't occur to me.

The fact that so many commenters reported seeing it available for streaming right before her death and the fact that the rep spoke to two supervisors and specifically said that the rights were pulled after her death was enough I thought. But if I had thought to check the cache files I wouldn't have proven them wrong.

I humbly apologize.
Read 'Netflix: Reports that we were forced to pull The Bodyguard from Watch Instantly after Whitney Houston's death are 'just not true'' on Digital Trends....
Joshua Ungerleider's profile photoCarli Entin's profile photoLinda Lawrey's profile photoDan McDermott's profile photo
won't make much difference, i'm guessing. whitney is a dead beloved singer. netflix is an "evil corporation". many folks will prefer the original bogus charges to the revealed truth. getting harder and harder to kill false rumors once they're embraced
You're a class act, Dan. I updated my article with your new post.
Honest mistakes followed up with a sincere apology are trust builders for me, +Dan McDermott. Hindsight is a part of the learning process for all vs. most of us. Well done.
I don't think you have anything to apologize about, a representative of Netflix told you this information. This is the information that another customer may have also been told at some point. No one should be required to look up an old cached version of a page to get a valid answer.

The true question is why isn't Netflix communicating to their customer service department this information properly? The reps really are in the dark which leads to speculation & inaccurate information relayed to customers. The reason Netflix leaves reps in the dark is because they don't want information that customers "shouldn't know" leaking out, but then you get situations like this where leaving your reps in the dark creates a situation where bad info gets out. When I worked there I was reprimanded for correcting a supervisor who was giving out bad info & using the wrong terminology. I "embarrassed" them and they pretty much told me to shut-up. Netflix reaps what they sow & they are sowing bad seeds at their call center.
I'm in agreement with +Gabriel Hedges ; you really have nothing to apologize for except perhaps the confusion created by the Netflix people giving YOU incorrect information, and you passing it on. I mean how much fact checking must YOU do to state "I spoke with John Doe of Netflix on February xx, 2012 and he said this...<blah><blah><blah>"?

My inner cynic almost senses this as a plot to deliberately disseminate MISinformation, create a big furor, get the internets up in arms, then pull the rug out by revealing the true facts, thereby discrediting any potential critics of the Entertainment Industry.
I don't see any need for you to apologize whatsoever... your initial article was an accurate and reasonable report of what you experienced. I do lament that you hadn't checked the caches, though, because had you, you would have found evidence of a conspiracy.... they pulled rights before she died, so they MUST have known something. Now that would have gone viral. :-)
You reported the facts as given you by Netflix employees. It's Netflix's problem that they don't keep their customer service reps up to date with the facts.
+Dan McDermott As I stated in the original thread a few times, I just couldn't see Netflix coming out with such a statement. I didn't think of checking the cached Google pages but that was a good way of vetting the bad information. I'm actually a bit relieved that I wasn't just barking up a wrong tree. Kudos to you for setting the record straight.
Don't they have a P.R department where you can used for a second source? But either way you apologised. Lets move on.
As you accurately reported the information as provided to you, even having gone so far as to double check it before posting, you have nothing to appologize for. You can't even be held accountable by Netflix or anyone else for miss reporting as the information was provided directly by Netflix or a Representative of said company.

What Netflix should have done was offered no comment or have a Statement available that could be quoted by employees in regards to the death of such a prominent entertainer. The didn't even have to answer the question, just say "We deeply regret the passing of Name of Entertainer and have no further comment on the matter at this time".
Hope you got all the attention you were going for
Wow, you post a correction and an apology, and it still brings out the douchebags.
+Mike Keller I have earned it. They have a right to beat up on me. Look here is the bottom line: while it is true that every word of my post is accurate the fact is that the guy who I quoted correctly was giving me incorrect information. Even though he said he had checked with two of his bosses he still was wrong. I combined that with the many comments on the netflix movie page saying people had just seen it and posted my little blog story here with a catchy headline. It totally blew up. I don't think I have ever had a Google+ post be the #1 story on Reddit. I have never heard of such a thing. I have never had Techmeme pick up anything I wrote. (Or at least not to my knowledge.) I wish I had thought to check the cache in Google. I really do. I wish I had emailed netflix or called others to get more opinions to lock it down. But I sincerely thought it was lock solid. But what was the result? Literally millions of people read my post and got mad at an innocent company. Many very prominent bloggers and reporters wrote their own posts based on mine trashing this company. Thousands of comments were posted attacking the production company. And then Netflix contradicted my story and I tried to figure out how to prove my post right or wrong and thought of the cache. (I checked the internet archive first to no avail.) Once I proved that the VP was correct and the rep I had spoken to (even though he confirmed with two bosses) was wrong I wrote my retraction. So yes, my first post was true based on wrong info and I did explain and apologize quickly and sincerely but the fact remains I caused a lot of damage that could have been avoided if I had thought to check the cache or done an email carpet bomb with them until I got a response. (In the past the VP did not respond to my question which is why I didn't ask this time.) So yes, I have even had one of the reporters who wrote about this tell me he would have gone with the story had he had the same info. But the fact is I feel like an idiot and wish I had done more legwork before posting. Hell, the family probably saw it and got mad. So if people want to beat me up I'm cool with that. I appreciate the positive comments but I still caused a lot of bad feelings that were unwarranted and the people criticizing me have their First Amendment rights to do so.
I'm glad you feel that way, but it doesn't mean everyone should gang up just because they can.
I agree with +Mike Keller on this. I had doubts about this from the beginning but checking the Google Cache is a pretty obscure step to verify a story. It's not like you just took the quote and ran with it. You did a lot of legwork, but it was just an unfortunate series of events that led to this story. It's the Internet though and the trolls always come out when they see an opening. I'll still read your articles +Dan McDermott and hold you in high respect as a journalist.
Was it regular customer service? Because if it was, they sure wouldn't know the reason, and they sure didn't really ask their supervisor.

But you aren't making excuses, which is a lot more than many other people who got burned on this can say.
I have to disagree with +Joshua Ungerleider on this. Most companies have policies in place that any questions such as that are Not to be Answered by anyone except Marketing, PR or a senior executive. The reason for this is Legal Liability. It's cheaper for the company to limit any possible damage from a mistake by a peon such as a customer service rep that results in a multimillion dollar lawsuit. This has been the standard at most companies that I worked at where we had direct involvement with customers. For questions such as this one, I'd have transferred the call to someone who could answer it, otherwise I'd risk loosing my job. It simply isn't worth it.

+Dan McDermott As far as I can see, you didn't do anything worse then what a paid reporter for the Herald, NY-Times or AP did. The fact that you're also the editor means that the correction that would have been published on page G39 in any of those papers indicates that you have the same if not more integrity then most reporters nowdays. It's water under the bridge so let it go and get on with life.
+Fast Turtle I agree, but by answering the question at all, the employee probably wasn't following proper protocol, and I doubt "so the studios would make more money" would ever be the official statement even if it were the reason.

I don't think +Dan McDermott really did anything wrong. Perhaps he shouldn't have given up on the VP at Netflix who didn't respond to earlier questions, or something like a disclaimer saying "this is coming from a CSR, not a PR rep", but that's all hindsight.

Generally, I see a lot of writers blame others when they make a mistake, so by owning up to it, Dan earned more credibility than if the original post been 100% perfect.
The Starz deal ends on February 29. I am almost looking forward to the inevitable s--tstorm of complaints from customers who don't realize they're about to lost about 1,000 titles.
+Daniel Birchall I have been dealing with Netflix customer service for about 6 weeks now on a still-unresolved issue and I've learned a lot about how abysmal it is. I'm following the Starz expiration with great interest.
+Dan McDermott I have been dealing with Netflix customer service for over a month and they are just awful. . . unfathomably awful. Netflix is also less than forthcoming regarding expiration dates--so customers who thought The Bodyguard was tucked away safely in their Instant queues would have received no indication that the movie had expired over a month ago. They should have directed you to a public relations line. So while I agree (and appreciate) that you take some of the blame for this, Netflix's incompetence in using customer complaints as source material is just ridiculous.
+Dan McDermott The info you were given by the reps, while wrong, should have been correct. BTW.. I loved the movie because I love her voice, and it was airing on the lower channels of Dish TV repeatedly after her death. Repeatedly for a few days, actually.
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