New customers have to pay $8.99 a month, a $1 increase needed “to continue adding more movies and TV shows,” the company says in an email to subscribers today. But existing members paying $7.99 can relax: “As a thank you for being a member of Netflix already, we guarantee that your plan and price will not change for two years.” That’s consistent with CEO Reed Hasting’s comment to investors last month that current customers could keep the pricing “for a generous time period.” Netflix learned the hard way that it’s dangerous to mess with consumer rates. The company infuriated subscribers in 2011 when it abandoned its $9.99 a month price for streaming and DVD-by-mail rentals, requiring those who wanted to continue both services to pay separate fees that totaled $15.98. The stock plummeted, at one point falling nearly 80% from its peak, and Hastings apologized for leaving the impression that the company “lacked respect and humility.” He added that he “should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices.”
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